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5 lessons from Sascha Schneider on how to prepare your company for after the corona crisis

Until recently, being out of the office was something we associated with vacation, freedom and making our own choices. Now it’s a theme that occupies organizations worldwide: will we all return to the office or will we stay out of the office forever? Actually, we can’t stop talking about it. That’s why we have recorded podcasts. The podcasts are a follow-up of the art exhibition Out of Office Forever in Amsterdam and our webcast series. In these podcasts Salem Samhoud and his colleagues Roosmaryn Spliet and Floris De Bruin talk to several leading business leaders: what do they think about the future of work?

One of the people we spoke with is Sascha Sneider, CHRO at Mont Blanc International. We talked to him about how this international high-end watch company experienced the crisis and what he learned from it. These are his key insights:

1. The corona crisis forced companies to quickly establish a useful digital infrastructure​.

During the corona crisis, HR and IT had to work closely together. HR was capable of deploying their knowledge about people and processes. IT faced a challenge in providing staff with the means to work from home. I was surprised about how well we got through the crisis. Most companies were prepared and could provide their employees with laptops, software and other needed digital means. The only drawback seemed to be coming from the internet provider, in terms of the extent to which they could provide internet to everyone. ​

2. The corona crisis has changed our perception towards working from home and how we want to use the office in the future.​

2 years ago, we showed our employees a movie that illustrated how to work remotely. Through this movie, we wanted to show our employees that working remotely was a possibility. We tried to introduce this trend in a camouflaged manner by showing them that this was a possibility thus stimulating them to ask managers to work remotely. A leapfrog during the corona crisis was really that working from home became more acceptable than it was before. It is difficult to say whether the culture has changed permanently. I can only make assumptions about this. What we do see, in regard to the office of the future, is two stances: one side thinks that policies should be made on how often people should go back to the office. Others say that we should just make the office attractive enough for people to come back. I think that the office of the future will not function as a place for work but as a place for collaboration, a social place and a place for creativity. This is different from how we looked at an office in the past. We are now looking at how we can make it a place where people can be more creative, socialize and work together. We have seen that sitting in front of a laptop and working can well be done at home. ​

3. Offer training and coaching for how to work virtually in hybrid teams​.

Besides addressing the pandemic, it was important to stay close to your teams. Ask everyone how they were doing. While training leaders to work virtually and lead hybrid teams, we saw a divide. To some, who were more tech savvy, it was quite easy. For others it was something rather new and they really needed to experience and go through it to learn the process. It is also important to provide people time to learn and adjust. As a company, you should allow time for this. Besides this, it is important to train people how to deal with hybrid teams. Make people who are at the office for example, aware of the fact that there are also people joining them online. For these people it is more difficult to follow sidetracked conversations between smaller groups of people. So it’s very important to be mindful of this and include everyone. ​

4. Create moments of connection while working remotely.​

My further advice would be to offer as many “connecting points” as possible. Create moments in which you can come together without a business purpose. Adda human touch to the teams. For instance, today we came together at the office with four team members to say goodbye to a team member. The other team members joined us via zoom. It would be so much better if we would all be able to join for lunch, instead of just the group that were physically present, but it is still important to meet with one another in this blended way for the time being. ​

5. There is a need to prepare young talent for the future and to realize that “one size does not fit all.”

Before corona, we were already talking about megatrends. The crisis has only accelerated these trends. The world is changing so quickly, it is important to keep up with the pace. 10 years ago for example, nobody thought data scientists would be of great importance. Nowadays, their presence in a company is unthinkable to miss. This goes to show that new jobs are continuously being created. The best way to prepare your company for the future, is to prepare young talent in being capable of dealing with change. It’s all about capabilities now. So now for example, that means obtaining data knowledge in your company, creating a data mindset and harnessing a broader awareness of what can be done with data and how it can be used. Creativity is also of importance but in a different way. To get to know our clients, you must be able to collect data for example. As an international company we have seen that “one size does not fit all”. You have to be mindful of the cultural context in which staff operates to find a strategy for working and learning of the future.​

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