FROM RESISTANCE TO ACCEPTANCE
Facilitating Mediahuis’ transition to hybrid working
For fifteen years now, we’ve had the privilege of working with Mediahuis, the international media group behind a wide range of autonomous cross-media brands. As one of our long-standing clients, we’ve closely followed their journey and evolving needs over the years. Among these shifts was their transition towards a hybrid working environment. A testament to the power of adaptability in the face of unforeseen challenges.
It all started with the closure of the Mediahuis site in Groot-Bijgaarden. While assisting the majority of its staff in settling at the company’s Linkeroever facility, we helped the editorial team of Belgian newspaper De Standaard relocate to the heart of Brussels, as they preferred a workspace in the political-economic centre of Europe. In the midst of these transitions, COVID-19 struck.
How Mediahuis entered its remote working era
Not unlike many other organisations, Mediahuis was still finding its footing in terms of hybrid working when the pandemic hit. Although there was a policy for remote work, the workplace had started to prioritise meeting and collaboration areas over individual workstations, and employees worked from home occasionally, it wasn’t standard practice, especially not within the newsrooms. In fact, remote work was met with some resistance, as a lot of people felt it might not be as productive as coming into the office every day.
The pandemic proved them wrong, and not just because working from home became mandatory overnight. PROCOS closely collaborated with Mediahuis to ensure the transition into remote work ran smoothly. Covid presented us with a prime opportunity to craft a vision for hybrid working at Mediahuis, with the office primarily functioning as a hub for collaboration, rather than a place where employees come to work separately on individual tasks.
Our main challenge? Effectively communicating this newly formulated vision and getting people on board, in order to create a work environment that could be utilised to its fullest potential after Covid, enabling Mediahuis employees and teams to thrive.
A participative approach
We actively involved Mediahuis employees in our hybrid working ideas through workshops, interviews, discussions, and training sessions covering a wide range of topics: leadership, collaboration, mobility, facility management, technology… The key word: co-creation, with both managers and teams, across all departments. Throughout the entire process, we focused on keeping everyone engaged and informed, taking into account their questions, feedback, and remarks.
For example, we arranged workshops tailored to the editorial teams. They recognised the many advantages of hybrid work: a calmer office atmosphere, no time wasted on long commutes, a better work-life balance… However, working from home also posed quite the challenge for them, as they were highly accustomed to collaborating in person. Through in-depth discussions, we explored which functions genuinely required presence in the office, and what could be effectively managed through remote work
No on-size-fits all hybrid policy
It was clear that a one-size-fits-all hybrid policy wouldn’t suffice, which is what made this project so interesting: a multitude of diverse groups, each with their own set of requirements. At the same time, we strived to maintain a certain level of consistency among the various workspaces, aiming for future-oriented flexibility.
The outcome: a setup designed to function optimally for an extended period, allowing for evolution and growth. Over the course of our extensive partnership, this has been our ongoing contribution to Mediahuis: keeping their work environment as agile as possible, enabling swift responses to upcoming changes and challenges.
“A flexible mindset is vital. It’s what enables us
to make quick shifts as needed. This is a significant advantage of partnering with PROCOS.”
— Martine Vandezande, HR Director at Mediahuis
A glimpse into hybrid working at Mediahuis
The work environment at Mediahuis consists of open spaces, interspersed with cockpits: small cubicles where people can work quietly, make phone calls, or have Teams meetings. There’s a significant focus on meeting and collaboration spaces, recognising that the office is primarily meant for interaction. This means plenty of small meeting rooms, each equipped with the necessary technology, enabling small groups to engage in hybrid work. But there are plenty of ergonomically equipped workstations with standard IT equipment (Monitor(Keyboard/Mouse) for independent work, too
Durable & ergonomic furniture
We also implemented a clean desk policy. No one has a designated desk anymore, including the executives. When you arrive to work at Mediahuis, all you need is a power outlet, a table, a chair and a connection to the network. And speaking of tables and chairs: Mediahuis invested in durable, ergonomic furniture to make up for the fact that people had to let go of their assigned workstations. There are standing desks, for instance, adjustable in height to cater to allow different postures during work.
As part of Mediahuis’ hybrid policy, employees are allowed to work from home up to 60% per quarter. This way, employees can seamlessly arrange their work-from-home or office tasks based on their schedules and to-do lists. In addition, they receive compensation for the days they work from home, covering their basic expenses: electricity, water, heating, internet… As an added perk, employees have the option to purchase surplus office furniture at a huge discount, enabling them to properly furnish their home office. This way, Mediahuis ensures that each and every employee is well-equipped for hybrid work.
Immediately switch possible
The adoption of hybrid working was already ongoing before the pandemic (with the exception of newsrooms) that is the reason why we could immediately switch from one day to another to digital meetings and remote working. So for Mediahuis it has never felt like an insurmountable leap. More like a logical next step in the right direction. Although no one could have predicted the major changes Covid entailed, they managed to adapt quickly, thanks to our long-standing partnership based on agility and co-creation. Hybrid working is now an integral part of Mediahuis’ DNA. A transformation that hasn’t just strengthened the organisation’s resilience, but also solidified its foundation for future needs.
Martine Vandezande - HR Director - Mediahuis
Jos Aerts - Facility Manager - Mediahuis
Nele Vangeneugden – Workplace & Change Consultant - PROCOS Group
Timmy Verkissen – Workplace Consultant & Designer - PROCOS Group
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