Ankie van Steen is the program manager of Innovation@work. It ensures that employees are well prepared for the new way of working and that the intended work concept and Atlas fit together well. "The intended way of working for floors 10 and 11 and De Plint consists of three main pillars: we share the space with everyone, there is more freedom of choice regarding place and time, and we are going to work more digitally."
In Atlas on floor 10 and 11 and in De Plint will be working areas instead of closed rooms. Employees of the services and units REM, IMS, Internal Affairs, Innovation Lab, Strategic Areas, Fundraising Development, ESoE, SPO, General Affairs, FEAS and CEC share the workspaces and nobody has their own desk. Floor 10 has room for interaction and cooperation, while floor 11 focuses on individual and more concentrated work.
"Working from home is also possible, but it’s not a goal itself nor a now acquired right. It is a possibility and must continue to contribute to the quality of the service," says Van Steen, who also introduced this new way of working at Woonbedrijf in Eindhoven. There are 638 work chairs for 450 employees in Atlas.
A whole program has been designed to ensure that the entire process runs smoothly. Already in September 2017, a picnic was organized for every future resident of Atlas to get to know each other.
A short half year later, employees were able to join an Experience tour to catch a first glimpse of the new work environment.
And then it became serious; digicoaches were used to support the necessary digitization. Atlas will have very few cupboards and every sheet of paper will have to be used on both sides. The educational event 'Digitally ready? Let’s move!’ took place in May and June. The last action was Operation Whirlwind, where employees were told in a fun way to throw away as many things as possible.
In addition to these activities, all teams and their managers also started to work with the theme of working time and place independent. Almost all managers have participated in a training to lead their team remotely. The 'Toolkit Let's Talk about Atlas’ has also been used many times.
This Monday afternoon there will be a pre-Atlas drink at the MetaForum market hall. This informal meeting, though with an official chat from Jo van Ham, is not held in Atlas to prevent getting in the way of the moving team and construction workers. Getting floors 10 and 11 and De Plint ready for use is planned for Monday the 7th of January. "Sharing together is learning together, but also starting together," says Van Steen.
She ensures that Innovation@work does not stop immediately after January. "In the first months we will listen very carefully to hear what goes well and what can be improved. We do not immediately make adjustments because we do not want to act in haste. We will have to get used to things first. And that is why we do not make any adjustments to the work concept and the layout during the first four months. On the floors there will be a helpdesk during the first period and people are actively involved (digicoaches, ambassadors, screen consultants, colleagues from the IAD, REM and IMS). We will evaluate and respond every day if possible. We want to be easily accessible and dedicate ourselves to the people. That was a lesson learned during the commissioning of Flux. And remember: nothing is set to stone. "
Krista van den Boogaart, secretary at the Internal Affairs Department (IAD), did not find it difficult to be an ambassador for the move to Atlas. "I have experienced little resistance and colleagues are quite relaxed. They just think; 'Why all that fuss? I’ll just pick up my laptop and continue working in Atlas in January." If there are any concerns, they are about the following: Won’t it sound like a full hen house in an open space like that? Will there be room for me? Will there be enough meeting rooms? Will I be able to find a locker? I think that Monday morning people will grab a locker quickly because they are afraid that otherwise there will only be a locker for them if they are reordered."
Van den Boogaart herself comes, with her own ergonomic knee stool, on a fixed spot where three secretariats meet. In total, about 40 people from the IAD now or later will come to join her, or will go to the more quiet floor 11 or even 0 or -1.
What many people of the IAD are looking forward to according to Van den Boogaart, is that there will be some more excitement in Atlas than in Traverse. Those colleagues will therefore look for a place on floor 10. "Here it is usually rather quiet, that will then be different."
The ambassador says that the IAD was one of the first services that started the new way of working. "We soon opened our agenda for all TU/e colleagues. Also because Martin [Boers, director of the IAD - ed.] and I support this. It is really useful when scheduling appointments. "When the IAD started using the Toolkit at the end of October (a game with questions, floor plans and conversation material), some issues arose.
Small problems that can be quickly resolved: 'What do I do when I receive a call, how do I switch to my mobile phone if I want to leave my desk to continue the conversation elsewhere, how can I easily lock my screen if I just a walk away from my place?" But also some deeper topics: 'It seems it will be hard to tell someone their behavior is bothering you.' The latter does not surprise Van den Boogaart. "It’s a culture thing. It’s not appropriate for Brabanders to express criticism directly," she says as a Vlaardingen native. "A colleague who was already familiar with flex workplaces shared the tip to talk to someone one-on-one and not straight in public.
