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How Europe's Top 150 Use Flexible Working to Improve Wellbeing

21 September 2021

Above: Employees at Convert Group, ranked #4 in Small Size Category located in Greece


1+ Million Employees Surveyed. 3,000 Companies. 36 Countries.

This is how we uncovered which companies were deserving of a place on the coveted 2021 Europe’s Best Workplaces™ list.

In our rigorous assessment of employee experiences, the top 150 in Europe were chosen for their exceptional company cultures that initially earned them a top spot in the national Best Workplaces™ lists in their respective countries.

On average, this year’s Best Workplaces™ in Europe scored 8% better than national list contenders - each displaying high levels of trust, innovation, leadership and great company values.


Hybrid Setups

As we’ve learned all too well over the past 18 months, when a global pandemic hits, you close your doors — and sadly for many businesses, you do it for good.

Viisi-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankBut, if you’re Dutch financial services provider Viisi Hypotheken, you open more doors.

While many businesses were shutting locations and grappling with remote or hybrid set-ups during the pandemic, Viisi has spent the past year reimagining what its workplace could be in the ‘new normal’.

One part of this reimagining was deciding the future of remote work for Viisi employees. An internal company poll showed that most of Viisi’s employees prefer a hybrid model, with the option to work from home a few days a week alongside the ability to connect with colleagues in-office.

Viisi’s survey showed what many other European employers are finding — that even though we’re embarking on a new era of work, going back into the office isn’t necessarily a problem for most workers. Employees like having some face time. What is the problem, however, is the potential loss of freedom and flexibility.

But while many of us have become accustomed to the convenience of working from our couches or kitchen tables, few of us want to return to our commutes. Sitting in traffic or being crowded on buses, trains and trams seems practically archaic after so many months of 30-second strolls from our beds to our laptops.

Enter Viisi’s inspiration for its reimagining: “the 15-minute city.” The concept, proposed in 2016 by urban planner Carlos Moreno and popularised by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in her 2020 re-election campaign, states that a city should be designed so that everyone has access to essential urban services within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

Viisi began to research the feasibility of opening new locations across the Netherlands, so employees could walk or cycle to their nearest office. They plotted the entire team on a heat map and have now opened new offices in the cities of Hoorn and Zaandam.

Given this commitment to work-home balance, it makes sense that Viisi Hypotheken was named one of the 2021 Europe’s Best Workplaces™, taking the top spot in the Small business category.




The World of Post-Pandemic Work

The first half of 2020 had grave impacts on the European economy. According to management consultancy McKinsey, 55% of small and medium-sized businesses feared they wouldn’t survive the year — impacting some two-thirds of European workers.

Businesses were thrust into survival mode, and for many employees, wellbeing fell by the wayside.

But if you’re a Best Workplace™ in Europe, you did the opposite: supporting employees despite economic hardship, and recognising that a year of remote working has forever changed the workplace.

The European Commission estimates that nearly 40% of EU workers began to telework full-time due to the pandemic. By comparison, in 2019, only 5.4% of workers in the EU-27 worked from home more often than not. For employers like Viisi, this shift wasn’t just something they needed to react to, but an opportunity to re-envision the kind of workplace they wanted to be.

And while other companies are staunch on a return to the office, many of Europe’s Best Workplaces™ are instead meeting employees where they are — both physically and psychologically.

Here, medical tech company Stryker (#15 in the Multinationals category) told us:

Stryker-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-Rank"We are taking the opportunity toleverage what was learned throughout the pandemic to come back to better,’ and make Stryker an even better placetowork.We are embracing workplace flexibility, whichenables leaders and employees to work together to determine tailored working solutions.” 

Stryker’s dedication is evident across Europe — its operations in Finland, France, Italy, Sweden and the UK were all ranked on their respective national Best Workplaces™ lists.


Adecco-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankSimilarly, Swiss recruiter Adecco (#9 in the Multinationals category, with its operations in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK all named Best Workplaces™ at a national level) has publicly committed to supporting a hybrid future and to helping other employers do the same.

The company posted its own guiding principles for flexible working to inspire other workplaces with recommendations for how many days per week, productivity targets, and wellbeing tips.

And it’s the last factor — wellbeing — that tends to differentiate the Best Workplaces™ from the rest.


Remote, Flex, Hybrid: What it Means for Employee Wellbeing

Wellbeing has long been a focus for European employers, but everything that came with the pandemic, from physical health to social isolation, brought wellbeing even more to the forefront. And now, as so many workplaces shift to hybrid models, employers are recognising the need to step up even further.

Adobe-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-Rank“Over the last year, COVID-19 prompted us to dig deeper, and to up-level our benefits and services to meet what have been extraordinary challenges and circumstances,” wrote the team at Adobe (#19 in the Multinationals category).

“We shifted our approach to wellbeing to align closely with our post-pandemic return to work strategy that isflexibleandhybrid, with adigital-first mindset.


Other Best Workplaces™ in Europe who showed a unique range of wellness initiatives designed to work in combination with a hybrid, flexible and remote work environment include:

Nexxie-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankManagement at Nexxie Group Ltd. – a Cyprus-based IT company ranked 7th in the Small size category – is specifically tasked with monitoring employees’ wellbeing and creating opportunities for emotional connection while working remotely.


Hilti-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankAt Hilti – a tech manufacturer out of Liechtenstein (and ranked 6th on amongst the Multinationals), has a team dedicated to providing mental health support and guidance on things like setting up your home office and dealing with childcare.


SAS-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankSoftware company SAS (#8 in the Multinationals category) started sending out newsletters three times a week with resources on parenting, caregiving and mental wellbeing, while another software company, Salesforce (#4 in the same category), presented wellbeing webinars led by notable names such as Trevor Noah, Al Gore and Deepak Chopra.


Salesforce-2021-Europes-Best-Workplaces-RankWhile 76% of employees at national list organisations said they experience wellbeing at work (defined by factors such as feeling cared for and believing their workplace is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work), this number jumps to 85% among the Best Workplaces™ in Europe.


Why Wellbeing Matters

These stats aren’t just about making people feel good. They’re also key indicators of employee retention, engagement and productivity. Our data shows that those employees who consistently experience wellbeing at work are more than 4x more likely to say they wanted to work there for a long time, and nearly 3x more likely to be willing to give extra at work.

In fact, “discretionary effort” — or the willingness to go above and beyond — was the single largest differentiator between the Best Workplaces™ and those that didn’t make the regional list.

Among the Best Workplaces™, 82% of employees said colleagues are willing to give extra to get the job done. In contrast, only 67% of employees said the same at national list workplaces — a massive drop, especially considering those on the national list are already the highest ranking in their country!

We’ve got a long road ahead of us before our ‘new normal’ becomes just “normal,” but the Best Workplaces™ in Europe are using the pandemic as a catalyst for creating better, more holistic workplaces that honour employees’ wellbeing needs — whether through wellness webinars, flexible schedules or 15-minute cities.



See the Full List of Awarded Companies on the 2021 Europe’s Best Workplaces™ List!

See the Top 150 in Europe



To learn more about our Great Place to Work® employer recognition programme, please click here.



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