HAN PAEMEN, Workplace Solutions Manager at global real estate advisor Colliers International, has specialised in NWoW for 15 years, advising large companies about how developing working environments can support business strategies. Active in a number of countries, including France, Switzerland, Belgium and the United States.
Corporate culture plays a key role in taking on and retaining new talented employees. What link does this have with the work environment?
Han Paemen (HP): Corporate culture plays a central role at all levels: business, management, HR and many others.
I like to use the example of Interpolis, a Dutch insurance company, which faced difficulty in the 90s due to very bad customer perceptions and slow, opaque bureaucratic processes.
The arrival of a new Managing Director reversed that trend. New rules were established to break hierarchical layers, move to initial repayments and let the first person dealing with the case make decisions.
This new approach was very daring but it paid off. The following year, Interpolis had become the in the Netherlands, and it still is today.
In order to achieve a successful transformation, the Managing Director endeavoured to change the corporate culture, instilling confidence, empowerment and independence into managers and coaches. To support this, he also led big developments in the work environment.
At Colliers International France, you said that you believe work spaces have a big impact on ways of working and employee satisfaction. Why hasn’t that always been the case?
HP: In recent years, the entry point of workplace environment projects – be it classic, open or flexible – has always been space optimisation. Firstly, by increasing the density of the spaces and then sharing them. This led to the exaggerated version of certain open spaces or ’Flex Desks’ that are now criticised as being old fashioned.
Nowadays, many companies understand that, in order to have engaged and efficient employees, they must create win-win spaces. For example, when moving to shared workstations, it’s about reinjecting these space savings into providing more flexible, quality spaces that can be used ergonomically and adapted to different activities, such as chatting, concentrating, creating, and relaxing.
So the work environment could be considered a tool for transformation?
HP: Companies are experiencing permanent transformation and the work environment needs to reflect these changes while also helping to facilitate them.
Ideally, the work environment is a permanent reminder of what the company and its employees want to achieve. When you want to change the ways of working, a new work environment stops people falling back into old habits. Another advantage of the work environment is that it provides more accountability for lasting transformation, as the tenant has to respect the commitment of a lease until the end.
Does moving to NWoW guarantee bringing transformations in line with work reality?
HP: NWoW is a synthetic answer with deep-rooted trends present in the transformation strategy of several companies that ensures simplification, independence and empowerment of employees
The advantage of NWoW is less about excessive real estate savings and more about the contribution that employees’ commitment and performance make to the work environment.
NWoW supports changes to current ways of working by adapting the work environment. It provides both managers and employees choices and well-performing tools through technology while also driving change.
Today, the Colliers teams are becoming increasingly called upon by managers of transformation, heads of human resources and managing directors who hope to implement change and know that the work environment is one of the ways to do this. These are the best sponsors of these subjects. Colliers International France doesn’t claim to drive change in a company, but we have the ambition and the experience to understand, to express and to accompany it.