Forced to work at the office? 6 reasons why our colleagues can make their own decisions about where they work

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Team Voys

7 November 2022 Clock 15 min

Finally, the pandemic is just about over. According to some employers, this means that it is time to come and work at the office full time again. Preferably of your own free will, but if need be, forced. At Voys we do this differently. Here, you’re always welcome at the office, but no hard feelings if you’d rather work from home. Below we list six very good reasons as to why we don’t believe in forcing colleagues to go to the office.

Awesome news! We’ve been chosen as Best Hybrid Employer of Groningen 2022! That’s why our colleagues are sharing their experiences and providing you with tips on how you can go about working from home as an employer.

1. Coercion makes people unhappy

How many people do you know that are super enthusiastic about work when they’re forced to do it?

Exactly, we don’t know any of those people either.

Coercion can create tensions within your organization. Your colleagues enjoy their work less, as well as feel less at home. This will also be visible in their work results. Which makes sense: you can compel someone to work somewhere, but a colleague will always have control over their motivation and working quality.

For those who want to work at the Voys office, it’s always open. But we also understand if colleagues want to work from home, and that’s completely okay. We’ve designed our processes in such a way that colleagues at the office, and colleagues at home, are able to work together on an equal level. The pandemic has had a positive impact on where we work, as it pushed us to take swift steps in facilitating the possibility of working from home. We also discovered how easy it was to collaborate remotely during this period, therefore we will continue to do so.

Lisette: “The office is a perfect space for me to work, especially because I like to keep my work and private life separate”

Colleague Lisette: ‘Being forced to go to the office, I wouldn’t like that. I definitely have a preference for working at the office, but honestly, I would just like to decide for myself. The office is a perfect space for me to work, especially because I like to keep work and private life separate. When I leave the office, I leave my work behind too. At home I often continue working for too long, and end up not having the chance to relax enough. It’s also super fun at the office. We always laugh a lot and have great connections. Moreover, it’s nice that you can shift between work more easily at the office. Because we ensure that our way of working is super organised, I can also easily work with colleagues who work from home.’

Lisette’s tip:

‘Make sure to check in with yourself when making the decision of why you would or wouldn’t allow to work from home. Are you primarily thinking about the company or your colleagues? Take an indepth look at what they really want. You’ll notice that trust grows when people are given the freedom to make their own decisions.’

2. Everyone’s a boss

Seeing as Voys is a self-managed organization, nobody can force anyone to come to the office. Within our organization, we work together as equals. This means that we don’t control each other, and that we can’t (and don’t want to) force our colleagues to do anything they don’t want to do. Everyone here determines their own priorities, agenda and place they want to work. At our organization we have no managers with opinions or a managing team that expects people to come work at the office.

There’s probably a big chance that you’re now thinking: ‘I want this too, my organization is ready to work together freely and equally, but how do I tackle this?’

Good question. Coincidentally, we’ve just written a book that can really help you with this. The book (written in Dutch) is called ‘Alleen maar bazen’ and you can pre-order it now. Within this book, we tell you exactly how to ensure your company grows without managers and why working together equally is better for yourself and your organization.

Wouter: “There is enough safety and trust to be able to do my work, no matter where that is”

Colleague Wouter: ‘I sometimes work from home, and sometimes at the office. I don’t have set days for this, but check what works for me on a daily basis. Some weeks I’ll work at the office three days a week, but there are also weeks in which I don’t go to the office at all. Sometimes working from home is just the easier option, for example if I’m expecting a package or don’t feel like being stuck in traffic in the morning. I usually go to the office to see my colleagues. There is enough safety and trust to be able to do my work, no matter where I work. There’s nothing holding me back. By working self-managed, I also feel that there’s more of a structure to my work, I know what to do for my roles and what people expect from me. Where I do that isn’t important.”

Wouter’s tip:

‘Forcing colleagues to go to the office? Just don’t do it. Ask yourself: ‘Why am I asking my colleagues to do this?’ Do you want to have full control, or do you believe that an empty office would be a shame? Think about whether you can explain to your colleagues why you are forcing them to come in. Because it’s true what they say: it’s the people who make things great, so focus on them.’

3. We trust each other

At the core, it’s simple: trust is a big factor when employers force their colleagues to come to the office. When everyone is working at the office, it’s a lot easier to keep an eye on whether they are working.

