Get inspired: How Voys became the Best Hybrid Employer 2022 in Groningen
At Ciao we like to be inspired by others who have successfully switched to a hybrid working model. Voys, a Dutch telecom provider, was elected “Best Hybrid Employer of Groningen 2022 earlier this year. We had the pleasure to interview Dick Wierenga, Hybrid Company Innovator, from Voys. Find out more about their hybrid work methods in the below interview.
Dick, can you tell us what does the hybrid policy at Voys look like?
The Voys office is similar to how it was before except for the occupancy rate which is lower than before as people work from home as well. The office occupancy is now around 30%. Everyone is allowed to work where they want. Working remotely from a different country is also an option as long as it follows the rules set by our tax department.
And did you face any challenges when going hybrid?
We did not face any challenges. Our systems were already largely set up for working from home. For example, we already worked with digital tools such as Google Drive, Slack and Google Meet. At Voys, we realized pretty quickly that the pandemic wasn't going to be something temporary, so we smoothly put together a 'work from home kit'. Our team could choose whether they wanted, for example, a standing desk, an office chair, monitor, docking station, noise-canceling headphones and so on. We offered to support them by providing all the necessary equipment you would find in our office.
And now? Have you come across any challenges regarding the hybrid work policy?
The only worry is whether our teams will become isolated “silos” as there are less interactions in the office:at the coffee machine or having lunch breaks together. These are important meeting places in the office for getting in touch with colleagues from other departments.
Several companies struggle with this feeling of having silos between teams. Has Voys seen less bonding between people and if so; how do you ensure they still build social ties?
I do agree that there are silos, also here at Voys. It is a concern of ours and we haven’t found the perfect solution yet. What we try to do to avoid them is organizing activities between all teams.
You give your employees a lot of autonomy. Has this always been the case or has it grown during and after the pandemic?
This has always been the case. We believe in trust instead of control and self-organization instead of management hierarchy. Nothing has changed in this respect. We do see that colleagues take more freedom to shift their hours in order to do some personal or practical tasks in between. Such as doing personal activities like picking up children from school, exercising, etc. They compensate those “lost” hours earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
So we can say autonomy translates into your company culture?
You can indeed say this! This has always been the case. For years now, we've been working with Holacracy (a method of decentralized management and organizational governance) as a 'management model' and 'without managers'. All our colleagues experience great freedom and also great responsibility
How did you reinvent your ways of communication to create a good experience for all employees? Not only for those who work in the office but also from home.
Exactly the same as before: we use Slack. The #announcements channel, for example, is a crucial channel for everyone and it contains all the latest updates and important announcements which are relevant to everyone. The monthly 'pizza session' also went online immediately and so did our semi-annual meeting. It works great for us!
So you stay in touch via Slack. Are there any other tools you use?
Apart from Slack we also use Donut, this app pairs colleagues who want to participate with a random colleague from the company. This way you can have a chat with a colleague you might not necessarily talk to usually. A bit like the coffee machine or the lunchroom in the office normally which would normally provide these types of interactions. It’s a good team bonding activity.
Have you initiated specific rules or guidelines around communication to make the workplace more inclusive (between people remote and at the office)?
No we have not. I see other (IT) companies setting mandatory fixed days but we want to stay away from this. We do try to organize fun things on a regular basis and these mini events are well attended. The office layout will probably change in the coming months, with more places to make (video) calls and creative zones to boost collaboration in the office.
Social Ties and Culture
One of the main reasons to bring people back to the office is to create moments that foster creativity and innovation. How does Voys ensure those moments still happen?
That is a good question and also one we struggle with at Voys. I don’t have an answer yet.
As a follow up question; have you created new company rituals, such as events?
We do not have any new structural events. We do have a quarterly team outing, and regular dinners/parties for the whole company, but we did this before too. But, we do have a new slack channel with Life-events, where people are congratulated on their birthday, but also give family updates, etc.
Have you made any changes to your physical workplace to help with social bonding?
We are working on a plan to redesign our office. But we have not made any changes yet. We have the idea to convert our cafeteria into a kind of coffee corner so you can sit and work there more easily.
Onboarding is a critical moment for new employees to connect with the company, build relationships that will help them in their job etc. How does Voys create a great experience for new employees in your hybrid work culture?
We have been using the Appical tool for several years now. Appical is an onboarding platform that makes this process simpler for us as a company. We have fine tuned it and it contains everything a new colleague needs to know. When the pandemic came, we adjusted a few things, but this ensures that colleagues can get off to a good start even in the 'hybrid era'.
Technology at the Workplace
The workplace is becoming more digital. Does Voys see technology as playing a role in making hybrid work successful?
Technology is extremely important to make hybrid work work. As I said earlier, we already had the best tools to work online, and they were immediately applicable to working from home. We are constantly looking to see if there are new improved systems for working hybrid. We experimented with 'hybrid meetings', but that doesn't make anyone happy. So we’ve agreed to meet online unless everyone (coincidentally) would be in the office.
What technologies have you been using for employee engagement, workplace experience, etc.?
We have been using a few! The first one is Friday Pulse which allows employees to share how the week went, compliment people and/or mention any potential frustrations. Another tool is Slack, which ensures more interaction among colleagues. We also use Donut for 1-on-1 online coffee dates between colleagues and we host various Friday afternoon activities on this platform, such as online games.
To wrap up this interview, what tip(s) would you give other companies that are going hybrid?
Provide good equipment to be able to work from home. Also, a 'daily check-in' is a good idea for a team to stay 'in sync'. Do this at the end of the day, for example. And finally: just experiment. If something doesn't work, try something new. Be realistic and try to substantiate changes with data (or with existing research there is about working from home).