How to cope with a digital version of office life
Companies are hunting for alternatives and are increasingly offering a new form of corporate life; a mixture of office work and working from home. We recently met Laurence Fransen, Human Resources Director at Bâloise Assurances in Luxembourg, to talk about the response to challenges faced in recent months.
What would you consider the biggest recent challenge?
Teamwork, and also creating and maintaining team spirit, which seems so normal in the office has indeed became a burden when everyone had to work from home. We therefore had to find good alternatives, as for example virtual coffee breaks designed to keep spirits up. Covid-19 has definitely accelerated the take-up of home office options. Before the pandemic, we were already having pilot projects with employees testing working from home from time to time, but when the lockdown came, we were suddenly all forced to work from home and to find solutions from one day to the next. Digital office life was possible, albeit sometimes complicated, not only for day-to-day business, but especially from a human resources point of view. Maintaining high levels of team work, helping our employees cope with this sudden change, keeping links in our teams and in our company as a whole?
What did you do to support your colleagues in coping with the new digital office life?
The transition from personal contact to virtual meetings is certainly not self-evident in my eyes. Indeed, while exchanges between colleagues are relatively natural in the corridors of the company, the process takes on a completely different dimension online. Over a long period of time, remote work requires us to double our efforts to maintain the motivation of employees, which is why we are constantly looking for interesting and engaging initiatives.
We have therefore set up training courses to teach managers how to manage their teams remotely, and we are asking for constant feedback on how to improve our work environment, in order to stay recognized as a top employer. Besides, we are also offering a digital version of our health and well-being programme, because we did not simply want to skip this well-appreciated initiative. Where there were live cooking courses or massages before, we are now focusing on digital options that are also feasible at home, for example yoga or even digital cookery classes!
What is the approach now office life is starting to return?
It is true that we are now again partly working in our offices again, but home office is still a major part of our work life. Real exchanges with work colleagues are possible again, while respecting the social distancing measures of course, but so-called “social life” in the office is still a thing of the past. There are no more real coffee breaks, no staff meetings, no festive initiatives like staff parties... Another important point concerns our training sessions. For us, it is important that employees constantly learn new skills, share their experiences and thus challenge themselves and others. Those training sessions are now completely virtual, thanks to innovative partners and rapidly adapting services, but also thanks to offers from the likes of LinkedinLearning. We have received positive feedback from our employees who are happy to work at a company which has not simply stopped initiatives in response to the pandemic, but is inventive and constantly looking for alternative solutions.
Do you think that corporate life as we knew it before the pandemic is dead?
A difficult question, but I think the future of office life will probably be something of a “hybrid”, a mixture of both. In an ideal world, office life would optimally combine the comfort of working at home with the benefits of interaction and working with colleagues.
What are your tips for a healthy work-life balance?
I think everyone has to decide for themselves… We are all individuals and what works for one person may not work for another. Yet, these are my personal tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy work-life balance:
- Prioritise your time
- Try to have set work hours – and stick to them
- Create a nice and productive workspace
- Take a coffee or tea break
- Do not forget to get up from your desk from time to time to stretch