Putting the ‘new world of work’ in practice in the heart of Europe
Globalization, cloud, social, mobile, Gen Y… These are just some of the rapid changes organizations worldwide have to deal with. In addition, the lingering effects of the downturn force companies to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
At NGA, we wanted to embrace these challenges in the most positive way by creating a more agile and flexible working environment. For many employees, work still means being at a fixed location within specific hours. But an increasing number of companies are transitioning to new – more flexible – ways of working, leveraging new technologies and cultural patterns. NGA Human Resources is now one of them.
In June 2013, we moved our European headquarters to a nearby location in Brussels, Belgium. Our new office is located in a building called ‘The Crescent’ and perfectly fits NGA’s strategy and values, focusing on excellence, efficiency, innovation, collaboration, trust, and customer satisfaction.
But what makes our new office so special? Here are some examples of how NGA has embraced the ‘new world of work’:
- Proximity – by having all employees work closer to each other – on a single floor instead of spread over 5 floors.
We’ve translated our company culture of openness and proximity into the new office design. The office space has been divided into 4 main areas – each of them bringing together colleagues who work in a similar work area. Most of these areas easily blend together and the separation between most of areas is light, open and transparent.
As a HR outsourcing specialist, we obviously have to ensure country-specific legal compliance with privacy regulation and very strict security policies. This was a major point of attention when rethinking the new office structure and even in a highly controlled and secure service center environment; we’ve managed to marry light and transparency with security and compliance.
2. Transparency – through open space offices and flex desks
At our new offices, each area is composed of one main open space, enhancing mutual collaboration between colleagues and creating more transparency. The number of dedicated office desks – only foreseen for a select group of functions such as HR and management – has been limited to a minimum. But even these desks can be used by everyone when the ‘owner’ is not in the office. Personal belongings can be stored in a small locker.
In order to provide privacy to employees to perform tasks requiring high levels of concentration or to attend a virtual meeting, each area contains several small break-out rooms. In addition, larger meeting rooms are available for group meetings that cannot be interrupted.
3. Informal communications – through centralized meeting points
In order to enhance informal communication between employees, our coffee corners, printers and locker rooms have now been placed more centrally in the building. This creates more chances to have regular informal contacts between colleagues from different departments, who previously never spoke to each other as they didn’t meet in our old offices. Embracing the ‘coffee corner update’ concept creates a more informal, more accessible working environment for our employees.
4. Green – doing more with less
By smartly organizing our desk setup, the square footage of our new offices is less than half the size we previously occupied. The open-space design also helps NGA to manage office costs more efficiently by getting rid of small offices and encouraging flexible ways of working ensure that more people can make use of the available space.
In addition, our new office is paperless and our entire back-office has gone into the cloud. And yes, we have very few printers left.
5. Employee well-being – close to nature
Special attention has been given to the well-being of our employees at work. While our former offices were located at a noisy road and didn’t have a cafeteria or outside lunch accommodation, our new offices are located in a green yet easy to reach business environment. Lunch can be bought on site and eaten in the open air, alongside a small lake and surrounded by nature. Also, the building is designed in such a way that CO2 emission is kept to a minimum.
Of course, the move of our offices hasn’t been rolled out in one day: it is part of a number of initiatives we have adopted across the business. New trends such as working in global virtual teams, focusing on achieving results rather than defining working hours, home working, virtual meetings, mobile access, e-learning etc. have long been part of NGA’s work philosophy and have now been formally embraced and rolled out as the ‘normal’ way of working at the company. Adapting our office to this way of working was just the next step in our evolution towards a truly global and flexible company.
But can every company implement a new way of working? We think not, for a very specific reason. When thinking about changing your working environment, the culture of your company should be in alignment with what you’re trying to achieve. NGA’s world of work is different than the one of other companies, and as such our way of working can’t simply be copied to other business environments. So, before implementing such an important change, consider the pros and the cons.
Adapting to a more flexible working environment means changing the attitude and mentality of managers and employees. Managers will have to develop a bigger trust in their employees, focus on results, and give up management based on physical control. Employees, in turn, will have to adapt to the changing way of collaborating and communicating within these new working environments, and to the increasing flexibility and responsibility within their job.
As we’re sure our story – and the pictures – have made you curious, consider yourself invited to pay us a visit in Belgium.
By Samir Daouk, Global HR Business Partner &
Cynthia Van Droogenbroeck, Solution Marketing Manager