Another cultural difference exists between the three different services that will soon work together on one floor. The ambassador asks: "What are we going to do with celebrations and small gifts when we are seated mixed with three services? Real Estate Management treats cake every month, ICT Services gives new employees a flower on their first day at work, at the Internal Affairs Department we are used to treating our colleagues with some goodies during Easter.... In order to prevent feelings of inequality, we have looked at the differences between our services in this area and we’ll try to minimize them before the move."
Simone Resing, deputy director of operations at Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, is responsible for the relocation to Atlas of this and the other department; Industrial Design. This involves more than 350 workstations for IE & IS and 150 for ID.
"Unlike the occupants of floors 10, 11 and De Plint we don't need to hot desk. That wouldn't suit the academic process because academics need to keep their research materials, books, paper, equipment and the like, at their desks. The departments have settled on a combination of fixed and flexible workspaces. Each group is free to decide its own balance. However, when it comes to square feet we will be worse off, because like everyone else we will have to comply with TU/e's space norms. In the Paviljoen and IPO the majority of academics currently have their own offices but soon there will be a lot more office-sharing.”
Admittedly, four years ago when the plans were presented for the first time, some protest was voiced. The Taskforce, in which every group has one representative, was able to resolve some of these issues. Resing gives two examples. “No separate offices were planned, just completely open-plan areas. Owing to the large amount of work in the academic process requiring concentration, a mix of offices and open-plan work areas was chosen instead. But the rooms had no locks on their doors since they would be shared. Finally, locks were approved and that was very welcome. After all, they are very necessary if you happen to be, say, marking hundreds of exam papers and you have to pop out to the bathroom."
"The number of sit/stand desks was another topic of discussion. At first, the project team suggested a small proportion, 20 percent. Through the Taskforce we asked the advice of the Student Sports Center and were told that sitting down is the new smoking. After a couple of example desks did the rounds, the proportion of desks adjustable to standing height we settled on was 50 percent.”
The guided tours she received, the last of which occurred when the building was delivered, sparked Resing's enthusiasm. “It looks fabulous, the building has an aura of luxury and despite its size, feels comfortable. The acoustics are pleasant, sound is dampened.”
Back on home turf
For Resing, there's another special twist in the tale. While completing her doctoral research at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, from 1994 to 1998, she worked in room 9.33 in the Main building. So she is back on home turf. Only once the TU/e services have vacated the building will the departments be moving to Atlas, starting from mid-January. “Another aspect of this move is that during the weeks it takes, we need to be able to print and drink coffee at both the old and the new locations. A move of this size doesn't happen overnight.”
They are not used to relocations at the Economic and Financial Affairs Department. Since June 1985 the service has been in Traverse. Marijke Wieringa has been working there herself for seven years and as an ambassador for Atlas she knows what makes it difficult for the staff to move. "People have customized their own room with personal items for many years. Plants, Senseo machines, someone even has a bedside table in the room and I would not be surprised if there are photo frames."
But this is not the biggest stumbling stone with this new way of working at places you can’t claim. FEAD has three sub-departments and, according to Wieringa, the employees feel unsure whether they will be able to sit together. "They have to work closely together in their department. Another challenge besides the lack of fixed workspace is that there is still a lot of paperwork coming in and the storage capacity in Atlas is limited. This requires more digitization.”
Atlas provides eighty centimeters of shelf space for each employee, which can be merged. Where exactly the cabinet will be, FEAD made clear in the ‘cabinet plan’ at the end of November. "There were some comments, as employees are used to have cabinets near their desk. But now at least things are recorded up to and including the move. Things might change afterwards, it’s possible."
Those plants and photo frames will not move to Atlas. And Wieringa's candy jar neither. The jar filled with sweets is on her desk for good reason. "It is a motivation for employees to pop in. And as soon as I see them, I often see how their mood is. A spontaneous conversation can then start. I don’t see that happening in a big office."
Wieringa sees other drawbacks in the absence of a room for director Ruud van de Donk, few coffee and copying machines (three for two floors) and the location of the secretariat. "I do understand that we are placed diagonally opposite of the pantry, but it seems it might get a little bemused. A pantry is the hangout for working people. I'm afraid of noise from people and equipment. "
Yet she’s looking forward to the move. "I am really looking forward to working together more with other secretariats. And the view is fantastic as well."
For those moving to Atlas, the TU/e has set up a questionnaire. The purpose of this survey is to give an idea of how employees experience their working environment at their current location. Some time after the move to the Atlas building, the Human Performance Management research group of the IE&IS department wants to approach the participants again to compare the new situation with the one before the move.
Further instructions and explanations are included in the link. If you have any questions you can contact Len Wismeyer.
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