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The good (and not so good) news about the New Way of Working in Belgium

By Veerle De Clerck, Brandcom Manager, Steelcase

The good news is: Belgian companies have massively embraced the 'New Way of Working'. The not so good news is that this hasn’t led to very high engagement numbers. Yet.

The New Way of Working became a hot topic more than a decade ago, as the proliferation of ICT tools enabled knowledge workers to work anywhere, anytime. Working from home and flex work spaces became common practice for many.

In the recent ‘Engagement and the Global Workplace’ report, workplace strategy and office furniture solution provider Steelcase explores the relationship between employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

As it turns out, Belgian companies have massively adopted many elements of the New Way of Working:Employee Engagement

  • 32% of all Belgian offices are fully open space with another 37% having a combination of open and individual spaces.
  • Belgian workers also have fewer desktop computers and more laptops, compared to most other countries.

There is, unfortunately, also some less positive news:

  • 37% of Belgian employees are dissatisfied with their workspace, and this also results in low engagement numbers: only 6% consider themselves as being strongly engaged with their employer, less than half of the worldwide average (13%).

How come?

Belgian companies have fully embraced and facilitated work mobility, within and beyond the company offices. But they haven’t always done so for the right reasons: Belgian companies approached this mostly from a cost and real estate optimization perspective, instead of a ‘knowledge worker and her/his workspace’ optimization perspective.

The result: there are not enough individual spaces for knowledge workers to seclude themselves in. While open workspaces facilitate open communication between colleagues, at the same time, they also create continuous distractions and this is harming employee wellbeing.

Further optimizing the workspace

A part of the solution, according to Steelcase, can be found in creating more diversity in the workspace. A more diversified workspace ecosystem should also facilitate individual work (e.g. by providing secluded workstations for high concentration activities) while also boosting collaboration (e.g. have joint workspaces where teams can gather and socialize). It should provide spaces for social connections, learning and rejuvenation. Optimizing workspaces accordingly and giving employees choice and control over where and how they want to work can boost engagement numbers, as shown by the results from some of the other countries in the report, like the Netherlands. Offices there often have a more balanced mix between fixed and flex work spaces, where both resident and mobile workers get a greater sense of belonging and being welcome.

As the report shows: we still have some work ahead of us, as US-Belgian companies.

For a free download of the Workplace Report go to: