Working from home is here to stay, say biggest employers

The Netherlands' largest employers think that working from home is here to stay. While the intention is that employees will get together again more often, they don't think that they'll ever go back to the pre-coronavirus crisis office situation and are investigating what their new normal will  look like, NOS reports after speaking with the 25 largest employers in the Netherlands.

A majority of the big employers told NOS that employees' productivity did not decrease after suddenly being forced into a working from home experiment by the pandemic. Working from home is largely seen as positive. They expect that the old normal is now a thing of the past when it comes to office situations. Adapting to social distancing in offices mean that in most cases, not all employees can be there at the same time.

Some employers are preparing for a limited return of employees. Chip machine maker ASML, insurance company Achmea, an Albert Heijn will start this after the summer, they told the broadcaster. ABN Amro, Rabobank and the municipality of Amsterdam don't have a set end date for working from home. The banks told NOS that they expect their offices to become more of a meeting place. 

The hospitals Amsterdam UMC and St. Antonius in the Utrecht region were the only large employers to put an end date to the current working situation - they expect that the working from home situation will last until the end of the year.

Many organizations said that they will work from home until at least September 1, or longer if the government extends this measure. Public health institute RIVM and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment both told NOS that the advice for after September 1 does not exist yet, though the RIVM called it "not inconceivable" that working from home will continue in the fall. 

If working from home becomes the norm, there are a few issues that need to be addressed, according to trade unions CNV and FNV. In addition to the social aspect of work suddenly disappearing, the new situation is also putting pressure on employees in other ways. "Travel time is now being replaced by working time. You sit behind the computer and just get on with it," FNV vice president Kitty Jong said to the broadcaster. CNV chairman Piet Fortuin added: "Previously these were mental moments of rest. Now you have to go from one video call meeting to the other and immediately end up in the deep end."

Both unions think that good agreements should be made about what working from home should look like. Attention must also be paid to the employee's workplace at home - not everyone has a home office, the employees said. And working from home also incurs some extra costs for employees, in terms of extra power and internet use, extra coffee, tea and toilet paper. Budget institute Nibud recently calculated that these extra costs amount to around 43 euros per month for someone who works eight hours a day, five days a week.