You know what you could also do?

Trust your colleagues. That’s what we’ve decided to do.

If a colleague wants to go and enjoy the sun for an afternoon, we’re okay with that. We trust that they will make up for it in the evening. We also expect that our colleagues will take each other into account when making these decisions. Your freedom ends where another’s begins. This way it’s enjoyable for everyone.

As well as people loving to have this freedom, it also saves a lot of time. Monitoring your colleagues while they work requires a lot of energy, which could probably be used more productively on the growth of your organization. Especially people who tend to be motivated themselves. These colleagues will give it their all without being forced to do so.

Lizette: “We switch a lot faster when we’re at the office altogether.”

Colleague Lizette: ‘I almost always work at the office. It’s great from a social point of view, but also because I’ve noticed that it makes work easier for me. I’m part of a small team and we work together a lot better and faster when we’re at the office altogether. It also ensures that we form a more personal bond with each other. I believe that this is important when working together because knowing each other well also means that it gets easier and easier to work together. I really appreciate that we can keep an eye out on each other and can see when the pressure gets too high or if someone is having problems with something. But no one finds it weird when I work from home. I feel absolutely no pressure to go and work at the office, and I’m completely free to make my own choice.’

Lizette’s tip:

‘As an employer it’s important to make sure that you find a balance that fits your organization. Forcing colleagues to come to the office does work, but it will mean that they will come unwillingly. But on the other hand, giving your colleagues absolute freedom is the complete opposite. Going to the office is also getting harder and harder for some people. It can also be really nice to have one specific day at the office each week.

4. There’s more to life than work

Having a young family, a time-consuming hobby, family to care for, a physical or mental health issue or a pet: there’s a lot going on in the lives of our colleagues. It would be kind of strange to completely ignore that part of their lives, especially because it does affect what happens at the workplace. When you feel good, work always fares better.

We choose to make it as easy as possible for our colleagues. Would it not be more relaxing to drive home after work without getting stuck in traffic, or being able to have dinner and put the kids to bed at a reasonable time? Or that you can rest on your own couch in the afternoon when you experience a lot of pain due to a chronic condition?

When you create the opportunity for more relaxing moments, people will also take this relaxation to work with them. With many people already working so hard to keep everything afloat, today’s world is demanding enough as it is. By taking more care of each other, your organization (and life) will also become more beautiful.

Rianne: “I think that working from home has a positive influence on my sick days”

Colleague Rianne: ‘I worked from home once a week before the pandemic and absolutely loved to be at the office. This meant that at the start I really didn’t enjoy working from home during the pandemic. However, I did end up discovering that working from home also has its perks. That’s why I usually work from home now. For me it’s easier to do chores because I’ll be able to do something necessary like laundry in the afternoon. I also have a lot less distractions around me which means I’m a lot more productive. I will for sure always plan a workday at home when I’m super busy. What’s also nice: I think that working from home has had a positive influence on my sick days. If I was forced to go to the office, I would probably take more sick days for things that I can now easily deal with quickly while working from home.’

Rianne’s tip:

‘Take a good look at the people in your organization before you make a decision about the option of working from home. It does require trust if you do end up giving your colleagues the option to work from home. This really isn’t possible in some organizations, but there are more possibilities than you would think.’

5. The future consists of a combination of remote and hybrid working

A laptop with a stable internet connection is all you really need to be able to do your work. The laptop’s location doesn’t really matter. Our colleague Mark wrote a super interesting blog about this: ‘Van kantoor tot workation: 12 vragen én antwoorden over de toekomst van werk.’

Young talent expects hybrid and remote working to be possible. They look for organizations that fit with their lifestyles and in which they can develop. And it makes sense, because work isn’t separate from life, it’s part of it.

There is no reason for companies to hide themselves in large, shut off office buildings. The digital revolution has provided an opportunity for organizations to form real-life connections with people. It reduces the distance from society and increases the involvement of the organization with the world.

Office buildings are also expensive, they need to be heated and maintained. This means that allowing colleagues to work from home will save you a lot of money. This is great budget-wise, but also great for the environment. Especially because allowing working from home will decrease how many people commute.

Gerben Jan: “As far as I’m concerned, the future consists of having the freedom to work wherever you want.”

