Working from home is ‘the new normal’, also at Philips

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As one of the world’s biggest brands, Philips has felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In a short time, the company not only had to change the way it does business, but also the way its employees work. Frank Visser, HR cluster manager of Employee & Social Sustainability at Philips, says that it took a short period for the company to adjust to working remotely on such a large scale. “Our teams had to switch to working together entirely online. That meant we all had to organize a suitable place where we could work from home, but it also meant figuring out a new work-life balance. There were important new topics to address, like exercise and energy management at home. It completely changed the way we manage people. But, at the same time, many things carried on as usual: the work itself, but also things like our volunteer work, which is something that is very important to us at Philips.” 

Philips develop@home: Remote development and support

How does an employer like Philips deal with such radical changes in a short period? Frank says, “The services we offer at Philips are all about promoting and improving people’s health and well-being. And we want to project that towards our own people, too.” Soon after the corona crisis began, the HR department at Philips quickly assembled a wide range of interventions related to health and wellness, designed to support employees when working from home. That’s how the develop@home initiative began. Schouten & Nelissen worked alongside Philips to provide this resource to employees through the company’s online learning portal. Frank says, “The existing learning portal is used by more than 5,000 employees each year. Once the develop@home materials were ready, we sent out a newsletter to inform all our employees in the Netherlands. Managers also received a separate email about it. Our goal was to reach as many people as possible.”

Remote work seminars and online workshops

Some parts of the develop@home program already existed in non-digital form, and additional resources were developed from scratch. Philips developed materials on their own as well as in collaboration with Schouten & Nelissen. “Our criteria for deciding whether to include a specific material were: could it be converted into online learning content quickly?” says Frank. “We turned to our existing partners for help. We wanted to make sure that we could act quickly, without having to compromise on quality. So, we relied on the expertise of our partners. With Schouten & Nelissen, it was simple: blended learning is in your DNA.”

“The crisis is teaching us to look differently at personal development.”

Before the corona crisis, most of the training material that Philips offered with regard to sustainable fitness for work and vitality consisted of face-to-face sessions, coaching and conventional training sessions. These resources were quickly converted to virtual learning. Some of the workshops could simply be held online. Yet, the process sometimes raised important questions. For example, if an in-person training session normally lasts one full day, how long should it last if it is held virtually? How can you effectively convey information online without wearing people out?  

In addition to digitalizing existing resources, Philips also developed new resources. For example, HR created remote work seminars. These are interactive self-study pages that cover specific topics, such as persuasion skills. Philips released podcasts on topics such a customer focus and an introduction to neuroscience. Schouten & Nelissen helped create new online courses and workshops about energy management and resilience. On top of all this, the key component of the develop@home platform was launched in April: the work@home scan.

The work@home scan

Designed by Schouten & Nelissen, the work@home scan is available to all Philips employees who work from home. “We expect for our employees to keep doing their jobs, even if they have to work from a different location than usual,” says Frank. “I want to help our employees to have the smoothest possible transition from the old way of working to the new way. The purpose of the scan is to help employees map out everything they need to think about in order for them to be able to stay healthy and effective when working from home. It includes a feedback report, followed by coaching, which helps us to promote personal development, adaptability and vitality.”

Employees who request the work@home scan through the learning portal fill out a quick scan and then discuss their results online with a coach. The scan focuses on various aspects of working from home, such as the physical work environment, work-life balance, relationships with coworkers and managers, lifestyle and areas for development. Does the employee have a quiet place to work at home? Are they still able to communicate effectively with their manager? How do they cope with work stress when working from home? Immediately after completing the scan, the employee receives a feedback report which shows them which aspects of remote working are going well for them, and which areas need improvement.

Sustainable development through coaching

After receiving their report, the employee meets online with a coach to take a closer look at the findings. They discuss how the employee can make positive changes themselves. They also talk about what the employee’s manager can do to help. And they discuss how other remote working options at Philips might help meet the employee’s needs.

“Coaching is an integral component of the scan,” says Frank. “The coach’s job is to help interpret the results. If anything in the employee’s answers catches the coach’s eye in particular, they can immediately discuss this. This helps them to make improvements by formulating specific follow-up actions.” For example, the employee might create a plan for how to improve their home office space. Or they might think of ways to improve their work-life balance, or take part in a virtual workshop on topics such as speaking your mind. “After around four weeks, there’s another feedback session. This follow-up makes sure that the scan results in lasting behavioral change and improves the employee’s well-being.”

Staying healthy and effective while working at home

The new develop@home program will remain an integral component of the online learning platform at Philips. Frank: “I truly believe that the experience we are gaining now and the new reality that we are living in—social distancing, new digital skills, changes in public transport—will all result in a greater push for remote working going forward. So, it’s important to devote more attention to staying healthy and effective while working from home. And it's also important that our employees have the opportunity to continue developing, even when they are working remotely.”

In other words, Philips is preparing for the future of work. To ensure that the organization’s HR department can continue to function effectively, it is essential for them to offer internal services that rise to these new challenges. The work@home scan and the overarching develop@home program is an important tool for making this happen. Frank says, “The develop@home program came about because of the coronavirus. The crisis is teaching us to look differently at personal development. One example of this is the mindmapping workshop. We used to offer it at different locations, but sometimes it was difficult to get a full group. Online, that’s no longer an issue. This is one of the advantages of this new way of teaching, which we never would have imagined just a few months ago.”

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