Remote Work: What Can We Learn from the Dutch Model?
Productive freedom is here to stay.
Remote work is becoming a reality, and quite fast. Are you prepared to embrace it?
If you put your laptop on a stack of books while serving breakfast or complaining about the WiFi connection at the nearby cafe, you are not alone. Since restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, companies have found various ways to allow employees to work remotely.
But for others, remote work is already part of their daily routine. In the Netherlands, many people benefit from the country’s culture of work flexibility.
While the percentage of employees working remotely before the pandemic was around 4.7% in UK and 3.6% in US, 14.1% of the Dutch workforce usually worked away from the office.
For a long time, the Netherlands “set the tone” for global changes towards remote work, being a benchmark when it comes to implementing this concept.
A culture ready for remote work
The results of a recent US poll suggest that 59% of remote employees would like to continue working this way as much as possible once restrictions on limiting the spread of the Covid-19 virus are fully lifted. Major international companies, including Barclays and Twitter, have already concluded that open space offices can be considered “a thing of the past”, while also planning long-term remote work strategies.
According to Aukje Nauta, an organizational psychology professor at the University of Leiden, when we talk about introducing the work-from-anywhere trend, employers could look towards the Netherlands for inspiration, who understand how to successfully implement remote work policies and create virtual offices.
Values such as democracy and participation are deeply rooted in the Dutch working culture. In other words, so managers place more trust in their workers than elsewhere in the world.
For example, ING (an influential Dutch company based in Amsterdam) is currently running a program so-called “unlimited holidays” for employees, who can take as many days off as they want as long as their work-related tasks do not suffer.
On the other hand, there are other important contexts (economic, social, etc.) that enable remote work to grow in the Netherlands.
Infrastructure plays an important role, and public and commercial facilities are plentiful. Libraries have been reinvented as modern and comfortable workspaces, while there are a large number of coffee shops that offer remote work facilities.
Companies in the Netherlands also took the opportunity to reduce costs and increase productivity. However, their local strict sick pay legislation obliges employers to ensure that their workers have healthy working facilities at home.
Furthermore, financially speaking, remote employees benefit from an exclusive bonus for this activity. Dutch civil servants receive over 440 euros/year for work from home. That means about two euros a day to cover their daily expenses: coffee, personal items and energy consumption. Separately, the companies provide them with all the technical conditions necessary for remote work.
More trust in the workplace
Many countries are struggling with a culture of “physical presence.” For example, 83% of UK employees have been pressured at work to “show up” regardless of whether their mental or physical health allows it.
Moreover, in US, about 15% of all homes are not connected to a telecommunications network, and one in five employees say they feel guilty when they take days off, worrying that this could make them seem less dedicated to their job.
Besides that, the Netherlands offers a mix of modern infrastructure, investment in the digital environment and a culture of trust in people. Thanks to this, the Netherlands is an aspirational archetype in terms of remote work, companies in other countries still have much to understand and adapt for a post-Covid-19 future.
According to Dutch psychologist Bart Götte, due to the fact that remote work is present globally, we will emerge from this crisis better digitally prepared, aware that many of us are able to work remotely, with more autonomy and perhaps an aspiration to become more independent.
Because of the context created by the pandemic, other countries are in a turbulent learning process, and people are rethinking their old policies, procedures, customs and values. When circumstances change so abruptly, we simply have to learn by doing, which is probably the most important lesson.
The Netherlands ranked the seventh-best country for remote working
In the past year, for most of us “work from anywhere” has become our new way of life. So, it is good to know that the Netherlands is voted one of the top ten countries in the world for remote work.
Circleloop has published a list of the top countries when it comes to working remotely. Factors underlying the ranking include internet speed, the average cost of internet services, and the price of renting an apartment.
Moreover, in addition to the benefits of internet speed and standard of living, the Dutch were ranked the fifth happiest country in the world according to the world happiness report.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many companies have found that in some cases the complete abandonment of the classic work environment has not been an easy job.
With an ideal mix of technology and organizational culture, the Netherlands can be seen as an important player when it comes to remote work.