How Athora Netherlands used a principles-based hybrid approach to make work fun, efficient and flexible for everyone
How Athora Netherlands used a principles-based hybrid approach to make work fun, efficient and flexible for everyone

Best Practice | Athora Netherlands makes a Smart PASS at Hybrid Working

By: Top Employers Institute

Athora Netherlands seized the opportunity for seismic work-life changes brought about by covid-19 to take their flexible workplace policy to the next level with an innovative hybrid strategy. Their principles-based hybrid approach makes work more efficient and fun for everyone. There are no fixed days for working at the office or home, and the hybrid model was founded on four principles rather than being directed by rules. Together with their team, employees choose the right work environment for specific activities (home, office, or elsewhere).


This article is just a snapshot of Athora’s best practice; you can find the complete best practice on our HR Best Practices database, which is exclusively available to Top Employers. Get inspiration and insight into the approach, challenges and learnings experienced by certified Top Employers. Access it now or learn more about it here


Why was the practice needed?

A decade before the global covid-19 pandemic, Athora was one of the first organisations in the financial service industry to embrace what was then called the new way of working, in which Athora implemented formalised work-from-home days. Instead of a fixed workspace in the office, everyone got a laptop and could move throughout the office when working from there. As a result, working from home for one or two days became the norm at Athora, with their on-site occupancy averaging 50-60%. 

  • Their goal was to capture the full benefits of hybrid working:    
  • True flexibility to organise more efficiently and effectively,
  • Improved work-life balance as a result of ownership of (work)planning,
  • A lower carbon footprint through less frequent and more efficient travelling, and
  • A larger talent pool (location-independent working).

Despite already having an established hybrid working model and the further impact of Covid, the organisation’s cultural mindset was still driven by the fear that increased flexibility and autonomy in the working environment would result in decreased productivity.

Athora believed that a shift to a more trust-centred culture was needed, allowing leaders to support an intelligent hybrid way of working without being held back by fear. It was equally important that the hybrid approach would continue to boost social cohesion within and across teams, as well as effective onboarding and easy adoption of the new model.

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How the practice was implemented

Athora embraced the idea that working from the office would be different from before. So, they opted for a truly hybrid way of working: alternating between working from home and working at the office depending on the individual and team’s activities and requirements at any given moment. The aim is to retain the benefits of working from home and the social cohesion of working at the office.

Their concept of hybrid working is called PASS, an abbreviation with several meanings, including Pick a Smart Site, Pick a Smart Spot, and Pick a Smart Solution. 

This new way of working also includes suitable employment conditions. Therefore, in 2021, in consultation with the Dutch Central Works Council, the working-from-home policy, the travel expenses scheme, and the home working allowance were adjusted, among other things, to accommodate all aspects of what is needed to work in a hybrid manner.

There are no fixed days for working at the office or at home. Instead, the employee and the team agree upon where to work on what or when to come to the office. 

Four principles guide Athora’s hybrid way of working:

  1. The nature of work determines the place of work: no more fixed days at the office or home; the needs of the team and the individual determine the location for specific activities.
  2. Employees are jointly responsible for the team and their contribution to the organisation: the team result is the sum of individual results, and collaboration is essential to achieve good results. Employees must consciously choose the moments when they come together, formally and informally, to enhance social cohesion.
  3. Everyone is responsible for their vitality and performance: mental and physical fitness are essential ingredients to success, and individuals are accountable for their health with the support of Athora Netherlands.
  4. The principles must fit the practice: people are at the centre of Athora Netherlands, and the principles of the way of working apply to all employees. However, this does not mean that there is no room to deviate from this. The principles are leading, and there is room to deviate from them in practice.

In March 2022, Athora began tackling the adoption challenge, prioritising onboarding the board of directors to embrace and lead the new way of hybrid working. The board was invited to a live demo of each initiative presented in the lobby of their purposefully re-designed offices. The intention was to share expectations with the management team and for them to engage with and experience the new way of working personally. Additionally, Awareness and train-the-trainer sessions were held with each management group on how to use and embed the four principles. 

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Results of implementing Athora’s Smart PASS

In June 2022, Athora conducted a Pulse Survey among all its employees that included questions about hybrid working—74% of employees filled in this survey. The survey asked employees the extent to which the hybrid work concept ‘PASS’ met their needs. The results showed a score of 8.3, showing that Athora’s people are satisfied with the team arrangements made for working PASS and the increased connection they now experience with their colleagues.

Quotes from employees on the hybrid meeting rooms:

“For me, there was no difference between the people at home and those in the meeting room!”

“Having the remote participants on a separate screen from the presentation means they have a permanent presence in the room. This really is a game changer; I really feel everyone is much more part of the conversation, no matter where you are.”

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Would you like to learn more about Athora Netherland’s Smart PASS practice? We held a webinar to launch the Top Employers Institute’s HR Best Practice Library with Athora Netherlands and Pfizer UK. You can learn more about the practice by watching the session here