As an American, I am having a tough time figuring out the ‘new way of working’ and why it is working in the Netherlands. I am not sure how normal the Netherlands new work environment and new work situation is to the rest of the world.
American forms of new work environments
As a beginner on the topic of new work, I started searching for examples and definitions. Who is doing it right? I came up with Google, one of the most admired brands in the world with working conditions consisting of onsite daycare, laundry and dry cleaning services, gyms and refrigerators filled all flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. For the ice cream fridge alone, I’d consider an unpaid training. Check this video of ‘Life at the Googleplex’.
There’s also Nike where every day is casual Friday. Everyone is fit or at least wearing athletic gear so, if need be, they can sprint to the copy machine, trot to the cantina using the stairs, or join a Tai-Chi lesson before the sun rises.
Mistakenly, I thought laundry, ice cream and high top basketball shoes were the ‘new world of working’ that has been all the rage in the Netherlands for years.
Expert advice and Dutch wisdom
My search pointed me to one of the new world of working masters in the Netherlands, Henny van Egmond, owner and consultant for Yolk and has helped organizations develop their own working styles for more than a decade.
Where I thought a daycare at work was a fabulous idea, Egmond corrected me. This is an older, 90s or 00s way of thinking. “Having all of these services just makes it really convenient to be at work. Why have a daycare close to work? Daycare should be close to home.”
In the new world of working, companies should be giving employees the freedom to choose where and how and when to spend their time. Letting employees choose their own work-life balance. “Not making it convenient to be and stay at work,” said Egmond.
I asked Egmond to help me classify and define the main principles and methods of the ‘new world of working’. “I think you are going to be disappointed. It’s not that easy. New world of working is different in every company and every organization. There’s no way to define one working style. Each company has a different company culture, corporate values, history and maturity,” said Egmond.
The Netherlands model
Still, as a country, the Netherlands working methods and new work environment have been providing an admirable model for more than a decade. At least 50 percent of all Dutch companies are using some form of new work (nieuwe werken), said Egmond. Compare that to a recent conference Egmond attended in the states where out of 300 companies, only 2 were using new work principles.
Rabobank employee satisfaction
So who is getting it right? One Dutch company that continues to show up in the ‘best place to work’ polls is Rabobank, one of the leaders in the Netherlands for establishing and using new world of working methods. Even if we could not generalize and say this way of working could be used by every company, Egmond thought Rabobank’s principles were a well defined and proven to work within the Rabobank environment. Egmond was project leader on ‘Rabo Unplugged’, an initiative which has created a sense of urgency across the bank to:
- Work in a result-oriented manner.
- Increase the organisation’s innovative capacity.
- Give the employee freedom to take the initiative and responsibility.
- Give the employee freedom to be enthusiastic and creative.
- The result is the employee becomes more enterprising
The majority of Rabobank employees were polled as happy and the workforce in the Netherlands is overall a satisfied bunch. The Dutch people are repeatedly on top 10 lists for being the happiest dang people in the world. Some of the happiness comes from the sense of job security, the permanent job contracts, the 25+ days of paid vacation and a forward thinking boss and department that treats people like humans who are raising other little humans or who would like to spend time with other humans.
New Way of Going Dutch
Some Americans dream of living the European lifestyle. Be a little Dutch, find a work-life balance. Shorter hours, longer vacations. Time to walk the dog. Pet the cat. Read to the kids. Eat, drink and be merry with friends.
However, many Americans are struggling to keep their jobs right now. People are working longer hours, working weekends, doing a double shift, working nights, ignoring their families all to make sure the boss knows “I still need and want my job.”
Are Americans ready for new working methods?
Considering the current economy and the job market, I am not sure how open and accepting the American system is to the ‘new world of working’ methods. American companies have not yet evolved or been won over by this Dutch way of thinking. Nike, and Google are providing a start with varying forms of new working methods, but these examples are not the reality for the majority of American workers.
Why are Americans and American companies more reluctant to adopt new working methods?