The “New Way of Working” week in the Netherlands

November 8, 2011 by

Yesterday morning many commuters on roundabouts, traffic lights and train stations in the Netherlands were surprised to see people in pink bathrobes, urging them to travel to work outside the rush hours. “Start your workday in your bathrobe, not in a traffic jam” was their motto. Yes, it is the “New Way of Working” (NWOW) Week in the Netherlands! (November 7-13)

What is NWOW?
“Working wherever and whenever suits you best, as long as the agreed results are achieved on time.” That is the essence of The New Way of Working. In this Information Age, the work principles of the Industrial Revolution are no longer applicable. We need to change the way we organize our work.

What is happening during “The New Way of Working” Week?

Campaign Headquarters in Utrecht (NL) with workshops and free work spaces

A coalition of businesses, government and the environmental organization Natuur and Milieu have organized this event to increase awareness and test out NWOW in the Netherlands. Here are some things you can do, all over the country:

  • Join workshops, master classes and discussions about NWOW-related subjects such as benefits, Bring-Your-Own-Device, work-life balance, etc.
  • Work in one of the free flex work locations that various organizations make available across the Netherlands
  • Visit an organization that has already introduced NWOW and learn from their experiences
  • Enroll in a contest to win free consultancy to implement NWOW in your organization

Advantages of NWOW for People, Planet and Profit
People: Working in a more flexible way makes people happier because they can schedule their own time and create a better work-life balance. This is not only the case for information workers; hospital nurses, garbage collectors and others with a fixed work station can benefit from using self-scheduling to gain more control over their working arrangements and their work-life balance.

Planet: By not travelling to an office, selecting public transport or simply driving to work before or after peak hours we can save time, fuel and CO2 emissions.
If 1 million Dutch workers were to telecommute one day a week, all Dutch traffic congestion would disappear! And this one day a week means that the average driver saves 350 kgs. of CO2 emissions per year.

Profit: Employers see increased productivity, due to happier employees and lower absenteeism. The costs for company cars go down, as well as the costs for office space once NWOW has been properly implemented.

New research shows that further implementation of NWOW could save the Netherlands billions of euro’s per year, especially due to avoiding travel time. And with fewer cars, there will be fewer accidents.

Does this sound interesting? Then check if you have what it takes:

3 must-haves for implementation

  • A good Digital Workplace, that allows you to access your work from everywhere and anytime, and where you can engage with your colleagues.
  • Tasks that have a measurable output: a proposal that needs to be finished by a particular deadline, an approved design, an agreed work schedule etc.
  • Agreements in your team about the results expected and about communication and team interaction when you are working away from the office.

5 Tips to start with NWOW
Do you think your work can be done in a more flexible way, but your organization has not officially started NWOW? There are many small things you can do that have a positive impact.

  • Stay at home and check your email during the morning rush hour and travel to the office afterwards without traffic jams
  • Replace a meeting with teleconferencing. This is equally effective and better for the environment
  • Try working in a smart work center with flex places, and use the opportunity to network with peers
  • Use an off-peak train one day a week and spend your travel time reading instead of driving
  • Write a large report at home or in a work center near you. It saves travel time and is often better for your concentration and productivity.

4 reasons why NWOW is taking off in the Netherlands
As already discussed with Dirk Bijl in IBF24, and recently with Olof van der Gaag in IBF Live, the Netherlands seem to be particularly successful in introducing a more flexible working style due to a unique combination of factors:

  • Dutch traffic is highly congested
  • The power distance between managers and employees is low
  • Broadband connections are cheap and internet usage is very high
  • Dutch employees appreciate a good work-life balance

More information
If you would like to know more about the Week, please contact Olof van der Gaag on LinkedIn or Twitter (@olofvdgaag).
You can also read Dik Bijl’s book, “Journey towards NWOW” (in English).
Check out the activities in the Campaign Headquarters via the webcam on the campaign website (in Dutch).


This is a guest post by Ellen van Aken. Ellen is an IBF associate who has experience in many aspects of intranet management. She has been responsible for intranet adoption at Sara Lee.

Categorised in: Collaboration, Mobile sites & apps

Ellen Van Aken

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