A single workstation for every two Flemish civil servants
Published on 03/11/2021 in Inspire
Flemish government employees work part-time from home. That’s why the renovated WTC building provides a single workstation for every two employees. Frank Geets, Administrator-General of Het Facilitair Bedrijf, explains.
During the pandemic, the Flemish government took the call for maximum telecommuting to heart. The question is, how has this affected building and office logistics?
Frank Geets, Administrator-General of the Flemish Government’s Het Facilitair Bedrijf (Facilities Management Agency): “Right before the first lockdown in 2020, every employee received a laptop and we all made the switch to Office 365 and Teams. That meant that arranging remote work wasn’t really such an issue. We were already going strong on the digital front.”
“Services did have to keep running in a lot of public buildings. We got everything corona-proof there in short order, including disinfectant gel at the entrance, signs to direct people safely to conference rooms, and so on.
Telecommuting will at least partially remain the standard. Will you adapt offices and buildings to reflect that?
Frank Geets: “We’ve opted for a hybrid work system, i.e., partially at home, partially at the office. The best ratio of telecommuting vs coming into the office will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the employee’s duties. Our aim is for everyone to find a healthy balance. Lots of folks are excited about working from home. However, there’s also a need for social contact with coworkers. That’s why we are purposefully focusing even more on adapted places for people to get together or hyper focus on their work, have meetings, or work as a team.”
Will you also integrate a mobility plan into that?
FG: “Without a doubt, since so much has changed in that area. Since the pandemic, people coming into the office tend to come by car, due to concerns about the virus. In the past, nine out of ten employees took the train. To avoid rush hour and make it to Brussels without a hitch, employees tend to stagger their commute throughout the day. So, that’s changing too.”
When a company is considering redeploying its available office space, what elements do you think it should keep in mind?
FG: “That’s an exercise we just finished ourselves. Around six thousand Flemish government employees will be given a new workstation (a ‘station’) in the renovated WTC building at Brussels North. The site is equipped with a single workstation for every two employees. So, there are be fewer permanent stations, but more shared spaces to handle peak periods. Employee badges will be used to monitor occupancy. They use their badges to access the building, making it easy for us to know how many people are there. We’re still assessing whether a reservation system is necessary.”
Offices are becoming places for people to get together or hyper focus on their work.
Frank Geets, Administrator-General of the Flemish Government’s Het Facilitair Bedrijf
Should SMEs go a similar route? Or is the situation not quite the same?
“For SMEs and family businesses, we’ve noticed that there’s a greater tendency to stick to traditional office work. Large organizations often have more resources and options for putting a hybrid work system into practice. They are the trailblazers.”
How do you think hybrid work will affect the actual people involved?
“Managers need to do their jobs differently. The Public Employees Agency provides a training program for that. But, at the same time, we shouldn’t lose sight of how it affects employees. Issues do crop up from time to time. People who were already working hard sometimes end up working even harder at home. Essentially, the train ride home – that dividing line between work and leisure – is gone. For others, productively working from home just doesn’t work out.”
KU Leuven Professor Marijke Verbruggen argues that a people-centric mindset is even more important for managers in a hybrid work situation.
If companies need less office space, how will that impact the real estate market?
“There is a clear impact. Office buildings designed to meet the needs of the past, i.e., separate offices with separate workstations, will be hard pressed to find new tenants. Right now, there’s a rapid decline in the demand for office space, throwing the rental market into a crisis. Naturally, the real question is how that situation will resolve.”
Will this development also lead to a new urban planning strategy?
“It’s already happening. The Northern Quarter of Brussels – once exclusively developed with office buildings – will evolve into a more mixed landscape. The office district era has quietly come to a close. The WTC project, for example, doesn’t just accommodate Flemish government office space, but also includes a hotel and apartments. The building will always be in use. People will come into the office during the day, and residents will be there at night and on weekends.”
How to make hybrid work available to your employees