The office becomes a meeting-place at De Watergroep

Published on 18/07/2022 in Customer Stories

The pandemic has permanently changed the way all of us work. This is true at De Watergroep too. From technicians and customer contact centre staff to office workers and managers, everyone is now onboard the digital train.

The office becomes a meeting-place at De Watergroep

Every year, De Watergroep supplies 177 municipalities in West- and East-Flanders, Flemish Brabant and Limburg with 130 million cubic metres of drinking water. The company does this via 90 water production centres, 34,000 kilometres of pipes and 160 water towers and reservoirs. De Watergroep has over 1,500 employees. “Some of our functions have occasionally worked from home for some time,” says HR Director Raymond Bellemans, “but certainly not all.”

Familiar ways of working under pressure

The pandemic also put pressure on De Watergroep’s normal way of working. The company belongs to an essential sector. This means that the colleagues working in the field were still on the road every day. Staff working in administration, on the other hand, worked from home as much as they could. Even once measures had been relaxed, more and more colleagues chose to work from home on a structural basis.

Change in mindset

“We had already taken the first steps with MS Teams,” says ICT manager Lode Schrauwen. “Covid-19 provided a boost.” De Watergroep provided its employees with laptops, screens and headsets. Something changed in terms of people’s thinking. “Holding a digital or hybrid shareholders’ meeting was previously unthinkable,” said Schrauwen. “Today, that seems quite normal.”

Some of the ´onboarding’ for new employees was done digitally.

Lode Schrauwen, ICT manager at De Watergroep


Shorter distances, more personal contact

But the pandemic certainly presented challenges for De Watergroep. “The transition to working from home was smooth,” said Bellemans, “but the crisis lasted a long time. Managing the teams from a distance was not always easy. The distance between employees and the company was sometimes too great. Literally and figuratively.” Working from home is here to stay for the De Watergroep, but the company expects its employees to come to the office an average of two days a week: the headquarters in Brussels or one of the regional offices in Limburg, Flemish Brabant or East- and West-Flanders.

In a well-being survey, employees themselves said that personal contact in the office is essential for maintaining motivation and commitment. However, some of the digital solutions will continue to be used also after the pandemic. “We still do onboarding for new employees in part online.”

The office will have an important new function: that of a meeting-place.

Raymond Bellemans, HR manager at De Watergroep


Digital workplace for all

De Watergroep’s technicians have long been familiar with mobile working. “They leave home in the morning and drive straight to the site,” said Bellemans. “They have a tablet that they use as a digital office. That means that they do not have to go to a central workshop to pick up their work assignments for the day.”

For the customer contact centre staff, the move to the cloud was convenient. “We use Genesys contact centre software,” said Schrauwen. “Proximus dealt with the switch to the cloud version of the software and integrated it with Dynamics 365. As a result, our customer contact centre staff can now work from home too.”

Holding a digital or hybrid shareholder meeting was previosuly unthinkable. Today, we find that quite normal.

Lode Schrauwen, ICT manager at De Watergroep


New normal, new culture

When employees come to the office, they talk to their colleagues about work but they also have more informal chats. “The office will have an important new function: that of a meeting-place,” said Bellemans. “We have to equip our office buildings accordingly. De Watergroep notes that staff these days prefer smaller offices and spaces with more meeting opportunities. “We need to map out the changed needs: what types of workplaces and meeting rooms are needed, what equipment we need to provide, and so on.” De Watergroep has partnered up with Proximus to equip the meeting rooms with a Polycom videoconferencing system.

Raymond Bellemans is HR director at De Watergroep.
Lode Schrauwen is ICT manager at De Watergroep.

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