Has The Need for Privacy Changed Our Offices?

An interview with Wim Meurisse from Solidaris.

The demand for office space is evolving rapidly, as it is at Solidaris, where counters are making way for offices for appointments. That is what Wim Meurisse told us in any case during our interview. Since 2018 Wim has been the Facility Director of Solidaris, a role that can be interpreted very broadly. Whether it’s the property portfolio, the post room or the vehicle fleet, facility management holds few secrets for him. Today he shared his personal view of the office world, and the role sustainability plays in it.

 

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the key to creating an environment that fosters deep focus while nurturing meaningful connections. By leveraging the incredible potential of acoustics and sound reduction, your organization can transform the office into a productivity hub, a breeding ground for innovation, and a place where everyone feels a true sense of belonging.

How did you hear about JUUNNOO?

I heard about JUUNOO from one of our regular contractors. When we contacted him about the refurbishment of our offices, he told us about JUUNOO’s reusable partitions. He had been in touch with you via CEOs4Climate and immediately saw a match with Solidaris. The requirements for our offices have become much more demanding in recent years, certainly when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability. At our first meeting, I was immediately convinced about the product and the philosophy behind it.

 

In what areas does that sustainability play a role?

When we first drew up our sustainability charter, sustainability was more or less the same as energy efficiency. We invested in solar panels, heat pumps, insulation and electric cars. And it was still a great step forwards. When we found out about JUUNOO though, we realised that sustainability is a term that means much more. Limiting waste flows and saving on materials, those things also play a role. When you hear that construction is responsible for 30% of all waste, it really hits home. To be honest, we didn’t know enough then how important circularity is.

 

At Solidaris, they installed soundproof phone booths to make (video) calls in complete silence. 

 

Has that changed the way you see sustainability?

Definitely. After that first meeting with JUUNOO, we decided that we also wanted to take circularity and reusability into account in our decision-making. The fact that you can place the modular partitions in a temporary office and remove them again later, that’s fantastic, isn’t? It’s better for the environment, because you don’t have to fill any skips with building waste any more, and it’s better for your wallet, because you can easily dismantle the walls and use them again.

Curious to see how you could design a sustainable office yourself? Read our 5 tips to design a sustainable office.

When you hear that construction is responsible for 30% of all waste, it really hits home.

Our staff are also positive about it, by the way. It’s important for them that they have a comfortable, efficient and nice workplace, but if it is sustainably set up, then everyone is happy. Nobody can complain about that, can they?

 

What changes have you seen over the years?

At Solidaris, we’re in a period of real transition. The old counters where you went with your sick note and you were paid straightaway, they are now making way for offices for appointments. Complex cases just demand more privacy. People want to be able to ask questions or discuss their problems with our staff without interruption, and without other people being able to overhear them.

That is also the reason that we have partially switched from walk-in times to appointments. We want to avoid people having to spend too much time in the waiting room. You can still just walk in in the morning at Solidaris, but in the afternoon, you have to have an appointment. That is why we are transforming the old offices with counters to offices for appointments at an accelerated pace now.

 

Counter offices at Solidaris are increasingly giving way to appointment offices, where members can freely discuss their questions.

 
 

Do you also feel the need for privacy for your internal staff?

Yes, the demand for individual offices has increased considerably in recent years. Everyone sits together by department, so the bigger your department, the bigger the space you work in. The biggest offices have about 20 members of staff, which is a lot, particularly if people prefer to communicate by telephone or Microsoft Teams. Staff either disturb their colleagues or are disturbed by them. We sense that people are getting a bit fed up with that.

 

Employees want a comfortable, efficient, and fun workplace. If it is also sustainably designed, everyone will be happy.

Unfortunately, we have to make do with the limited space we have. Allowing everyone to have their own office isn’t going to work. The phone booth we recently installed here was met with enthusiasm. Staff who have to conduct a long telephone or video conversation can now isolate themselves from the team.

 

What is your biggest challenge as a facility manager?

I think it is important to develop a network of offices that are comfortable and accessible, but which, at the same time, are sustainable. Our offices must not just be comfortable and efficient, but also relaxing and with enough privacy for our members. As well as comfort, accessibility is also becoming more important these days. Can I get to the office by public transport? Are there enough parking spaces? Combining that with the high sustainability requirements with which we are confronted is an enormous challenge. 

 

Do you have tips for other facility managers?

As facility managers, we are all confronted by the same challenges and problems. Particularly in our industry, everyone is busy renovating and rebuilding offices. Speed plays an important role here. If you then have a reusable partition, it’s a fantastic trump card. Have the courage to invest in circular solutions, not just to meet the requirements, but also because it is just more advantageous in the long term.

 

But how do you find the perfect circular solution for your company? Don’t jump on every trend, Guido Nachtergaele from Cronos Group tells us! Find the right solution for your organization.

Solidaris has been the new name since July 2022 for the Socialistische Mutualiteiten, Bond Moyson and De Voorzorg. The health insurance fund is more than 100 years old and is committed to the health and welfare of its members. Solidaris helps repay medical costs and pays invalidity benefits.

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