Anyone who enters an office building belonging to health insurer Coöperatie Menzis on a Tuesday will see people walking back and forth, typing on keyboards or consulting in one of the meeting rooms. Visit the same property on a Friday and you’ll have to try a little harder to find activity. As with many other companies, office visits at Menzis are concentrated around certain peak days, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays. “On Tuesday we see an office occupancy of 60 to 65 percent, while on Friday it is only 15 to 20 percent,” says manager of Facilities and Services Melanie Schipper. Even before the pandemic, office visits were concentrated around certain peak days, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that effect is exacerbated by the corona crisis. Occupancy on peak days determines the need for space. Many employers therefore want to focus on a more even office occupancy, concluded real estate advisor Colliers last March after talks with 50 organizations that employ a total of 25,000 full-time workers. At the moment, almost all Menzis employees work on average half of the time at the office and half of the time at home. This is taken into account in the business operations. “For example, we open fewer floors in our buildings so that not all floors have to be heated and cleaned and colleagues can find each other more easily. It’s a matter of trying it out and experiencing it,” says Schipper. Reservation tool Research by the Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM) in July showed that higher educated people, people with an office or management position and people who travel to work by public transport are more likely to work from home than before the pandemic. Figures from TNO showed at the beginning of this year that almost 80 percent of home workers wanted to work from home a lot, even after the pandemic. In practice, this means that many companies can manage with less office space. Although there is no shortage of workplaces at online store bol.com, since the autumn of 2021 they have been focusing on spreading office visits over all days of the week. Almost all 2,900 employees divide their time 50/50 between the office in Utrecht and at home. The company offers its employees tools about which activities are most suitable for which place, says spokesperson Liselore Stuut. The office is used ‘to create, collaborate and meet’. At home, employees mainly focus on ‘concentrated work, regular meetings and virtual contact’. To spread attendance, employees are allowed to be in the office on a maximum of one of the peak days (Tuesday and Thursday). A reservation tool is also used with which one can reserve a specific workplace. “In practice, a good distribution has automatically arisen among the days when it is naturally a little busier on one day than the other, but it is never really quiet in the office on any day,” says Stuut. A richly invested sandwich That is not the case with all companies. “At many companies and institutions with a dominant office function, the occupancy rate falls short of expectations,” says Marcel Brouwer, operational director at facility services provider Sodexo. This organisation, originally a corporate caterer, provides a range of facility services for dozens of companies and institutions in the Netherlands. “Certainly in the financial sector, companies are really doing their best to get people to the office more often. Not just on quiet days, but on any day at all. For example, we work with community managers: people who organize workshops, lectures, lunches and drinks, purely to make the office a more attractive place.” According to Brouwer, lunch is also regularly used as a means to stimulate office visits. For example, the focus is more often on plant-based and sustainable food and more luxurious products are offered. “What used to be a peanut butter sandwich is now a rich sandwich or salad.” Large organizations such as the national government, Rabobank and consultancy and accounting firm PwC are thinking about how they can use the existing office space in a way that fits well with the needs of employees. Although the pressure in offices appears to be increasing slightly, it is still too early to draw conclusions about which measures are contributing to this. “For many companies, this is a phase of experimentation and learning.” “We think it is important that there remains a bond between colleagues and between employer and employee,” says Melanie Schipper of Menzis. For this reason, employees are encouraged in various ways to come to the office more often. “We do this by introducing rituals, for example a joint office day for a team at the beginning of the week or month. Or look ahead or evaluate together as a team at the office. Bodies such as the board of directors, management teams and the works council set a good example by consciously scheduling meetings on quiet days such as Wednesday and Friday. We see that having an effect. There are more people in the office on those days than before we did this. If there is a pattern in the amount of physical moments, it benefits the bond.” Gentle tilt Large organizations such as the government, Rabobank and consultancy and accounting firm PwC indicate that they do not consciously aim for the spread of office occupancy, but are thinking about how they can use the existing office space in a way that fits well with the needs of employees. “For example, on the one hand there is a need for large meeting rooms to consult with a team, and on the other hand for small, enclosed spaces where employees can participate in hybrid meetings,” says Olivier van Urk, HR director at PwC. The space that is saved because fewer workplaces are needed is used as a meeting room. “That way you still have optimal use of the number of square meters.” “If there is a pattern in the amount of physical moments, it benefits the bond,” says Melanie Schipper of health insurer Menzis. Sodexo’s office will also be more flexible, with separate sitting and standing workstations, many small spaces for undisturbed calls and concentrated work, much larger collaboration and consultation areas and several smaller points of sale for food and drinks instead of one large company restaurant. . Operational director Marcel Brouwer: “In addition, I also hear many customers who are seriously considering selling real estate, because it is not expected that it will ever be completed.” At the same time, he has also noticed a cautious turnaround within Sodexo in recent weeks, with more people coming to the office outside peak days. It’s hard to say at this point where that comes from. “Possibly, and I say that very carefully, we will see that people come to the office more now that it is getting colder because of the high energy costs. After all, your boss has the heating on all day and when you work in the office, you can turn it off during the day.” Time will tell. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 11, 2022