The Next Workplace: Discussing with future of work enthusiasts

One week ago, I was in Paris for The Next Workplace, an event on the future of work which brought together leaders from global companies looking to solve issues related to the future of work. I listened to a number of great speakers from companies like Slack, Deezer and Ubisoft talk about their experiences and new trends in hybrid work. Here's a quick recap of some things I learned and resources I came across.

Among those in attendance, were several global companies, including Ubisoft, Decathlon, Blablacar, Deezer, Doctolib, and Amadeus and their representatives who came to talk about hybrid, current and future trends, as well as employee experience within their companies.

Café at the Next Workplace event

Why the Hybrid Work model is here to stay 

If there's one point on which all the speakers of this day agreed, it is on the long-term impact of the hybrid trend and the need for flexibility. But the normalization of this trend will not be so easy, as they all share two main findings: 

1) The lack of flexibility and interaction puts or may have put the health of their business at risk

2) Across our societies, too many beliefs and prejudices about work have delayed this shift towards a more flexible and hybrid world. 

But the arrival of the pandemic was a real eye-opener for the vast majority of employees, who gradually realized that their way of working was too little optimized and needed to be rethought. 

Among the most striking testimonies of this day, Perrine Labesse, Head of Engagement & People Ops at Blablacar - a french unicorn that recently reached 1000 employees and now spread in 22 countries, explains the significant risk of a lack of flexibility in an organization: 

"We were going to lose employees due to lack of flexibility - people gradually started to leave Paris and their work was no longer enough to retain them in a place they didn't want to stay."

In the post-pandemic period, Blablacar completely reviewed its work policy to provide a better experience for its employees - and thus retain people.

It is not only the rules relating to the home vs office, but also onboarding, methods of communication, tools, and the organization of offices and workspaces that have evolved to adapt to these new policies. 

"We had to set and standardize new rules, in the form of a hybrid policy: defining a framework, laying down rules, but which will evolve over time, jobs, places..."

Perrine also points to a very important notion, often overlooked in hybrid policies: Blablacar’s policy extends beyond the notions of place or time of work, since it also concerns the partners who alongside the employees in the daily life of the company: office layout, accommodation, furniture, IT equipment, etc. 

Discussing the Future of Work with experts and enthusiasts

Hybrid to improve work-life balance and employee well-being

The benefits of implementing policies similar to Blablacar's one is undeniable: the employees claim a better work-life balance, a better well-being, and especially more meaning to what they do. 

In fact, among the priorities of employees when looking for work, the need for independence and achievement are among the most important. 

And in this area, Kévin Bouchareb, Director of Future of Work at Ubisoft, is an expert. After conducting numerous studies about our relationship to work but also the prejudices of our societies on our relationship to work, he testified: 

"Many countries, including France, are among the most resistant to remote and hybrid work: for too long, a majority of companies have developed a culture of presenteeism and a strong managerial resistance - according too little trust in their employees" 

While Kevin acknowledges that the post-COVID period has had a real impact and has allowed some countries to catch up, the trend is actually deeper as it is related to real work questions, almost existentials, that we ask ourselves:

  • Starting from our relationship to independence - which is a fundamental need and actually almost necessarily opposed to the principle of working for a company: we need independence to be happy at work
  • "You only live once": even if work is today more than ever a way to accomplish oneself personally, people are not ready to give up everything to prioritize their career. And work must not be perceived as a barrier to fulfillment or a form of sacrifice.
  • Finally, work-life balance is a prerequisite for success at work. Without this fundamental balance, no one can be in good working conditions, they can be neither happy nor productive and can potentially put their life and that of the company in danger.

"Refusing this paradigm is putting at risk the ability to keep your talents, to recruit - and thus putting the company at risk in its entirety." - Kevin says

The importance of inclusion and socialization in hybrid environments:

With the arrival of new hybrid policies - mainly focused on location and hours of work, many companies have been in position to improve their employee experience and their attractiveness to new talent. However, it should not be forgotten that other factors are crucial to the success of these policies, among them: social notions and inclusion.

In a roundtable about corporate culture and cohesion, Pamela Corbin-Audou, Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion at Decathlon, spoke about the concepts of inclusion and cohesion, which are the cement of a strong culture - and even more in a hybrid work model:

"Beyond a principle, a value, inclusion is a way of designing all the HR programs of a company. It’s not just a tool or rules, it’s a set."

When implementing their hybrid policy, Decathlon made inclusion a top-priority, making it one of the keys to well-being at work and even more by taking in consideration the mental health of their employees to improve work policies and their employee experience.

At the same time, the company also emphasized the social dimension of work - which still today remains as the main motivation of employees who go to the office: with the arrival of remote-first and hybrid work, the social dimension of work has been very negatively impacted.

“With remote, we no longer know who the people are, we no longer know who we are talking to: we talk to photos and we lose the moments of encounter and exchanges, especially in-person” - Pamela Corbin-Audou

Therefore, Decathlon focused on the connectivity of its employees, developing a very social-oriented hybrid culture, which was also a demand of the employees, who felt a lack of communication following the several lockdowns.

But if Decathlon - like most of the companies represented at The Next Workplace Event, has managed to create a strong culture and policy around flexibility and inclusion that have improved the experience of their employees, it's also thanks to the help of their teams: 

"You have to listen to your teams: find ways to get the opinion of all your employees, to know what they want, what they expect, what needs to be changed or added. Accountability, involving employees in politics, is the best way to ensure its success". 

After a rich day that gathered more than 500 people at different roundtables, the event concluded with a keynote by Gabriel Frasconi, Head of France at Slack, around the innovations of tomorrow.

In summary, a day rich in lessons with 3 roundtables around the Future of Work, and a common observation shared by all: our relationship to work has deeply changed over the last 2 years, and the Hybrid trend will continue over time.

A huge thank you to the speakers, the organizers and to all the people who came to discuss the Future of Work at The Next Workplace. 

The Next Workplace event
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Timothée Bourcier

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