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How do you create a team atmosphere among flexible employees?

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There are 1.6 million self-employed people in the Netherlands, which is a record number. This poses a big challenge: those who do not work in the office normally are left without contact with colleagues. This also worries some customers. “How do I cultivate team spirit in a group of permanent freelancers working hybrid, remote and/or digital nomad for my company?” (Male, name known for deliveries).

Make a list of what freelancers need

“This is a problem that every company has had to deal with since the corona, because hybrid work has become the standard in many organizations,” says Sanne Quint, owner of HR Expert Bureau. “It concerns both white-collar workers and flexible workforce. The question for the employer is: how do we connect people and how do we ensure that people see each other sufficiently? As an employer, it is important to think about this carefully, because studies show that social isolation is hidden in being an independent freelancer, says Sjanne Marie van den Groenendaal. He is an assistant professor at Tilburg University and TIAS School for Business and Society and conducts research on sustainable employability of the self-employed.

According to him, the first step is to talk with entrepreneurs about their needs. “Some entrepreneurs appreciate that the customer works in a team spirit because they feel socially isolated, but others have become their own boss to do their own thing. So check if the entrepreneurs are interested in it before you take steps to strengthen the team spirit.”

If social contact is needed, Van den Groenendaal advises mapping out exactly what the need looks like: are they mainly looking for mutual contact, or do they also want to learn from each other? Depending on this, you can think about the format: how often do you want to organize contact, should it be formal or informal, online or live?

It’s also good to think about who coordinates increasing team spirit and which tool best facilitates it. For example, there is a lot of software online to connect people, but maybe a WhatsApp group or meeting at a coffee shop every now and then is enough. Van den Groenendaal: “The situation and needs vary from company to company and freelancer, so it’s good to identify what is most needed and tailor the plan accordingly.”

Create solid meeting moments

Quint’s most important advice is to make sure there are fixed times to meet each other, not over the phone or through Teams, but really live. “I see it working very well in practice in many companies,” says Quint. “There are many options: for example, a fixed weekly day at the office with a joint lunch, when there is also an informal part with colleagues to talk and see each other.”

For a flexible workforce, for whom a weekly office day may not be possible, according to Quint, good times are to bring freelancers and permanent employees together, such as an annual barbecue or a drink every few months. “And don’t forget freelancers for holidays or special events,” says GT Quint. “This is a good time to show your appreciation and involve everyone in the company, which improves team spirit.”

For digital nomads who work permanently abroad, a physical meeting is very complicated. Quint: “In that case, you can agree to work remotely via Teams at a certain time during the week or log in to each other. There must be a need for this both from the employer and as a freelancer, but it can also be done remotely.

There are also other ways to structurally involve freelancers more in the company, says Quint. “It also works well to have a monthly personal check-in with you, the regulars, and the freelancers to see how everyone is doing.” The manager can then discuss whether someone is still satisfied with the assignment, look ahead to other assignments, but also ask on a personal level if there are any important issues. “Sometimes we forget because freelancers can often work very well independently, but also want to belong somewhere and be appreciated.”

According to Van den Groenendaal, in order to strengthen the team spirit, it is particularly important to talk with the entrepreneurs: “How can we organize the assignment so that it meets your needs for social connection? The entrepreneur ultimately has the responsibility, but as a customer you can make a significant change that promotes the well-being and common spirit of permanent employees and entrepreneurs.”


The client’s first step is to find out if freelancers need more cooperation and team spirit, otherwise it’s not worth the investment. Depending on this need, the employer can arrange fixed meeting times, from the weekly office workday to regular drinks and social events. Monthly short chats about how someone is doing also ensure that freelancers feel much more involved in the company, which has positive consequences for team feeling.

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