Global Productivity Lessons from Dutch Flexible Work Practices

Thanks to the rise of the digital landscape, the global marketplace has become more open to businesses of all sizes. This offers opportunities to everyone. Dutch businesses have the opportunity to reach wider audiences. Employees can gain enriching and stable careers.

However, to be competitive in this landscape, it’s essential to bolster productivity. Businesses in the Netherlands are well-equipped for this because of their flexible working practices. This is already deeply ingrained into Dutch culture, when many businesses across the world are only just starting to recognize its value.

Indeed, a recent study by remote security firm NordLayer — Working from Tulip Fields: Netherlands' Impressive GRWI 2023 Ranking — found that the Netherlands is ranked 2nd in the Global Remote Work Index (GRWI). The study highlighted the strong digital infrastructure and high social safety standards that make flexible working both practical and culturally beneficial in the Netherlands.

So, what elements should businesses really lean into? What should job seekers look for in prospective employers? Let’s explore the topic a little further.

Safer and Healthier Staff

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from Dutch flexible working practices is that they can result in safer and healthier staff. For businesses, there is not just a clear duty of care to embrace measures that are in the best wellness interests of workers. There are also productivity imperatives related to lower absenteeism and turnover. For job seekers, prioritizing businesses that keep their workforce healthy is a good sign for career longevity.

So, how can Dutch flexible working practices affect wellness? Well, providing employees with a choice of where to work can counter the negative impact of commuting. If they aren’t forced to travel to work every day, workers can experience less stress and may not be as exposed to viruses on public transport.

For businesses with night shifts, flexibility can minimize the challenges of commuting at night. Workers aren’t at risk of accidents from limited road visibility or fatigued driving. They’re also not subjected to impaired individuals who may be driving after drinking at bars and clubs.

Particularly with the Dutch tendency for optional hybrid practices, staff can make more sensible day-to-day wellness choices for themselves and others in the workplace. If they have a common cold or flu but are still able to function, they can do so from home without risking the spread to others.

That said, it’s important to note that the flexibility of remote working doesn’t absolve Dutch businesses of responsibilities. For companies to remain productive and competitive, they must ensure workers have the resources to ensure continued wellness even when working at home.

Room for Innovation

Productivity can come from a solid and consistent structure. However, this doesn’t always provide room for staff to develop. Dutch flexible working practices can lead to meaningful innovation in working practices, service levels, and product creation. This helps businesses be more competitive in the global market and creates a more dynamic environment for workers.

Some of the influencers of innovation include:

  • Diverse staff: Flexible working practices are a great way to gain access to contributors from a wider range of backgrounds. Hybrid working can be more accessible to those who live with physical or psychological accessibility challenges. Remote options also enable companies to hire from a global talent pool, resulting in a diversity of cultures. This type of staff brings richer and wider perspectives to the business, which tends to influence innovation.
  • Less-restrictive structures: When a business offers flexibility in various aspects of operations, staff may not feel so restricted. They can operate in an environment they feel more comfortable, creative, and productive. In businesses with a flatter hierarchy, staff may feel more encouraged to make suggestions or experiment with ideas. This is a key to innovation.

That said, it’s important for innovation to have guidance. Flexibility isn’t the same as simply leaving staff to their own devices. The most innovative businesses tend to be those that provide support and insist on accountability alongside flexible arrangements.

Supporting Work-Life Balance

In too many countries, there is still a business culture that equates productivity with staff working longer hours. In the Netherlands, however, many companies recognize the value of a positive work-life balance. This reduces stress, improves satisfaction, and bolsters the company culture. All of which can result in a productive and creative edge in a global marketplace. Indeed, this is a component that job seekers should research about specific businesses before applying for roles.

A commitment to work-life balance is especially important for workers with families or varying personal and social responsibilities. A sense of flexibility enables them to make adjustments as their needs change. Workers aren’t having to deal with the stressful tug-of-war that comes from trying to meet personal and work duties simultaneously or making decisions that sacrifice the balance.

Flexibility at work is also more conducive to enriching personal experiences. Workers tend to have the time and energy to pursue their favorite pastimes. This is essential to self-development and busting stress. In fact, having this space is not just important now, it also has long-lasting effects.

Knowing how to balance their time and explore possibilities gives workers insights that help them adopt fulfilling hobbies now, and during their retirement years. Participating in activities as one ages can counter the potential for isolation and improve overall wellness. Workers with work-life balance have a good sense of what interests them and what pastimes can keep them physically and mentally active. When workers have had a stressful and unbalanced professional life, incorporating such activities into retirement and finding motivation to pursue them can be more challenging.


Dutch flexible working practices aid productivity in ways that help make companies competitive in a global landscape. Perhaps the overriding message, though, is that productive flexibility still requires support. Companies should ensure that sufficient resources are in place for remote and in-office workers alike. Job seekers, likewise, should prioritize employers that have flexible practices designed to help them thrive.

About the Author:

Indiana Lee is a freelance journalist with expertise in business operations and leadership, aiming to guide professionals in their global career journeys. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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