In the Netherlands, they don't believe in conforming to the norm. You’ll find examples of alternative culture everywhere, from the nouveau art galleries and cafes of Amsterdam, to the design of the inimitable social housing projects of Almere. However, it’s one of their latest approaches to employee well-being that has us admiring their innovation.
The Daring Dutch
The Dutch have always been leaders rather than followers when it comes to design, and this certainly rings true in the case of Heldergroen, the design studio based in Amsterdam that has raised some eyebrows recently with its novel approach to employee well-being. Heldergroen doesn't want its staff working past the hour of 6 p.m., but unlike the gentle reminders issued by many firms, this company has gone one step further — on the stroke of 6 o'clock, the desks are physically lifted up into the ceiling to prevent the workforce from working longer hours.
Apart from being an achievement in design, and a very impressive sight when the “lifting” occurs, Heldergroen is making a very relevant, if not forceful, statement on how it wishes its employees to stick to a healthy balance between work and their personal life. Many of us intend to be out of the office by 6 p.m., but when push comes to shove, the temptation to answer a couple more emails, or battle on to meet a deadline, often proves the decisive factor.
By taking the choice out of the employees' hands, Heldergroen is virtually guaranteeing that the office will be a hive of activity during work hours before the desks come up, and that its team is home at a reasonable time to spend time with family or pursue other interests.
Heldergroen's initiative is one of the boldest examples of the more conscientious approach employers are taking toward looking after their teams.
Fitbit is another company that has innovated in this manner, carving out a niche in running employee well-being programs for companies – and the clamour to make improvements in this area can only be a good thing.
From LEGO stations to ping pong tables, Google also has long been held in high regard for the efforts it makes to help its employees switch off from the more arduous tasks of the day. If employees can really learn to entertain themselves during break times, they are more focused when they return to the desk. Fostering a tight-knit team also comes into it. What better way to get to know your fellow employees better than by limbering up for a few sets of keenly contested table tennis?
How Does the Magic Work?
At Heldergroen, one question you might be asking yourself is — what happens to the desk items when the desks rise up into the ceiling each day? Well, with the right mounts for docking stations, laptop locks and monitor stands, Heldergroen ensures expensive tech stays where it's supposed to be, and doesn't fall off the desk!
This leads us to another very important part of employee well-being — an ergonomically designed desk setup. It's a positive step — companies are now thinking about what their employees do when they’re away from the desk, and even encouraging them (or in the case of Heldergroen, forcing them) not to spend long periods at their desk. However, the fact remains that a large percentage of office roles entail computer work. This means that a lot of thought should go into the equipment that employees are using for a large portion of the day.
Take foot, back and seat rests for instance. The way our bodies are aligned for long periods of the day can have a huge impact on our health, and these adjustable ergonomic accessories improve posture, and can help avoid the onset of repetitive stress injuries and sciatica.
We aren't built to sit down for extended periods without exercise. By taking a regular walk or stretch, and making sure we don't work too much overtime, there is now the option to stand while doing computer work. Sit/stand workstations give staff the option of doing their job in either position, ensuring they are not spending too much time glued to their chairs.
Heldergroen might have surprised some with the lengths it went in order to discourage “over-working”, but by creating an environment conducive to employee well-being, the company has encouraged loyalty and dedication from its team.