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The three most important advantages of telecommuting and flexible working

The New World of Work: what to look out for?
Fifteen years ago, Microsoft's Bill Gates introduced the concept of “the New World of Work” in a whitepaper. It has been a hot topic in the office world ever since. The global trends such as globalisation (will that ever stop?), the 24-hour society (in its heyday) and the information overload (as a result of the internet and ubiquitous mobile devices) are all still here, just like they were fifteen years ago. If anything, the situation has become more pressing. The result is more stress for employers and employees alike.

What is the New World of Work?
There is no one definition for the New World of Work (NWoW). It also depends on who you ask: an employee or an employer. Both have their own views on what NWoW should entail. For an employer, for example, cost reductions are an important aspect. An employee, on the other hand, might value their own freedom and the ability to choose above all else.

We believe the following to be a good definition of NWoW:
“Making work more efficient, effective and productive. Putting employees first in order to give them the ability and freedom to choose how, where and when to do their work. This is only possible if the organisation is set up accordingly. It is therefore essential that employees are allowed to do their work anywhere and anytime in a healthy and productive manner with the help of appropriate, high-quality solutions. The goal: always putting employees’ mental and physical health first.”
“ Putting employees first in order to give them the ability and freedom to choose how, where and when to do their work. ”
A closer look at the New World of Work
“Making work more efficient, effective and productive.” Those are three wonderful management terms. What do they concretely mean to the organisation and to employees?
  • Efficient: organising work in a way that requires minimal means and effort. -> practical
  • Effective: ensuring the goal can be achieved.  -> effectual
  • Productive: a similar effort leads to better results. -> fruitful
From the perspective of an employee: An employee lives and works in a 24-hour society. There is no end to the stream of information we are all constantly subjected to. Wherever you are - in the office, at home, on the road - there are stimuli everywhere and the latest news is always instantly available. By handling this information stream correctly and by structuring your time at work more effectively, you can keep yourself from becoming overstimulated. Imagine this: instead of starting your day being stuck in traffic, you turn on your laptop at home and reply to some emails, before getting in your car and driving to work on nearly empty roads. That is a much more efficient use of your time and saves you a lot of frustration during your commute. You can start your day feeling more relaxed. That, in turn, will make you more productive, since you avoided a lot of unnecessary stress.

From the perspective of an employer: In the average office, 50-60% of the workstations are occupied. The fact that not all seats are taken is due to the presence of part-time staff. However, these empty seats do cost money. With NWoW, the "permanent” workstations of old are replaced by "flexible” workstations. As a result, a company has to provide fewer workstations, which can save a significant amount of money. This is a good example of efficient entrepreneurship. Note that this does require employers to equip these flexible workstations with easily adjustable accessories (a monitor arm, chair and desk, for example) to allow employees to do their job effectively.

The work environment
“Putting employees first in order to give them the ability and freedom to choose how, where and when to do their work. This is only possible if the organisation is set up accordingly. It is therefore essential that employees are allowed to do their work anywhere and anytime in a healthy and productive manner with the help of appropriate, high-quality solutions.”

We have now come to the point where employees and employers meet. One wants optimal freedom, while the other wants to save costs and achieve maximum results. If there are fewer workstations and these are flexible to boot, an employee will have the freedom to choose where they want to sit. The big risk is that their workstation does not meet the requirements of a good workstation. In the office, at home or on the road: a well-designed workstation boosts your productivity and lets you do your job in a more efficient and effective manner.

Some activities are poorly suited for noisy open-plan office environments. I am writing this article while sitting by myself at a focus workstation, wearing noise-cancelling headphones and listening to my favourite music, all to allow myself to focus optimally on the task at hand. I try to schedule administrative tasks and calls for those times when I am working from home. This ensures I do not disturb my colleagues with my calls. My administrative tasks, on the other hand, require a different kind of focus. Besides, I don't want just anyone to see what I am doing. In short, if you are thinking about creating a flexible work environment, it is important to think carefully about the functions it must have.

Did you know that a poorly designed workstation leads to a loss of productivity?
With a few relatively simple measures, you can make sure your workstation is equipped with the right accessories. Don't sit at your kitchen table on a chair that is fine for a dinner party with friends, but poorly suited for sitting on for hours on end. “Working on laptops should be banned,” says John van Hooft. “That is, a laptop without a laptop stand, external monitor and separate keyboard and mouse. With these accessories, using a laptop not only becomes a more comfortable experience, but people will also enjoy their work more - in the office, on the road and at home. To top it off, their productivity will increase by more than 15%.”
“ Working on laptops should be banned ”
Employees are an organisation's most valuable asset
So far, I have already mentioned three kinds of spaces: the open-plan office, the focus workspace where distractions are unwanted and an environment where you can make calls without bothering other people. I have also discussed some easy solutions to make working on a laptop more comfortable and effective. However, employers who are considering implementing the aforementioned solutions should remember that their employees are their most valuable asset. Above all, they should keep the following in mind: always put your staff's mental and physical health first.
An employee who is both mentally and physically fit will make the biggest contribution to their organisation. That requires more than a good work environment, a desk and a chair.

