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Great flexibility, accelerated innovation

Looking back over the services provided by Vebego companies during the coronavirus period

2021 was largely dominated by the coronavirus. Over the last year, we again had to keep up with and adapt to the measures and developments in order to perform our services at airports, on trains, in (home) care and in the office environment. What did our companies do in 2021? What were the biggest challenges, have any new innovations arisen, and if so, what are they? For this annual report, we discussed these questions with Rob Westerlaken (Director of Client Solutions), Cynthia Smit-Cromberge (Director of HR at Hago Zorg), Jochem Martens (General Director of Altrio thuisverpleging) and Walter van der Wilt (Operational Director of Yask Facility Management).

Walter van der Wilt, Cynthia Smit-Cromberge, Jochem Martens, Rob Westerlaken
Back to work at last

The meeting took place at the end of March 2022. Everyone is relieved that the measures have been released, as Walter van der Wilt explains: “The need for employees to meet up with each other again is very high. We are now able to start working everywhere again. At Yask, we also do a lot of work for the public sector. We operate sports halls and municipal swimming pools, for example, and that work was completely shut down. Sport activities are now allowed again, and the public is also allowed to use the facilities.”

Scaling down and scaling up

Now that corona seems to be making its retreat, it is time to look back over the crisis that the virus caused. As Rob Westerlaken says, “The change was enormous, both for customers and for employees. Passenger numbers on trains and at airports continued to be very low throughout 2021. Customers saw their sales drop, and at Client Solutions we therefore had to scale down considerably. Now that everything is getting back on track, we have to quickly find trained employees again.”

Massive drive and commitment

The coronavirus crisis has demanded a lot from customers and Vebego employees. Fortunately, there was very high flexibility and willingness to help among the companies. Jochem Martens puts his company Altrio forward as an example: “Our customers, which include hospitals, GP practices and residential care centres, were extremely reliant on us throughout the entire coronavirus crisis. We performed many PCR tests in Belgium, at GP practices, but also in patients’ homes before they went to the hospital. We also worked for vaccination centres and provided mobile testing teams. Our employees have risen above themselves, with tremendous drive and commitment. Our nurses have had months where they worked for 20 to 25 days straight.”

Learning to deal with labour differently

A lot has changed in a short time during the coronavirus period. The question that many people are asking themselves is how fundamental these changes are. According to Rob Westerlaken, the coronavirus crisis has made it clear that we must learn to deal with work differently. “For airports and rail services, flexibility in the deployment of people will become the norm. Customers have seen how vulnerable they are if they only think in terms of growth scenarios. As Vebego, we need to come up with smart solutions that do not create a burden for our employees. For example, by more frequently developing combinations in which we are always able to offer people work, but not necessarily at the same location.”

Internal mobility

Cynthia Smit-Cromberge (Hago Zorg) adds: “We have had good experiences in this area with our Flexpool. Employees of Vebego companies whose work fell through have temporarily started working at our healthcare companies. This internal mobility across the companies is something we can develop further.”

Way of working permanently altered

Walter van der Wilt is convinced that the way we work has been permanently altered. “Working from home is here to stay. In offices, the emphasis be on meeting with colleagues, sparring and developing with each other. This of course has consequences for Yask as an FM service provider. We have recently been developing new concepts: what should the workplaces of the future look like? Why will employees keep going to the office? Corona has furthermore led to more attention for installations and for safety in buildings, and proper ventilation has also become more important.”

Acceleration in healthcare

Cynthia Smit-Cromberge also believes that the coronavirus period has brought innovation to her company. “We have provided many additional services to our healthcare customers over the recent period. As Hago Zorg, we want to develop from a cleaning company to a healthcare service company. This process has rapidly accelerated during the coronavirus period.”

Maintaining attention

Jochem Martens believes that the crisis has ushered in yet another important innovation. “The healthcare sector has become more open to constructive collaborations, at least in Belgium. A new mindset has emerged, giving more focus on innovation and further embracing the use of technology and remote monitoring, for example.” Walter van der Wilt adds that “Our services became visible during the corona period. “Cleaning, disinfection and hygiene were suddenly top priorities at companies. We obviously want to maintain that attention.”