How Greenchoice created a hybrid workplace with technology
As the first sustainable energy supplier in the Netherlands, Greenchoice has been supplying customers exclusively with green electricity and forest-compensated gas for over 20 years. This makes them proud pioneers in the field.
Are you looking for a way to reach energy efficient living? That’s Greenchoice’s mission.
Greenchoice is a Dutch energy supplier focused on sustainability. With the pandemic, they started rethinking their office space management and decided to give hybrid work a chance. While transitioning from a traditional to a hybrid workplace, they made sure to update their work policies. They also improved their office layout as well as facilitated their employees’ visit to the office with the help of a desk booking software.
Greenchoice's Facility Manager, Elizangela Pinto, is in charge of managing their office locations. She agreed to share her thoughts on their transition to a hybrid work model as well as the challenges they faced and how Ciao’s desk booking app helped them along the way.
With our newly redesigned office and the use of the Ciao app, we avoid the emergence of silos or isolated teams in our hybrid workplace
Founded more than 20 years ago, Greenchoice offers green energy solutions in the Netherlands. With over 700 employees, they currently have three office locations, which are part of the Greenchoice group: Rotterdam (main office), Nijmegen and Rosmalen.
Pre-pandemic, Greenchoice had a very traditional way of working. People came into the office everyday and sat at their assigned desk. From one day to the next, everyone had to work from home and the main office in Rotterdam, which usually accommodates 350 employees, became empty. The management teams of HR, Communications and IT joined forces to discuss alternatives to their empty office as well as preparing for people to come back to the office once the health situation would be better. They soon came up with the idea of developing a hybrid working model.
At first, Greenchoice decided to suggest a hybrid work policy where employees would work 3 days per week at the office and 2 days at home. Once covid calmed down and people were allowed to come back to the office, a couple of unexpected challenges came up.
Bringing people back to the office
One of Greenchoice’s challenges has shown itself to be very common for other companies as well: employees did not want to come back to the office. The management team decided to survey employees to understand what they really wanted. They found out that employees did not feel as enthusiastic as they thought about the idea of spending more time at the office and less working time at home. Greenchoice had the expectations that 3 days in the office would be a flexible alternative but it surprisingly turned out not to be the case for employees.
Maintaining the internal communication flow
The second challenge was maintaining good internal communication such as company updates and the fact that the company was switching to a hybrid work model. When working 100% remotely, the usual channels for internal communication were all digital. For instance, company news would be shared through intranet, company newsletters, emails, etc. These channels were found to quickly be saturated and important messages would fall through the cracks as there was an overflow of information coming in. The usual word-of-mouth became tricky as people weren’t coming into the office as much anymore. Internal communication became more difficult.
Keeping employees connected with one another
Working remotely also impacted the way employees connected with each other. Greenchoice knew it would be difficult to maintain social ties between different teams.
In the new hybrid workplace, Greenchoice allocated “zones” for specific teams to meet. This also meant that colleagues would be in touch with their direct team members and there would be less interactions with other colleagues from other teams. Greenchoice wanted to avoid the emergence of silos or isolated teams in their new hybrid work model.
How did Greenchoice solve these challenges?
Redesigning the office
When switching from a traditional to a hybrid workplace, it was also important for the office to reflect this change. Greenchoice reduced the amount of desks and created different working areas including collaborative and individual focused spaces. For instance, they added phone booths for video calls, provided meeting rooms, individual desks as well as collaborative and focused work areas. They also have what they call the “Green Heart” which is used as a socializing space for people to have lunch, coffee and company events.
The Rotterdam office building benefits from having a circular shape which keeps the office “open”. From one side to another, on each floor, employees can see who is there and where they are seated. This is an advantage in terms of maintaining the connection between colleagues as well as boosting internal communication.
Ciao’s desk booking tool also reinforced better communication. Through Ciao’s interactive floor plan feature, employees can directly see who is in the office and where this person is sitting.
Giving employees more flexibility and autonomy
Greenchoice listened to their employees’ feedback and decided to change their original mandatory 3 days in the office rule. They adapted this to include 2 mandatory office days. One of which would be dedicated to their direct team to meet in the office on a specific day (e.g. The IT team would meet every Wednesday). With now 500 employees in Rotterdam, it was necessary to organize the office in a way for teams not to come into the office all on the same day. As the Facility Manager, Elizangela set specific zones for specific teams and made a clear schedule for everyone to know when each team was coming in and which day of the week that would be.
The second “mandatory” office day was completely up to the employee to decide. Employees are given full flexibility on the day of the week they want to come in. For both of these office days, there is only one rule to follow: reserve your desk through the Ciao app.
By booking their seat with a desk booking app, HR and Facility Management teams were able to keep track of who is coming into the office each day, as well as oversee any increase in occupancy rate. The latter is very important as the number of available desks shrank with the implementation of a flex office. Having available data on occupancy allows Elizangela to predict employees’ behavior and plan for a potential office occupancy overflow (e.g. purchase more desks, rearrange the office to allow more people to come in, etc.).
Highlighting office perks
To bring colleagues back into the office, Greenchoice thought of several possibilities.
As an incentive to work from the office, people who came into the office were offered perks. Whether this is a free lunch, allocating a budget for teams to get free food or drinks once a month or organizing company events for staff members. For instance, they host regular after work drinks on Fridays.
Another perk of coming into the office is the flexibility of one’s working hours. The Ciao app allows an employee to come into the office for the full-day, half a day or only a couple of hours. Employees can book a desk for as long as they want. Greenchoice understands that each employee has its own way of working efficiently.
After implementing a fully efficient hybrid work model, it appeared that the office occupancy rate went up. At times, this rate can even reach up to 75%. All employees are slowly adjusting to the changes. Their feedback has been taken into account which boosts employees’ experience and happiness at work.
The HR and Facility Management teams have a clear overview of who is in the office and when. Ciao’s desk booking software makes it easy for them to gather necessary data and download monthly reports. It allows Greenchoice to keep an eye on employees’ presence in the office and analyze behavior as a way to avoid office overflow.
Another key learning highlighted by Greenchoice is the importance of surveying and listening to employees’ feedback but also to act on it. Flexibility and autonomy appears to be one of the key points for employee’s happiness at work. Small changes in their hybrid work policy have shown great results to the overall wellbeing of the company. Greenchoice illustrates this idea very well: switching to a hybrid work approach does not mean you have to do a 180 turn. With the help of technology and a good desk booking app, both management and employees can have their needs met.
Next steps for Greenchoice
Greenchoice wants to continue encouraging their employees to adapt their ways of working. Now that they have a hybrid workplace available to them, they can trade their “traditional habits” for new “hybrid habits”. Employees do not always know how to make use of their new flexible activity-based office. They will still have a tendency to keep working from the same desk throughout the day rather than, sometimes, using a phone booth for their meeting, for instance, and then do focused work at their desk. Greenchoice is looking forward to the new features in the Ciao app, like ad-hoc meeting room booking, to help them create a better experience in the office.
Receiving available data on occupancy rate in the Ciao tool allows me to predict employees’ behavior and plan for a potential office occupancy overflow