Olivier Vigneaux, president of BETC Fullsix Group, shares his preoccupations about how his peers can find the right balance in their back-to-work schedule for office workers
After a radical upheaval of our work habits, the question that now arises is the balance between office and WFH.
The massive adoption of tools has facilitated remote working, but the choice of the right pace remains an open question.
On the menu: Remote for all
0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 days of WFH? What is the right balance for the company and its employees?
Between the desire to see people again, to be social, to be informal (“oh hello, I have five minutes, let's have a coffee?” you missed it these last months, didn't you?) and the undeniable progress that remote work brings.
There are no easy answers.
By 2022, Gartner predicts that 31% of all employees worldwide will be working remotely
, and this will primarily affect our industries. This new flexibility is now part of the employer's package and is bound to become part of the equation when choosing a company. Anyone who has experienced the pleasure of freely hanging out their laundry between two conference calls knows that there is no going back
The studies are numerous and all point in the same direction. 38% of employees say they would be ready to change employers if they were to impose a full return to the office of the time. This figure rises to 57% among the under 35s.
A full week at the office for all is a thing of the past. But the right balance, for employees as well as the company, remains to be invented.
Tele-fragile or Tele-robust? Let's re-evaluate our criteria
Of course, we will have to take into account the variety of tasks to be accomplished.
A study on remote work carried out in China by Nicholas Bloom concludes that remote work is extremely virtuous for some tasks, called "tele-robust" in terms of the exploitation of the existing (and we can achieve a very significant increase in productivity), whereas others are "tele-fragile" and difficult to sustain over time, at a distance, when they have to do with the group and innovation.
It is therefore important not to treat in the same way what is tele-fragile and tele-robust to make the most of what a new organization of work can bring us.
Three elements of work evaluation seem particularly key :
- obviously, the quality of what is produced, of the service provided (and it is not a matter of attendance),
- the overall quality of life for employees,
- the capacity for invention and transformation
Opening Pandora’s box
If many tasks can be performed from anywhere, why not recruit everywhere, especially where labor is cheapest?
Previously protected from globalization, our creative, high value-added consulting businesses could now be open to devastating international competition, particularly in terms of salary.
What are the keys to making the most of this new situation?
Remote working is not conducive to innovation, to breaking new ground, to transformation, to invention. It is better suited to repetition, let's not forget it.
Face-to-face work is essential to creative activities, as it can make a difference by forging a bond between people looking for new ideas.
The right hybrid situation will succeed when employees will have the desire to come because the collective experience far exceeds the one they have at home, and justifies the trip. Just like the big screen movie still exceeds (for some), the streaming experience at home.
This seems a good indicator of the health of a company: its ability to generate desirable collective experiences.
It has historically been the strength of ad agencies: building human ecosystems that are conducive to the search for new ideas and innovation. They have always succeeded in maintaining a special working environment that allows them to break free from processes, when necessary, to invent and come up with new ideas.
It is this unique capacity that will best protect agencies from a WFH situation that is too individualized and potentially destructive in the medium term. It is up to us to make it concrete, legible and desirable for our employees.
The future is in the culture
So, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 days of WFH? This must obviously be modulated according to the nature of each person's activities. There is no need to "resist" remote work for a certain number of repetitive and more productive tasks at a distance, it is an undeniable progress.
But we also have a duty to demonstrate to employees that their personal contribution to the improvement of their job and their participation in innovative and inventive projects requires a collective contribution. And for this, corporate culture is an ingredient that has never been so precious. It will be a determining factor in maintaining this link over time.