Working from home, elsewhere and in the office: looking for balance

The flexibility of working from home is enjoyable, but collaborating on complex challenges and advancing personal development is more difficult. In the pilot Rabo@Anywhere, Robbert-Jan Wanna looked at how to combine the benefits of working in an office and the benefits of working from home.

“I didn’t see myself working for a financial institution after I graduated in business administration. I always said: ‘I don’t want to work for a bank, nor for a funeral home’. But then a friend mentioned Rabobank’s traineeships and I really started looking into the organisation. From what I saw, I got excited.”

“Rabobank is a cooperative bank and focuses on the long term. I feel connected to the mission Growing a better world together. When you state where you are headed, you take a position that allows you to achieve that. I think that’s very powerful. So through the Rabo Global traineeship, I ended up at a bank after all!”

Working from home as the holy grail?

“After the traineeship I worked as a business analyst and was on the Works Council. When the corona crisis started, it was important for the organization to consult immediately with a delegation from the Works Council. At the time, we didn’t know what was coming, and how it was going to affect the organization and the people. As part of the delegation, I was involved from the beginning. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to participate in the team that focused on behalf of Rabobank: how will we work after corona?”

Robbert-Jan Wanna

“Corona forced everyone to work from home. That set off interesting developments. For example, it was striking how productive our employees were, even though everyone worked at home. People arranged their days more intelligently by adjusting their working hours to their personal circumstances. The flexibility, having more time for family and friends, and the elimination of travel time suited people well.”

“At the same time people had to get used to it. How do you stay in touch with your team, how do you make sure you’re not online day and night. Some things are harder to achieve digitally, like personal development. Rabobank has an extensive virtual learning environment, but in practice you develop yourself better when you are working together and can learn from each other.”

The best of both worlds

“When the benefits of working from home became clear and both employees and organization expressed a desire to keep working like this, we started thinking about a new, hybrid way of working. Of course, the quality of your audio-visual tools is important. Only if you can all dial in with a good connection and make eye contact with everyone, an equal conversation is created. But it is more than just good technology, it also requires a new way of working. Only a good digital presence is not enough. People also need to connect, to meet each other and that is much more pleasant physically.”

Kim Teunis

The new way of hybrid working at Rabobank is called Rabo@Anyhwere. Kim Teunis, Program Director New Way of Working After Corona explains: “Our starting point is Digital First. We work digitally if possible. Regular meetings are virtual and you only get together when it’s really necessary. Team building or creative brainstorming often go better in a physical meeting. Just like meeting each other to build your network or participating in communities within Rabobank.”

Robbert-Jan: “We studied how we could combine the best of both worlds in the future. How do we balance working partly from home and partly in the office? What do you do where and what should the office look like? In a pilot project we researched how people actually deal with working in a hybrid situation. And what kind of environment works best for that, so that we can design our offices to fit.”

Updating the office

“The pilot showed us that there are roughly two types of people who come to the office. Therefore two different environments are needed in the office. Who uses which one varies from team to team and from field to field.”

“On the one hand, you have teams that come to the office to do the work together. For this group, workstations are more important than consultation or brainstorming rooms. This applies, for example, to our KYC teams, who want to discuss cases in order to learn from each other. On the other hand, you have teams that use working from home to focus, but come to the office for complex problem solving, brainstorming or team building.”

“We are remodeling our offices to facilitate both groups. Think of an environment with desks and collaborative workstations, where some have more areas for brainstorming and meetings, and some have more individual workstations. The balance depends on the people who come to work there.”

Facilitative leadership

“In addition to people adapting and learning to use digital tools, hybrid working also requires a different form of management. You need clear objectives, vision and a pioneering mentality. We are seeing an even stronger transition to facilitative leadership: empowering people in what they do. Having trust, focusing on the quality of the work instead of presence.”

Opportunities for everyone

Is it harder to start a new job these days? Robbert-Jan: “Everyone is talking about hybrid working at the moment. But I notice that within Rabobank you really get the freedom to make your own decision about when you work at home or at the office.”

“People make arrangements with their team, but otherwise have the fredom to choose what’s important to them. What works. Some people work at home to focus and go to the office to consult on complicated cases. Other people choose to start work later so that, for example, they can take their children to school every day or no longer have to travel during rush hour. It gives a lot of freedom.”

“When you start a new job you probably want to see your new colleagues face-to-face more often. Rabobank provides opportunities to do so. Because Rabobank has offices all over the country, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the office where you are based by default, but you can choose one that suits you best.”

“Everyone within Rabobank has to adjust to the new situation. There are possibilities and opportunities for everyone. The advantage is that the pilot has made us more aware of what is needed. And that we will continue to adapt based on these experiences.”