Working hybrid from another country: chances & challenges

Martin Dijkman leaning against a window in the office
Martin Dijkman
Martin Dijkman
Product Manager Investment
Reading time5 minutes

Digital working - known as Digital First - is a starting point at Rabobank: you consciously choose when to go to the office for your work or to meet colleagues or customers. But can this also be done from abroad? And what are the challenges? We spoke with Martin Dijkman, Product Manager Investment at Rabobank, who also worked abroad occasionally before the corona crisis.

"Before I started at Rabobank, I have lived and worked in Spain for 9 years. I still have a house there and because my wife is Spanish, I go there often for family visits and vacations. It's a beautiful country!"

"Even before the the coronacrisis started, I worked from Spain every now and then for short periods of time. That was done in agreement with my manager and with good arrangements with my team. Together you look at how you can make it work. Now that we are all used to hybrid working, it has become a bit easier. Everyone knows what works digitally and what doesn’t work, and the resources are a lot better. The way we use Teams, for example, is a huge improvement over the past."

Trust and responsibility

"The work that my team does can easily be done from home. Together we work on making the online application for 'Rabo Beheerd Beleggen' as customer-friendly as possible, while at the same time complying with all the legal requirements that investing involves. Rabobank is a cooperative bank and does things differently than other banks. We work together with clients and take the time to look at the long term. It's a great mission to get people to invest responsibly and help them with a financially healthy future. That motivates me."

Martin Dijkman walks to Utrecht Central Station

"At Rabobank, there was always the option of working from home for 1 or 2 days. You get a lot of freedom and trust and if you make good use of that and take responsibility, a lot is possible. We look at what people are contributing. It doesn't matter whether you do that between 9 and 5 or spread it out over the morning and evening. In my team, many people have young children and they may be absent during the day, but they make up for it in the evening."

Things to consider when working hybrid

"The move to a true form of hybrid working has been relatively seamless for my team. Of course, we had to start doing some things differently. When you're not all in the same room at a stand-up, it's important to be patient and to let each other finish. People have a strong tendency to jump straight into something, but that is not possible in a situation where some people are working at home. An additional advantage: you learn to listen better."

"Hybrid work teaches you to listen better." 
Martin Dijkman - Product Manager Investment

"With substantial sessions on legislation and regulations, you do notice that it is more difficult to do that online. Also when we are going to build something new and we have complex, technical discussions, I find that it is better to do this face-to-face. Especially if the technology is new to us. It is nice to be in the office one day a week. Fully online is possible, but then you need more time to understand each other. It is more effective when you can look each other in the eye to respond to each other's views and give feedback."

"What has really changed is the onboarding of new people. How do they build their network? How do you make them feel involved? Our newest colleague handled that smartly. I had paired her with a number of team members to get acquainted. She, in turn, asked those colleagues who else she needed to talk to. In this way, she spoke to a lot of people in a short period of time. Something you would normally do at the coffee machine. I thought this was a great learning, a smart way to quickly expand your network in a hybrid situation."

The variety of a different country

"Hybrid working can be done in different ways. For example, I work from my home in Madrid during school holidays. My type of work can be done anywhere, but that doesn't apply to all positions within Rabobank. Because of security, because you do confidential work, or because you are in direct contact with customers, such as our customer service employees or colleagues at local banks."

"You also can't just go live abroad and work in the Netherlands. You're bound by strict tax rules from the Dutch government and Rabobank also sets limits on how long you can stay abroad. I myself see it as a great privilege to live in two worlds. When you work in a different country, with a different work culture, you learn to adapt quickly."

Martin Dijkman sit outside behind his laptop and drinks thee

"Of course life is different in Spain: its more outdoors. Although it's no longer the case that everything is closed in the afternoon and everyone takes a siesta, it is quite normal, for example, to have lunch somewhere in the afternoon. As long as it fits into my schedule and there are no important meetings, I can do that. Then I just work a little longer in the evening."

"When I'm in Spain I immediately have a relaxed feeling. That's because everything is just a little bit different. It's the variety, the atmosphere and the people. As soon as I'm there I feel like I’m on vacation, even though I'm working."