At a time when the business world is questioning the importance of an office and the organization of work, SINGULART has just moved into new offices in the heart of Paris and wanted to share its experience and that of other companies. There is no doubt that Covid has turned work as we know it upside down; between increased productivity in telecommuting, feelings of isolation, or managerial reorganization, these topics are far from negligible. We wanted to open the debate on these transformations. That’s why we organized a round table on October 5th with speakers from different sectors and business structures.
Moderated by Véra Kempf, the co-founder of SINGULART, the round table included the following speakers Julie Carrière – HR manager at SINGULART, Danièle Linhart – sociologist and researcher at CNRS,
Josselin Martin – co-founder and general director at Genius, Caroline Ramade- founder and CEO of 50inTech and Martha Santos – people experience partner at Swile.
We identified 3 topics that are now crucial for employees.
A Hybrid Work Structure
Before COVID, only 8% of managers had to manage teleworkers, now it is 40%. Today, they face a new challenge in managing their remote teams, and it takes time to acclimatize to telecommuting for both employees and managers, as well as help in managing psychosocial risks. During lockdown, people had difficulty taking breaks. “I forced my team to disconnect,” says Julie Carrière of SINGULART. Josselin Martin of Genius explains: “Training is needed to ensure competence in this area. But the existing training courses for remote management are almost non-existent, and hardly address the tools to be implemented”.
While flexibility has always helped women and mothers to organize themselves better, in the last two years they were unfortunately less likely to set clear boundaries at home and were more often interrupted by their families. Caroline Ramade of 50inTech notes that this can lead to decreased efficiency and productivity. In fact, one study shows that 47% of men versus 29% of women have a separate space for work at home.
Telecommuting can also be unfair; depending on the job profile, some people cannot work from home. This reinforces the inequality between managers and non-managers, which is why some companies have asked their teams to come back to the office every day. Nevertheless, the hybrid mode of work remains the preferred one by the majority of companies, but the fear is that in the future promotions might not be given as frequently to people who most commonly work from home, as Véra Kempf points out.
The Globalization of Corporate Culture
Julie Carrière gave us her analysis of her experience during the confinement in a scale-up, insisting on the danger of the lack of informal exchange in telecommuting. Indeed, employees didn’t dare to ask as many questions as when we naturally meet in the office. This can lead to a lack of global vision within the company and therefore employees no longer feel part of a group working in the same direction. Josselin Martin explained that he has set up a system in which members of his company are remote but all come together for monthly meetingsand team-building events where work is not discussed.
Martha Santos added that Swile has begun implementing end-of-day rituals to make it easier for everyone to disconnect during lockdown. This ritual is meant to replace the commute home, thus allowing the mind to disconnect, and clearly separate work and non-work time.
In addition to creating a link with the company during the confinement, the common values and the company spirit remain important at all times, even if they are changing today. As sociologist Danièle Linhart notes, although these were French companies, the language used, even in this French-speaking discussion, was heavily anglicized, even though French equivalents for these words exist. “It’s a sign of how globally connected and influenced companies are these days. With an international workforce, office culture and practices that were considered normal by the French a few years ago are now being rethought with a more international mindset, which is having a huge influence on building a new office culture.”
Giving Meaning to One’s Career
The most significant change for all participants was the notion of meaning. Many know of friends or former colleagues who have completely changed paths or careers in search of something that feels more meaningful. As Danièle Linhart said, more than 40 percent of respondents to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, a global survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, said they are considering leaving their employer this year.
Swile picked up on this trend by conducting a survey, which found that finding meaning in one’s work is one of the top factors an employee looks for in a career and staying with a company. The other factors are:
1) a trustworthy environment
2) the purpose of the work
Danièle Linhart concluded by saying that in the face of increasingly abstract, virtual work, meaning is being lost. In addition to thinking about the organization of work, we must think about the nature of work.
The office is not dead, it is just necessary to think differently according to its new and different uses, and to create a dedicated common space to maintain the link between employees. The company is responsible for creating social ties.Putting meaning back at the heart of the mission and creating a sense of belonging are the next challenges for modern companies. At SINGULART, we have thought of the office as a living space so that it feels like home, with areas set aside for discussion and rest, while having a breathtaking view of Paris. We also always keep in mind the challenges we face as an international company, which must create common corporate values and take into account all the cultural differences and the 26 languages spoken.
We warmly thank all our speakers for their participation and their exchange of ideas during this round table.