Interview Dory van Marwijk – HR business partner

Category: Careertips
Published: 02-12-21

March 2020. Everyone remembers it well. The number of corona infections was increasing rapidly and we suddenly had to work compulsorily at home. We are now over a year and a half further on and the advice is to work at home again. But even without that advice, hybrid working is the new standard for many. Many organizations are still wrestling with the consequences and elaboration of this. Every company is different and everyone needs to find a workable situation for their own organization. But that does not mean that we cannot learn from each other.

Dory van Marwijk is an HR business partner and has been working at Remobis Refund service for over seven years. A company with over 30 nationalities on 80 employees. With her Dutch/Australian nationality, she is therefore no exception within the organization. Dory has been working in the HR profession for more than 20 years and has never before experienced such a drastic change, with a direct impact on the entire organization, as in the past year and a half.

Home office gaining momentum

“Our intention in 2019, after a successful pilot phase for a ‘home office’, was to implement the ability to work from home step by step. We would start with the full-time employees who lived furthest away and then employees who lived closer would be addressed. We had the tokens, which allow people to access the system from home, ready to go. When in March 2020 the government came up with the measure of mandatory working from home, that whole process accelerated. For this, we worked closely with our IT support. Within a short period of time, it was possible to work from home. It required an enormous amount of adjustment from the employees and the organization. This was an exciting process, because you can never be sure if it all works.

Business Continuity Management Team

During this period, a Business Continuity Management Team was put together. Together we examined which activities could be carried out completely, i.e. 100 percent, from home. We also looked at whether certain disciplines could be merged when people were still working at the office. Having a BCM team available helped enormously in the transition. As HR you cannot carry this process alone. By involving people from the operation you can develop an optimal working method. Also, this team can always respond to ad hoc changes, while as an HR you can occupy yourself with the long-term changes.

Facilitating connection

Working completely from home, and now hybrid, requires an enormous amount of adaptability from an organization. As an HR, by being present on the floor, you sense whether something is going on. You hear certain sounds, read faces and easily have a chat. This low-threshold way of making contact has, of course, almost completely disappeared. The danger of working completely from home is that you lose connection with your employees. To avoid this, we emphasize that open communication is important. When you don’t share anything, it becomes difficult to do anything about it. It is precisely by getting your heart open once in a while that you get a better grip on your work.

The responsibility for continuing to talk lies with the employees themselves. They are also responsible for maintaining contact with each other. To support this, the team leaders and managers organize various team meetings on a regular basis to encourage this connection. These meetings are purely about work, but there are also meetings where we have lunch together online. We continue to vary this. In addition, we are in close contact with the team leaders who, of course, speak to the employees on a daily basis.

Freedom and confidence

The mandatory work-at-home period has brought us a lot. Where at first we were skeptical about whether working from home would work, it has now been proven otherwise. It works and it works well. In the beginning, of course, it took some searching. One had to develop a new daily rhythm and sometimes not only for oneself but also for the whole family. In the end, I think it worked and still works for 98 percent of the people.

Our employees were all given the freedom to arrange their days in the way that best suited the situation they were in. We trust that people can complete tasks within a certain time frame and that if they don’t they will raise the alarm. We noticed that many of our employees were more productive than ever, but sometimes set the workload too high for themselves. We also advised them to take a rest when necessary.

Clear agreements

We also made clear agreements about the way in which communication should take place. Normally, you can quickly contact a team leader at the office if you have a question. When everyone is working at home, it’s a bit more difficult. In order to streamline this as much as possible, we developed a routing. Now everyone knows exactly which questions they can put to which person. It took a while to get used to it, but now it’s self-evident.

Office as a meeting place

Whereas in the beginning everyone wanted to work at home, many employees are now eager to get back to the office. People are yearning for the social side of work again. This is also the case with us. Remobis is an international company. That means we have many international employees who are home alone. The dividing line between colleagues and friendships is therefore becoming thinner and thinner. The value of social contact with colleagues is increasingly recognized. This sometimes turns the office into a meeting place where people don’t talk about work, but about everything around it. And that is enormously important.

Implementation on a personal level

Of course we already had the intention of working in a hybrid way, Covid just accelerated the process. For us, hybrid work does not mean that you are obliged to work at home for a few days and at the office for a few days. It means that together we look at how our employees can organize their days in the best possible way. This goes much further than purely working at home or at the office. This means that you can’t write a fixed policy, but that you have to enter into a dialogue with the employees and really look at the best possible arrangement at a personal level. We are now in the middle of a transition and want to take the hybrid work process along at a leisurely pace. Not everyone has the need to go back to the office. We think it’s important to keep everyone involved, which is why we have started a ‘Home office policy’. This means that if you work 5 days, for example, you come to the office at least three days a week. More days is always possible (weather the corona rules allow).

Taking stock

The past period has been a perfect pilot for many companies. Not only for the employees has it had a positive impact. Employers are also seeing the benefits of working from home. This is because employees can switch gears more easily. Now is the time to start the conversation with the employees to determine what works and what does not. Only then can you find out what the optimal way of (hybrid) working is for your organization.’