The (often overlooked) mental factor
As an employer, you have thought about the various types of workspaces in your office environment. You offer your employees a nice range of accessories to make working on a laptop a lot more comfortable and productive. Yet there is another challenge to overcome. Earlier on, we mentioned the 24-hour society where your work never really stops. We also discussed the information overload that comes with being available anywhere and anytime. How can you offer your employees some much-needed peace of mind? How can you bring about a behavioural change?

Of course, you could instruct them in the ins and outs of healthy and efficient computer-based work. You can do that by talking to your staff and explaining the dos and don'ts of flexworking. Furthermore, you can regularly check in to see how they are doing. These are all basic tasks that come with being an employer. Is it enough, though?

Realising a lasting behavioural change and adopting healthy and efficient methods for computer-based work requires more than occasionally informing your employees. Behavioural change is a challenging process that begins with awareness and can be embedded with permanent coaching. Does this mean you have to assign a personal coach to every employee? Of course not; there are smart tools you can use instead. There are software solutions that can make employees more aware of their behaviour and support the adoption of healthy and efficient methods for computer-based work.
Research shows that frequent moments of mental and physical exercise can help your employees stay more focused and energetic, make fewer mistakes and improve the overall quality of their work (source: Chevron research).

Frequently recharge your mind and body
We all have an extremely powerful computer in our heads. Unfortunately, we cannot hook it up to a power outlet like a laptop in order to perform optimally all day long. After 40-50 minutes of non-stop work, your brain starts to become tired, which slows your pace and increases your chance of making mistakes. By regularly engaging in some mental and/or physical exercise during so-called pitstops, your brain and your body can recharge and you can get back to work feeling fit and focused. By frequently taking short pitstops, your average pace and performance level will increase during the day, you will be less tired and you will finish your workday feeling more energised than before.

Your brain needs at least three minutes to mentally detach itself from the work you were doing. Taking a three-minute pitstop after every 40-50 minutes of computer-based work to recharge your body and mind is good for all. 
Did you know that sitting down all day has a detrimental effect on your creativity? On the other hand, alternating between sitting down and walking around will actually maximise your creativity. Taking a three-minute walk every hour will therefore not only improve your health and boost your performance level, but it will also make you more creative.

Benefits for employer and employee alike
By regularly engaging in a bit of mental and physical exercise, you also become more aware of your work behaviour and will frequently take brief pitstops to momentarily disengage from your work. You will find that this keeps you optimally efficient and productive. You will get more done during a workday and will feel more energetic at the end of the day.
“ Imagine a world in which your employees excel, anywhere and anytime! ”
How can you make sure the New World of Work is a success?
The New World of Work presents challenges for both employers and employees. It calls for a behavioural change from both parties and requires mutual trust and investments. However, if you do all this correctly, the New World of Work can offer myriad benefits.
  • Fewer interruptions: Make sure there are spaces (and times) where people can work without being disturbed. My favourite time of day is when I arrive at 7 AM beating traffic along the way - stick my key in the office door and boot up my laptop. That gives me an hour all by myself to clean up my inbox, make a to-do list and start up the day's first project. 
  • Flexible and effective time management: Let’s say you are in an openplan office with colleagues who are constantly conferring with each other. How often are you distracted for the task you are working on? How often do you have to rewrite that one sentence in your report before you can finally find the right words? These circumstances can seriously compromise your productivity. There are a few options: you can work at home because you have to finish your report, you can find a focus workspace to finish the report in or you continue your work before 8 AM or after 5 PM.
  • A sense of trust: Allowing employees to flexibly decide where and when to do their work after discussing it with you, of course - creates a sense of trust. They will feel happier and be more willing to go the extra mile.
  • More time for exercise: Who ever said we are at our most productive when we spend eight consecutive hours behind a desk? Who says that will allow us to perform better than taking brief pitstops every hour to momentarily disengage ourselves from our screen and our workstation? Instead of relying on colleagues to bring you your hourly dose of caffeine, you take a short stroll to the coffee machine yourself. During lunch, you might go for a longer walk.  Perhaps we can stand up for twenty minutes every hour in order to change our posture and get some exercise.
You've probably heard this before: in a comfortable work environment where there is plenty of trust and people can choose where and when to work - in other words, where they feel mentally and physically fit - they are less susceptible to stress and illness.
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