Building a Better World of Work is the mission of ADB-Dutch Cham’s newest member, Veldhoen + Company
Originally established in the Netherlands in 1990, Veldhoen + Company has grown organically to become a global firm spanning the US, UK, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and now Singapore. Gijs joined the company soon after its inception and has been based in Sydney for the past six years. In the early days, the concept of Activity Based Working was forged through several police station redesign projects. “At home, you have spaces that support different activities – you eat in the kitchen, shower in the bathroom and sleep in the bedroom,” he says. “At work, we discovered that the old-fashioned offices only support one or two activities, namely sitting at a desk doing various things. In a police station we saw that officers wanted to come to the station not just to type up statements but to share their stories and be supported by their colleagues.” This insight led to a redesign with many more open and home-like spaces where the officers could connect and get the support they needed.
Dutch insurance firm, Interpolis, was the first company to embrace the concept and has become a case study for how a business can create a work environment that truly reflects its brand and culture. Gijs recalls how “the management saw that by accommodating people at work in the same way as at home, they could save space while also giving people the option to choose where to work from a variety of settings that support the different activities that they do.” This workplace freedom also involved a shift of their leadership culture. The ‘true north’ that guided Interpolis’ office redesign was its mission for customers to place 100% trust in their insurer. The internal work culture, named ‘crystal clear working’, was to set the standard and guide all design decisions.
These included an honesty policy in the cafe rather than cashiers, to demonstrate trust in employees’ personal integrity. He adds that, “It’s less about the physical space than the alignment of the business strategy, brand and culture.” It’s a common misconception that hot-desking equals Activity Based Working, a set-up that often leaves employees with “the worst of both worlds” according to Iolanda. “Not only are their workplace activities not adequately supported, they also have no desk!” she says. Veldhoen’s Activity Based Working methodology defines 10 main activities that employees carry out in a typical week. Workplaces designed along these principles combine spaces for different activity streams with the best available tools and technology that employees need to be happy and productive. They also easily accommodate fluctuations in headcount, which is a huge benefit in today’s uncertain business environment.
It was a high-profile project for LEGO three years ago which first brought Veldhoen to Singapore. The team were struck by the level of interest from the companies that visited LEGO’s facilities and wanted to learn more about Activity Based Working. “It gave us an insight that the market was ready and interested in a different way of working,” says Iolanda. “Asia has been the hub of productivity for many years, but there are only so many more hours you can work in a week. This brings a need for more sophistication in how you run the business – how you attract talent, retain it and motivate a highly diverse workforce. Driving engagement and driving a different kind of productivity is really starting to play a role.”
It’s the connection to happiness and wellbeing that really motivates Iolanda, who joined the company last year to lead Asia. After 20 years in management consulting, sales and marketing, she had taken a career break to find a path that was meaningful and involved helping people. “I thought that opportunity would be in healthcare,” she says, “then I learned about Veldhoen and helping organisations create a happier and more fulfilled workforce. When people have
more control and less stress in their work life, it rubs off into their private life as well.”
The team already has a number of projects for multinational clients in Singapore and Japan, and is now looking to grow the team. This, says Iolanda, means finding “a mix of skills
and the right people who have a passion for driving change and empathy to understand the human side of our clients’ transformation to Activity Based Working.” We wish the Veldhoen team every success and welcome them to the ADB-Dutch Cham community.