Working where and when you want to. Being able to take responsibility yourself as an employee. Deciding for yourself how you do your work and how you are assessed on the results. A new way of working, with trust and communication as some of its essential features. This all sounds great, but how do you put this into practice within a business?
What exactly is "The New Way of Working"?
Lots of people are still unclear about exactly what The New Way of Working (“NNW”) involves. NNW is the collective name for a number of recent developments in workplaces, management methods, organisational structures and attitudes within the service sectors. Employees are no longer tied down to a single workplace, but have the scope to work where (and when) they want to. One corollary of this is that culture and mentality within businesses are changing significantly. After all, the employee is gaining greater personal responsibility and is being judged not according to his attendance but according to his results. Managers will have to adopt a different management style as a result, focusing on trust and results instead of control.
And what impact does this have on working conditions [‘Arbo’]?
The advent of NWW will logically lead to legal changes. The employer was previously entirely responsible for the working conditions of its employees, even if they did their work outside the normal workplace. There was admittedly a restricted working-conditions regime in force for home-working, which encapsulated the principle that it was no longer necessary to comply with the rules in the Working Conditions Decree [Arbobesluit] regarding the layout of workplaces, hazardous materials, weather conditions and excessive noise. The amendment of the law on 1 July 2012 means that work outside the normal workplace is now regarded as equivalent to home-working, so that the employer no longer bears full responsibility for these situations.
This does not detract from the fact that the employer still retains a certain duty of care in relation to the layout of the workplace at home, a safe workplace and the identification and assessment of risks. The employer also remains responsible for compliance with the Working Hours Act [Arbeidstijdenwet].
What now in practice?
The employer's duty of care is worded in quite general terms in the law. If it takes the following steps, the employer will demonstrate that it has fulfilled its duty of care:
- the employer should offer facilities for setting up the home workplace, in order to prevent the employee from working for too long or in an incorrect posture. The employer should set up the home workplace itself and have it checked by an expert or get the employee to check it himself. In the latter case, the responsible manager must communicate with the employee about this;
- the employer should prepare a Risk Identification & Assessment, focusing specifically on NWW;
- the employer should reach a clear understanding with the employee on work and rest times, which the employee must confirm in writing.
The employer can also make arrangements regarding a financial payment (potentially tax-free) for setting up the workplace.
Introducing NWW in your business
Now that the responsibility for NWW has been shifted on to the employee, it is important that the employer should make it possible for its employees to fulfil that responsibility. Adequate information is important here.
- The employer should organise workshops about the new way of working, management/supervision, communication, working conditions and tax aspects;
- The employer should ensure that the employees have a positive attitude towards NWW; and
- The works council [ondernemingsraad] should be involved in applying the working conditions policy.
- As pointed out above, the employer should prepare a Risk Identification & Assessment, focusing specifically on NWW;
- The employer should offer information about dealing with responsibility and result-oriented work; and
- The employer should take account of the abilities and personalities of the employees, now that they are regarded as working independently with a focus on results.
- The employer should organise contact events, now that employees/managers will be seeing less of each other;
- The employer should ensure that managers and employees include working conditions as a set topic of discussion during performance reviews;
- The employer should undertake satisfaction surveys; and
- The employer should ensure that employees can talk to each other about excessive pressure of work and poor working conditions.
NWW sounds great but – over and above the statutory duties – it introduces a significant shift in the culture and the organisational structure of a business. If an employer is thinking about implementing NWW, it should be properly prepared, take the necessary preventive measures and ensure that there are facilities for feedback.