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Also within Philips working from home
‘is the new normal’.

Many organizations have not managed to avoid it since the outbreak of coronavirus: huge numbers of employees are working from home. And things are no different at Philips in the Netherlands. From one day to the next, nearly all the office staff were sent to work from home. In its own inimitable way, Philips responded directly. In a short space of time, an innovative program was developed to support working from home: 'Philips Develop@Home’.

According to Frank Visser, HR cluster manager Employee & Social Sustainability at Philips, a short period of adaptation was required to make the change to large-scale working from home. "We all started working digitally, mainly via Teams. Employees needed to organize a good physical workplace at home and learn a different way of balancing work and home life. Attention needed to be devoted to exercise and energy management at home. People management changed, while other things continued as normal. The work itself, but also the voluntary work which Philips attaches great importance to."

Philips Develop@home: remote development and support

To optimally support employees at home, shortly after the start of the pandemic, Philips brought together a wide range of interventions relating to health and well-being at home. This resulted in the 'Develop@Home' programme. Frank Visser: "The existing learning portal is used by more than 5,000 employees every year. After developing the program, we sent all employees in the Netherlands a newsletter with information about the Develop@Home learning program. The managers were also sent a separate e-mail about it. In this way, we hoped to be able to reach as many people as possible."

‘’I firmly believe in the resilience of people to quickly go back to doing that which they have so unlearned if they trust it is allowed.’’

Digitising and developing learning programms

Part of the Develop@Home program already existed (not digital) and part has been newly developed. By Philips itself, but also in collaboration with suppliers. "Criteria for inclusion in the program were that it must be possible to convert the material to online teaching forms and that this could be done quickly," says Visser. "We also used existing partners. This meant we could act fast without compromising on quality.

Besides digitising the existing program, new products were developed. There were 'working from home seminars', interactive self-study pages about subjects like learning how to be convincing. Podcasts about customer focus or an introduction to brain training and new online learning journeys and workshops about energy management and resilience. In collaboration, the Work@Home Scan was developed. This is a key component of the Develop@Home program.

The Work@home scan

The Work@home scan is available to all Philips employees who are working from home. "As an employee, you are expected to continue doing your job despite the change of workplace," says Visser. "I want to help make the transition from the old to the new way of working as smooth as possible for employees. The aim of the scan is to help employees identify areas of attention for their home workstation. With the feedback report and the subsequent coaching, we stimulate them to make improvements. What issues is an employee encountering that we can help with?"

Employees who request the Work@Home Scan via the learning portal complete a short scan and then discuss the results with a coach - all digitally of course. The scan looks at various aspects of working from home, such as the physical workplace, the work-life balance, relationship with colleagues and manager, lifestyle and development needs. Can an employee work in peace at home? What does an employee think of the communication with the manager? How does an employee manage pressure of work at home? The feedback report that participants receive after doing the scan reveals where working from home is going well, and where there is room for improvement.

Added value of online coaching

"Coaching is an integral part of the scan," says Visser. "The role of the coach is to help explain the results. The coach indicates what stands out in the employee's answers and talks to the employee. They help them take steps by formulating concrete actions." Such an action may consist of making an improvement plan for the home workplace, setting priorities like buying a new desk, thinking up ways to improve the work-life balance or doing a workshop about daring to speak during virtual meetings. "After about four weeks, there is a feedback session. That follow-up must ensure that the scan really produces results for the employee."

On the way to a 'new normal’

Many employees are mainly working from home for the time being. Also at Philips in the Netherlands. For Frank Visser, this means that the new Develop@Home program will be a permanent feature of the learning program at Philips. "I am convinced that what we are learning now and the demands of the new society - social distancing, developing digital skills, travelling by public transport - will mean that working from home will be encouraged even more. It is therefore important to continue focusing on good and healthy ways to work from home and to enable employees to continue their personal development at home too."

Philips is therefore preparing for a different future for work. Having an internal human resource department which is in line with the new situation is essential for optimal effectiveness. The Work@Home scan and the broader Develop@Home program will contribute to this.

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