Facto interview with Christian Oudijk
In just a few years, office life for employees changed completely. During the lock-downs, the home became an office, the dining table became a desk, and the kitchen became a company restaurant. After the pandemic, the office did not function as a daily workplace anymore. The corporate world has transformed office spaces into clubhouses, for employees to meet again, brainstorm, and network. However, clubhousification does not lead to the return of alle employees. Christian Oudijk, Commercial Director of Vermaat, states: ‘It takes more to let employees return to the office, as the Magnetize trend report developed by Vermaat in collaboration with the research firm Doc Brown, shows.’ In the following interview, previously published in Facto, he discusses the new insights from the research.
First, a personal question. Has your dining table also turned into your desk?
‘Every now and then in the evening, but I am a real office fan. I love the hustle and bustle and the people around me. And I genuinely believe in the power of collaboration!’
Do you think working from home is relevant nowadays?
‘Of course, working from home is here to stay. It provides a better work-life balance and contributes to productivity. However, working from home too much does not serve anyone and leads to imbalance. You lose connection without noticing, your moments of contact become functional, and job satisfaction decreases. These things are inseparably linked to the office. Right now, we are in a transition phase that we call Back to the Office; a phase where we are searching for new norms, ways of working, and social interactions.’
After the whitepaper on Clubhousification, you now present Magnetize. Why is that?
‘Clubhousification is a trend that definitively prevailed last year. We see that an increasing number of offices has adapted to clubhousification. At the same time, we see that, due to remote working policies and labor market shortages, many employers must make a significant effort to get employees to the office. That is why we once again asked our research firm Doc Brown to research this. We have published the results in the new whitepaper ‘Magnetize,’ which you can order at the bottom of this article.’
Why is the report titled Magnetize?
‘Our research shows that 44% of employers feel that employees spend too little time at the office. Het Financieele Dagblad recently wrote about a survey of nearly 3.000 companies, showing that 70% of employers want to limit working remote. At the same time, more people are working remote than ever before. If employers or property owners want employees to come to the office more often, they need to make their offices even more attractive.
Eventually, remote working leads to a reduced feeling of connection, knowledge sharing, and a dilution of corporate culture. A strong corporate culture creates a sense of pride and involvement. Those who stay away from the office will lose this feeling and therefore also will show this less. Magnetize is all about attraction. So, an effective pull strategy combined with a concrete remote working policy will help. Let the office be the magnet and create FOMO among your employees.’
‘FOMO is known as Fear of Missing Out, but we turn it into Fear of Missing Office. Turn your office into a clubhouse and make sure your employees don’t want to miss the office vibe! An attractive work environment with all the elements that contribute to FOMO: creative meeting places, eating and drinking moments spread throughout the day, and events that you really don’t want to miss. That’s attractive!’
How do those eating moments contribute to FOMO?
‘Even before the pandemic, we saw a shift in eating moments. This has gained momentum. We see that there is a need for 5 eating and snacking moments: breakfast, fika – the Scandinavian habit of pausing work around ten o’clock to have coffee together - lunch, an energizer in the afternoon, and dinner. The main focus is still on lunch, but for the other meal times the espresso bar will play a bigger role. Here, employees can recharge throughout the day. For example, we serve ‘smart foods’: snacks that provide a mental boost such as coconut yogurt with blueberries, beetroot focaccia, or ginger shots.’
Events also trigger employees to come to the office more often. What kind of events are you thinking of?
‘It is about creating engagement and rewarding everyone who comes to the office. This can be with small surprises like an ice cream on a warm day, or larger events such as a pub quiz, food market, or celebrating holidays. Engagement, supported with food and beverages, is the way to encourage interaction. It seamlessly aligns with employees’ reasons for coming to the office: socializing, brainstorming, and networking. We see that our hospitality managers are in close contact with the community manager or the engagement team of our clients more often.’
So, what’s next?
‘We are on our way to ‘the new style office,’ but we still do not exactly know where we are going to end up. What we do know is that the office as a Clubhouse is a fact. We are still actively testing and exploring, and gaining more knowledge along the way. The biggest challenge now is to get employees to come to the office as much as possible. The key is: make sure your employees miss the office. Let’s create FOMO together!’
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