New way of working (het nieuwe werken)

The Netherlands is a fairly small country that holds around 16.5 million people. All these people would like to live and work. A lot of people live outside the major cities and work inside the major cities. Partly because living in the major cities is very expensive and partly because living outside the major cities is more quiet.

This situation for me is not any different. I live in the Hoorn area and work in Amsterdam. The work that I do is not very common in the city that I live in. The result is that I’ll have to commute to get to my work. It takes me about an hour and 10 minutes to get to work one way. I am not the only one doing so. With me millions of people commute to work. The result of that: packed roads, huge traffic jams and packed trains and buses.

In The Netherlands discussions have started years ago about how “we” (as a nation) could work more efficiently and thus even be more productive than we are now. Most of that discussion evolves around the subject “location”. It would be more efficient if someone stays home and work there. I could really do a lot of my work from home. The biggest problem is that most employers do not like that situation. They want their staff being in the offices. This is odd, because if more people would work from home, companies will be able to cut serious cost in workplaces. Why they are hesitant? Because employers feel out of control, unable to check what exactly the staff is doing at home and if they are working at all. Is that fear justified? Partly. To make this new way of working work, companies will have to shift their paradigm from working based on input to working based on output. That is a huge shift.

The past few weeks I have given this new way of working more thoughts. I think the discussion in working efficiently goes beyond “location” (on which this whole discussion is based right now). The new way of working is also based on work dynamics. Over the past three years I have seen companies change dramatically, asking their staff to “change” with them. Partly that means staff needing to find a new job outside the company (I hate the words “being fired”), partly it means staff shifting to new positions inside the company. Staff is being asked to be really flexible. I am fine with that. I have had my share of reorganizations, so bring it on. However… companies are not the only things that are dynamic. Employees are equally dynamic. In people’s lives interest change and paradigms shift. The problem arises when someone breakes out that news to the company. All of a sudden a lot of companies are not that flexible anymore like they ask from staff when companies are going through shifts.

I believe that staff can be more efficient if they are allowed to control their own path. Someone on Twitter said this right: “you are the most efficient in the work that you do when you don’t work.” Well said! Now we get to the essence of this entry. Often I have thought about getting my college degree. Often I have thought: “Why should I?”. To start with, I make just about enough money to pay my bills and do my things. A little more money would really make me happy. I am already able to do all that, so there is no real incentive to get a college degree for me. The second reason for not getting a college degree would be the question: “In what?”. My interests are really, seriously dynamic. A year ago I started an assignment that I really didn’t know ANYTHING about. I worked my way through that, being very productive in that. I didn’t need a college degree and just made it work. A year ago I started teaching Dutch to foreigners as a volunteer. I had never given any training whatsoever before that. I just thought: “I would like to try that!” Guess what? I love it! Over the past year I have developed my training skills. Not long ago the training started again and all the students are really happy and learning fast. Once again: all that without a college degree. Yet, my training skills go into my resumé.

I believe that “the new way of working” is not just about “location”. It goes beyond. People are most efficient when they do what their real interest has at the location of their choice. Employers will have a challenge to figure that one out. I do believe, though, that in due time the new way of working I just described (location and dynamics) will become a competitive advantage for employers in due time, because those employer that have this new way of working on their mind will have the most efficient employees.