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Chris Stokman, industry manager for healthcare and corporate services at Global Talk, explains how Regus facilitates the important conversations that keep the business running as they make their way back into the office
When the pandemic hit the Netherlands in March 2020, Global Talk followed government advice and asked its staff to work from home. It was a big deal for the company, which provides interpreters for a range of sectors, from governmental to commercial – not least because it involved a major restructure of its call centre operations and client-facing departments working in several offices around the country.
Chris Stokman, industry manager for healthcare and corporate services, works in a team of 15 sales and marketing employees at a Regus office in the city of Utrecht. After saying “goodbye for now” to the two rooms that they were renting, he reluctantly began working from the small Amsterdam apartment he shares with his girlfriend. It wasn’t long, however, before the strain of home working began to show. He found it hard to focus, was easily distracted and felt less productive as a result.
Fortunately, a Regus office in central Amsterdam, only a short five-minute bike ride away from his home, remained open throughout the first lockdown. His membership also allowed him to use the business lounge there. But with most of his team working from home, he missed the physical interaction with colleagues and found video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom lacking in comparison with the real deal.
“Having an online call is just not as relaxing as a normal conversation because only one person can talk at a time, otherwise it becomes confusing,” he explains. “Also, during a normal physical conversation you can see the non-verbal cues that tell you if a person wants to say something or speak next.”
Stokman claims social distancing has been particularly challenging for his department, where face-to-face meetings are seen as vital for building rapport with clients. Indeed, one of the main reasons Global Talk decided to use a flexible space for its sales team was because of Regus’s meeting room facilities and the fact that the company wanted staff to be out and about, spending time liaising with clients out of the office.
Returning to the office in Utrecht for a brief time before ‘work from home’ orders were once again instated, the team made efforts to adjust to the ‘new normal’. The Netherlands’ social distancing rule of 1.5m was enforced by limiting rooms to a maximum of four people at a time. As a result, Global Talk staff used the office on rotation and were allowed to come in just once a week. The rest of the time they are encouraged to meet clients elsewhere or work from home.
While his colleagues were happy to see each other again, Stokman admits that returning to the office was a strange experience, with precautions such as not shaking hands or sharing equipment taking some getting used to. The Regus staff, however, helped considerably to make him and his team feel comfortable and safe.
There were hand sanitisers everywhere, facilities to clean equipment and surfaces after use and directional arrows on the floor to ensure social distancing. The reception also had plastic protective screens, which helped Stokman feel confident that the risk of infection was being taken seriously. There was a limit of one person at a time in the elevator and passengers were being asked to send it back to the ground floor to reduce waiting time. Regus had clearly thought about making the process as smooth and convenient as possible, he says.
Despite the changes to work that the pandemic has brought, Stokman feels positive about the future. “We are starting to move towards our normal amount of calls that we had before the crisis. I am really optimistic, but things have changed,” he says. “I think people will eventually go back to working in physical offices, but they will also continue to work from home sometimes, too. The way we work is going to be a lot more blended.”
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