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    Athora Netherlands receives Leesman+ certificate and is among 7% of the best offices in the world

    24 April 2024

    “At Athora, very conscious thought has gone into: what is the function of the office? Why do we still have an office?”

    In early April, Athora Netherlands received the Leesman+ certificate from Sandra Gritti, director Leesman Futures. The award accompanies the exceptionally high score achieved by the head office in Edge Amsterdam West and the Alkmaar Torenburg office in the international Leesman survey. Whereas the average score in the Benelux is lower compared to the rest of the world, Athora Netherlands actually ranks among the top 7% of the best offices in the world. How we should interpret this result, we ask Sandra Gritti and Inge Rakers, Client Services Manager at Leesman.

    Leesman+ certificate ceremony
    CEO Jan de Pooter (second from left) and Head of Facility Management Willem van Biezen (second from right) receive the certificate from Inge Rakers (left) and Sandra Gritti (right)

    Excited, yet surprised, was the reaction within Athora in early March to the results of the independent Leesman survey, a global benchmark that measures how well work environments support employees. The relocation of the Amstelveen headquarters to Edge Amsterdam West, and especially the fit-out of that new office and the refurbishment of the Alkmaar office in line with employees' wishes, paid off. Athora Netherlands stormed into the rankings with an average Leesman Index score (Lmi) of 80.1 – one of the highest scores in the Benelux. It earns the Edge West office (with an Lmi of 79.7) the Leesman+ certification, joining the top 7% offices in the world.

    Can you tell us a bit about the background of Leesman? Why was this study ever started?

    Sandra Gritti: “Leesman was founded in 2010 by Tim Oldman. At the time, he worked for Vitra (specialising in furniture and office design – ed.) and was always concerned with how workplaces were experienced. But it remained difficult to assess when a workplace is good for employees and when it is not. So he started Leesman, together with experts in organisational and environmental psychology, who know how to make perception measurable. Through a survey, employees were asked what they found important about a workplace and how well their office scored on those points. Leesman now has the largest global benchmark, with data from more than 1.3 million respondents on offices worldwide and half a million on home offices. From that data, we generate insights on trends and developments and can identify what constitutes a good or exceptional workplace experience. This helps organisations worldwide to create better workplaces for their employees.”

    What developments do you see in the last 14 years?

    Inge Rakers: “The survey itself has hardly changed since its inception. Therefore, we have a robust dataset. The biggest difference in the results occurred after the COVID period. That triggered a real shift in home working and office facilities. For example, we used to see more need for large meeting rooms, while today there is more need for multiple small rooms and more variëteity of types of work environments.”
    Sandra: “Leesman measures 21 different work activities that an employee does, from working at a desk and meeting to video calling and relaxing and taking breaks in between. The top three most important activities –individual work, planned work and focused collaboration –did not change that much. But all other activities have declined in importance, according to respondents. The only one that has increased in importance is video conferencing. In fact, for some clients, that is the second most important activity for their organisation. It is quite likely that at least one person dials in per meeting. What has declined sharply is receiving visitors and organising events. This has been much less necessary since the COVID period, and in fact we see that offices have not yet adapted to this.”

    "With you, the workplace experience in the office is as good as at home, while the average organisation does not serve employees as well in the office as at home."

    How about the change in the home situation?
    Sandra: “Employees often have it better at home than in the office. But we do see that the proportions have changed in recent years. A few years ago, only 40 per cent of employees had a home office, now 60 per cent do. Many people have invested in a place where you can work well, with a suitable chair and a good monitor. Meanwhile, nothing has changed at the office for many employees. There is still some catching up to do there. At Athora Netherlands, the workplace experience in the office is as good as it is at home, while the average organisation serves its employees less well in the office than at home.”

    Athora Netherlands scored (very) high in the Leesman benchmark. How unique are our scores?
    Inge: “They are extra good. You are in the top 7% worldwide and the top 10 in the Benelux. So that's a very good score. Especially when you know that the average Leesman index score (Lmi) in the Benelux is lower than in the rest of the world. This is mainly because we are more demanding and expect more from our working environment. But it also has to do with cultural differences. We like having somewhat larger desks in the office and more distance from colleagues. While employees in Asiaë, from their culture, are already used to living closer together and therefore don't mind working closer together as much.”

    What is most striking about the research results of Athora Netherlands?
    Inge: “We see the biggest difference with other Leesman+ buildings in what we call the impact questions: to what extent does the workplace affect togetherness, pride and organisational culture? And there Athora scores much higher than the average Leesman+. And that has such a big effect on all the facets we measure, including productivity.” 
    Sandra: “Pride takes you home too. That is not just the feeling that you have had a productive day, but it works reinforcing. We see that at Athora, very conscious thought has gone into it: what is the function of the office? Why do we still have an office? For what reason do we still meet? The organisation has understood this well and it is also clear to the employees. On top of that, it was executed well by making the right choices with the employees about the layout, furniture and facilities. This has resulted in a great experience and so people come to work with the right expectation. They don't come to find a fixed place, it's not set up for that, it's made to createëing a sense of belonging and it radiates that.”
    Inge: “The building you have chosen, with everything on ééone floor, also fits that purpose. We know from research that colleagues within organisations spread over several floors are less willing to change floors or move around. The chance of meeting each other is therefore 80% lower if you are on a different floor.”

    Where can we do even better? And what should we especially not do?

    Inge: “The somewhat lower scores in your survey related to the restaurant and parking facilities. And those are precisely the things that are out of your control.”
    Sandra: “At Athora, it's not so much a question of what you can do better, but how to ensure that what you have achieved is not lost. The pride that people experience when moving house or building a new house usually subsides over the course of five to 10 years. So how do you maintain that feeling over the long term? You have to keep refreshing and constantly reactivating certain aspects of the office to surprise people. If you ask employees about their findings, you also have to show that something is being done with them.”
    Inge: “You can also see that in your existing office in Alkmaar, where the employees have been given the feeling that they also have a new office, because those scores have risen well, even higher than in Amsterdam. Nice to see that attention has been paid to that too.”