Colleague Gerben Jan: ‘I would prefer to be able to split working at the office and from home fifty-fifty. I have fun with my colleagues on office days, and on the days I work from home I can focus more and really get a lot done. This is ideal in my situation. I’ve noticed that it ensures that I run into less home life struggles, for example when I have to train people in my sport korfball. This freedom means a lot to me. I would probably look for a new job right away if an employer ever forced me to come to the office. As far as I’m concerned, the future consists of having the freedom to work wherever you want, especially in development, my discipline. I also feel a great sense of responsibility due to the freedom I’m given. I work for our company, not my boss’s company.’

Gerben Jan’s tip:

‘The freedom to work from wherever you want isn’t only nice, but it also means that people feel more responsible for their work. This means that people become happier and more productive. If you take their freedom and sense of responsibility away, you create a passive workplace.’

6. We facilitate freedom with our working systems

It’s a lot easier to work where you want when your work is stored in the cloud. Our clients know this best because that’s exactly how our VoIP telephony system Freedom works. By making it possible for colleagues to work from home, we are practising what we preach.

Location isn’t important for us because none of our work processes are dependent on it. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world: you will always have the same access to the tools we use and our working environment. This means that you have the same information as the rest of your colleagues and that you can attend the same meetings online.

Not only does this mean that colleagues can work from home, but it also means that they can plan a workation. Our colleagues are often joining meetings from Budapest or Barcelona. This gives us an interesting way to start the day with fun discussions and stories.

Rixt: “I’m just more focused at home, as I get distracted a lot less easily.”

Colleague Rixt: ‘You get a lot of impressions at the office. Although it’s fun, it’s also very tiring. That’s why I prefer to work from home. I also have more energy at the end of the day, and the quality of my work increases. If I was forced to come to the office every day, I would probably always be super tired when I arrive home. I’m just more focused at home as I get distracted a lot less easily. I also manage to set boundaries to my work hours better and take breaks on time. Sometimes I have meetings at the office, but these are mostly online. Location has absolutely no influence on what I do. I have access to all systems and documents via my laptop, everywhere and always.’

Rixt’s tip:

‘Are you thinking about forcing your colleagues to come to the office? Make sure you discuss this with them first and listen intently to what they want. It’s important to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Everyone is different. Others might not like what you like. Give everyone the freedom to make their own decisions.’

Is an employer allowed to force an employee to come to the office?

In the Netherlands, you technically don’t have the legal right to work from home yet. But you do have the right to ask your employer whether it’s possible. Your employer is however allowed to reject this request. But an employer is legally obliged to have a discussion with the employee in order to arrive at a solution that works for both of you.

The explanation is simple: the law will always be one step behind reality. In the Netherlands there is currently a bill that has yet to be assessed by the House of Representatives. But it’s clear that many employers aren’t waiting for the bill. Many vacancies state that, when working certain positions, you are entitled to work from home for two days. For some, that’s progress, but for others, this still means forced working at the office three days a week.

“The law is pretty clear. You have a location stated in your contract and the employer can hold you to it’, colleague Steven says as part of our legal team. “But I don’t think that’s what the conversation should be about. The focus should be on the reasons. Investigate together on why someone doesn’t want to work at the office or why the employer would like everyone to work at the office. People tend to assume things before asking questions, but it’s good to keep talking to each other about this. It’s about employees feeling supported by their employer.”

Should you keep the office: this is what we decided to do

We give colleagues the freedom to choose where they want to work. Working from home is just as okay as working at the office. We make sure that there is a possibility to work at the office every day of the week, and our colleagues Anthony and Davide ensure that a nice and healthy lunch is provided.

A lot of colleagues see the office as a social meeting point. A place to have a nice chat with someone you haven’t seen in a while, to fool around at the coffee machine and have unexpected conversations. This is super important as well as the dynamics at the office are very different to those at home.

We do of course make sure that we use our office well, especially now that fewer people come to work here. This is one of the reasons as to why small entrepreneurs or freelancers can rent a workplace or part of our office. This way we make sure that it isn’t left empty because that would be a shame.

Working from home or at the office: which do you choose?

Whether you choose for your colleagues to work from home, at the office or hybrid: make sure that this choice fits with your organization.

Do a lot of people work from home in your organization? Or does everyone come to the office? We’re curious to hear about your experience!

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