Flexible offices spread across the Netherlands

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Flexible offices. They can be found all over the Netherlands. The increasing number of freelance workers means an increase in demand for flexible workplaces. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reporter Belinda van Steijn went in search of the ideal flexible office. Her main requirements: walking distance from a train station, an electric socket, wifi, friendly and quiet with good coffee...

The flexible workforce:

The economic crisis means that more and more Dutch workers find themselves out of a job.
Some of them will become self-employed.

Statistics Netherlands reports that more than there were more than 700,000 freelancers in 2011.

Not all of them want to work at home. Business people who want to meet often pick a central location. They no longer have to meet in hotels or restaurants; they can book special meeting places or a meeting room.

Everyday, I commute from the town of Nieuw-Vennep to Hilversum. On the corner of my street, there’s the first flexible office. At Basickantoor, you can rent an empty desk and a chair in a shared office with a fridge and a toilet. The owner hopes to make money from his empty building. You can even rent your own office. It’s not really what I am looking for today, but who knows. It might come in handy in the future.

Hotels and pavement cafés
On the way to the train station, I pass the only hotel in my town, the Best Western. Its pavement café looks inviting in the sunshine. I decide to try it out. I can plug my computer in if I go inside, but not outside. Luckily the battery on my laptop is still charged. I write the first lines of this article with a good cup of coffee in the sun. At another table, three architects discuss blueprints. “We often do this. We are trying to combine work with something pleasant,” says one.

The train takes me to Schiphol Airport. Here there are endless options for flexible workers. I can sit in one of the many restaurants, hotel lobbies or in a communication corner, where you can pay to use one of the computers. It’s mostly being used by men in grey suits right now.

Luxury business centre
I decide to walk to the WTC business centre. In the largely glass office building, there are all kinds of luxury rooms which people can temporarily or permanently rent office space. Almost all the offices have an expensive wooden desk, a computer, a plant and a supply of coffee. They are well used, in particular by international visitors.

As I haven’t registered, I take a quiet internet spot in the hallway. It’s nice and cool and I can get on with the article. But it isn’t long before I have had enough. It’s not that cosy, after all, I’m not in one of the luxury offices.

Public library
Near Amsterdam Central Station, the main public library is said to be a flex workers’ paradise. It’s a ten minute walk. Although it’s a good place to work without being disturbed, calling it a paradise is slightly exaggerated. Students and flex workers sit side-by-side at long tables on a mezzanine overlooking the central space; there are computers available and you can plug in your own laptop.

The library is not full, but dozens of people have come here to work or study. Some listen to music on their headphones, others talk softly or use their mobiles. The advantage is there are plenty of reference books and magazines at hand. And there is a café upstairs for anyone who gets hungry or thirsty.

The library is no place for a business meeting, but you can plug your computer in and get to work, although you do need to ask the password to use the internet. As I am not a member, I have to use my smartphone to go online.

Meeting place
The best flexible office I come across is Seats2meet at Naarden Bussum train station. This chain of offices has locations up and down the Netherlands and is planning to open international offices in Uganda and Japan. It is easily accessible. You can just walk in and book a workspace with internet for free. In exchange, you are asked to share your knowledge with others who are working at Seats2meet.

Sometimes, the offices are used by international business people. “Last week, there was a whole group of Japanese here for a presentation,” says a member of staff. When you reserve a spot on the website, you can see who else is working there. By sharing knowledge a social community emerges. You may make new business contacts or even make friends.

Working in a glass box
There are several organisations which provide similar flexible workspaces. You can join Station2station. The Office Operators has luxury offices and meeting rooms. Its office building in Hoofddorp, one stop beyond Schiphol Arport, even offers a glass box - the box office - to work in. It is quiet enough, but you might feel a bit exposed.
I finish off my article at Seats2meet and travel to the Radio Netherlands Worldwide building in Hilversum to publish it, seated in the central newsroom at one of the... flexible workplaces. Because even in your permanent office, a desk of one's own is quickly becoming a thing of the past.


Disclaimer - The opinions expressed in the above article are the author's; Radio Netherlands Worldwide has no links with any of the companies mentioned.