“Safe Harbour” as an entry model after Corona

Now that the vaccination campaign is at cruising speed and a post-Corona period is in sight, many managers are wondering how they will organise their work. Those who head service organisations (think municipalities, for example) are doing so too. According to recent Statbel figures, 42% of people in our country work in the commercial services sector, and 37% in the non-profit sector. The majority of them are now obliged to work from home. And what about afterwards? If one thing should be certain, it is that we do not want to return to our old professional habits. We are going to take advantage of this Corona crisis to change, aren’t we? And what is the better approach? The service sector in the broad sense is facing a literally ground-breaking challenge. Devising a new concept of working must be based on a sense of purpose for the company. To be clear, “company” here means both “profit” and “non-profit”. In other words: what does the company stand for, other than budgets and figures? The solution to working differently is in the first place conceptual and thus starts with the question: what or who do we want to be as a company? A simple question with many complex answers. And if we still want a simple answer, then we simply build a “safe habour” for our employees, clients and partners. A “safe harbour” where we can shelter from all sorts of crises, whether they relate to health, safety, scarcity or the economy. An environment that allows us to adapt to changing circumstances in an agile way. The starting point must be that we can work from anywhere and that we do so in dialogue with our colleagues and customers. There are enough collaborative apps on the market to get this started very quickly. By the way, when working from home, we all already use collaborative apps where we not only hold video meetings, but also edit work on schedules and documents together. Of course, the conditions must be created to make remote working sustainable: adjustments to the legal framework and optimisation of the remote infrastructure are obvious. The big challenge will be trust. Management is usually used to having employees at eye level. That time is over. More than the employees, the management will have to be trained in this, don’t underestimate it. Should the office disappear? No, a “safe harbour” is also a physical meeting place. Social contact at work promotes co-creation and innovation. Research by the University of Michigan (US) shows black on white that social contact enhances work performance. Psychologist Oscar Ybarra goes further in his studies: chatting at the coffee machine is even excellent memory training for work-related activities. So reserve the office for meetings, cooperation sessions and informal encounters. Also rearrange the office. Make it smaller with fewer workstations and more lounges, kitchens and dining areas. Cosy like at home, but surrounded by colleagues. Not every day, but at set times and in combination with remote working, from home or anywhere else. And do the more than 300,000 company cars (FEBIAC figures) have to be scrapped in the “safe harbour” concept? No. But there are conditions.  The combination of remote working and office meetings will lead to a hybrid model where we will also commute differently. No longer during the classic traffic peaks, but much more spread out in days and hours. That will certainly reduce congestion and stress. Add to that CO² emission pollution. In 2020, the environmental dashboard of many companies showed a reduction of more than 50% in CO2 emissions. Not surprisingly, because the company cars were parked at home. We should not miss the opportunity to keep the CO² emissions of the company cars at this low level or even lower. Electrification of the company fleet is a necessity, just do it. If we don’t decide it ourselves, the Government will do it for us. Finance Minister Van Peteghem recently announced this. The “safe harbour” concept is a people-oriented approach to enter a new way of working and a new economy. It is an entry model, not an exit scenario from the Corona crisis. A harbour is an ecosystem with a whole hinterland, where people trade, negotiate, meet, party and discover. If that is not a great perspective for finding bliss in work, after the biggest health crisis since the second world war… Kris Poté, vice president Capgemini, May 2021.