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Companies are still not working sufficiently on a corona-proof office

11 November 2020

In an opinion article on, according to Michael Bouwens, the provision of a healthy and safe office environment should, if necessary, be made legally compulsory and enforceable.

The FD recently wrote about companies that, in spite of the government’s strong recommendation to work at home, insist on stimulating their employees to come to the office. (“Working at home? That will make my people feel miserable” FD, October 27.) Many who work at home are starting to feel the effects of physical isolation and the lack of colleagues. This is a reality too easily stepped over by our government.

Sure, working at home sounds nice enough. Yet, in reality it often turns out to be impossible due to individual circumstances as housing or family. This obstacle on the way to delivering quality work is starting to take its toll and leads to stress and discomfort.

“A healthy ‘work-life balance’ consists of working at home, combined with a safe office environment.”

The cabinet’s call to stay away from the office can’t really be enforced, but still feels mandatory. Many organisations are not focussing on preparing their return to the office. Obviously employees should be compensated for improvements in their ‘home-office’ and its online communication facilities, but it sends a message. The office is history, this is the new reality.

After a decades long discussion on balancing work and life, integrating remote working and the office seems vital and necessary. Employers who promote and embrace the popularity of working at home, might not always represent the majority of their staff.

Accepting remote working as a new standard could turn out to be an error of judgement. Especially when we ignore side-effects like reduced happiness and productivity. Why don’t we replace ‘mandatory’ remote working with a responsible, safe, corona-proof return to the office?

Offering a healthy, safe working office environment should be a basic right, if necessary realised through legislation.

Michael Bouwens is founder of bouwens&