Why getting together in person is so important to preserve the soul of your company, according to the leaders of AFAS, Unilever and Heineken

The big question at home and in the office is: how do we deal with hybrid working? In the talk show De Staat van Leiderschap van de Baak and VNO-NCW, Dutch CEOs discuss their experiences and look ahead to the future.

Since the pandemic broke out last year, employees have been working en masse at home behind their screens. “And that seemed to go quite well in the beginning,” says VNO-NCW chairman Ingrid Thijssen at the start of the talk show. She then also warns against a pitfall: if we continue like this, you run the risk of the soul disappearing from your company.

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Yet hybrid work seems to be here to stay. Research by I&O research shows that people who work from home in the Netherlands want to work from home half of the time. For four in ten working Dutch people (39 percent) it is quite possible to work from home. This is not possible for 42 percent of the employed.

Talk show De Baak’s State of Leadership

Jeroen van Glabbeek, CEO of the international software company CM.com, has mixed feelings about this. As many as half of the current employees joined CM.com during the corona period. According to Van Glabbeek, onboarding should be more than handing over a username and a laptop. “Especially among the thirty-somethings who work with us, they want to learn, be together and be inspired.”

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Hans Böhm of Heineken Netherlands moved into a brand new office in January 2020. Less than three months later, he was able to close the door behind him. Böhm disputes the idea that you can only find each other in the office. “I did all my assessment and progress interviews while walking in the woods.”

But how do you manage people you need to monitor and judge when they are massively remote? Böhm acknowledges that this took some getting used to in the beginning. He was recording vlogs after a run. “Communication became even more important”.

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Talk show De Baak’s State of Leadership

After first tightening the reins, he decided to give the autonomy back to his employees. They know how to do it. They are the specialists. It is the task of management to provide clear frameworks. That giving of trust has worked out well. “Despite the fact that half of our business – the catering industry – was out of order, our engagement is higher than ever.”


Offering confidence when it comes to working from home in combination with working at the office is also something that Joanny Lijbers, Head of HR & Digital Transformation of Unilever Benelux endorses.

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According to Lijbers, the implementation of a successful home working policy not only requires making good agreements, but also a different type of office.According to Loeff-Hageman, the golden tip is “that you should especially listen to each other.” Breure also looks for connections and communication: “To make the distance smaller, you have to tell more stories to each other.”

Social themes

Janka Stoker, Professor of Leadership at the University of Groningen and director of the expertise center In The Lead, argues that agreements about hybrid working should not only be made between employer and employee, but that policy should also be developed for this. According to her, the subject contains too many social themes such as mobility and reducing CO2 emissions.

Although the future of hybrid working has yet to crystallize, one thing is clear: these times require strong leadership.

Would you like advice on leadership or hybrid working? De Baak will help you.

In a personal consultation we formulate your learning question as clearly as possible, so that you know which leadership training from De Baak suits you best. We can also tell you more about in-company processes or finding a suitable coach. Read more here!

Watch The Talk Show The State of Leadership here..

Author: Jobly