Recap: the 3 "Future of Work" trends for the start of the 2023 school year!

Future of work
July 26, 2023
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Summer is in the air, you are completing your last to-do items, half your colleagues are already at the other end of the world, you're looking forward to your vacations... And at the same time, you can't help but anticipate.

What subjects will you encounter when you return from vacation? What trends can you expect for this Fall?

The last two years have been special in many ways, and as an HR professional, you've not been spared. Job market upheaval, talent wars, the Great Resignation, and, in the middle of it all: the famous Future of Work, now "Present of Work", which you keep writing for your company, but which doesn't seem to want to settle on anything clear.

To help you get away from it all, Simon Vergeot (co-founder of uzfull and The Next Workplace) and I thought we'd share with you our discussion around the 3 main themes of the new school year.

These themes have been identified with HR managers from companies of all sizes (from SMEs with 50 employees to CAC 40 groups). We deliberately do not offer definitive answers, but rather food for thought and, above all, material to arm you with when these issues come up for discussion.

Enjoy your reading and don't hesitate to react or give us your opinion on!

NB : click here to access the full replay of the webinar that inspired this article!

Renegotiating hybrid work agreements inherited from Covid: what model to choose?

The year 2022 saw more than 10 times as many hybrid work agreements signed as 2017. Covid has come and gone, and with it the need to provide a framework for remote working.

The explosion in the number of remote work agreements since the pandemic

For a long time, this framework was more suffered than chosen. It is now (very much) time to turn our attention to the "new generation" agreements: those that will govern the organization of companies in the years to come, now that we have the benefit of hindsight on the past two years and the practice of remote working.

Depending on your company's level of maturity, you will undoubtedly be confronted with one or more of these topics:

#1: Adopt a model of flexible remote days (no fixed attendance days)

Advantages: imposing fixed days of attendance is often based on a fear of the organizational complexity of a free model, which nevertheless offers employees genuine flexibility in the organization of their working time. Imposing fixed days is often tantamount to taking away part of the advantage that hybrid working was intended to offer.

Disadvantages: may seem more acrobatic to organize, but easily doable with the right tools.

To find out more : Fixed days at the office: a false good idea?

#2: Ask for more remote days per week (typically three rather than two).

Advantages: for the employee, a greater sense of freedom. Please note: having the right to three remote days does not necessarily mean that employees will use all three. The perceived advantage here is the possibility of doing so. For the employer: the possibility of adapting floor space downwards in line with office traffic, with a higher rate of proliferation.

Disadvantages: Requires more coordination to get on site, but feasible with the right tools.

To find out more :Hybrid work: how do you keep in touch with your colleagues when you can't see them?

#3: Switch from days per week to days per month

Advantages: greater flexibility in the way you schedule your days (for a remote week in a vacation home, for example).

Disadvantages: requires more coordination to bring the team together at least once or twice a month on site, but again, feasible with the right tools.

#4: Allow remote work on Mondays and Fridays

Advantages: as with fixed remote days, this reflects greater trust in the employee. To those who would oppose the fear of an extended weekend, we must put into perspective the productivity of a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon in a physical office.

Disadvantages: requires a shift to a culture of trust.

#5: Grant a defined number of "full remote" weeks in the year

Advantages: our favorite measure in terms of its impact on the employee. Without having an impact on productivity (particularly in the case of an executive profile, who is already accustomed to being managed on the basis of objectives), it is genuinely well received by employees who want to be able to "change air" from time to time, particularly for the luckier ones who have second homes, or simply for those who wish to visit distant relatives.

Disadvantages: you have to accept not seeing someone in the office for 1 or 2 weeks a year (which is already the case with vacations). You also need to ensure that the employee has good working conditions (at least noise-free and with an excellent Internet connection).

Food for thought :

"This measure, in which we strongly believe, can very well be tested on a team scale, with feedback from the managers concerned, before being extended company-wide (or cancelled)."

#6 : Compensation for remote work with remote work indemnity

Benefits: cover employee costs (Internet connection, electricity, heating, etc.) incurred by working from home.

Disadvantages: on the one hand, calculating and paying the allowance can complicate the payroll process. On the other hand, in the case of "real" compensation (based on actual WFH carried out, which presupposes precise monitoring), there may be a tendency to maximize remote work for purely financial reasons.

Food for thought :

"The indemnity was more a device inherited from the remote work suffered. If it is introduced today, it should be seen as a genuine employee benefit. Often, when choosing, employees value increased flexibility in the organization of their remote work more than an often negligible financial indemnity."

To find out more :Remote work allowance: The complete guide to everything you need to know

#7: Provide employees with equipment (screens, ergonomic chairs, etc.)

Benefits: prevent RSI (Musculoskeletal Disorders) inherited from poor work posture or equipment. Preserve the productivity of employees, who are more efficient when properly equipped and installed.

Disadvantages: mainly the cost to the company, and logistics. This measure also raises questions of fairness, between staff eligible for remote work and those who are not.

To find out more :Remote work equipment: the essentials for your employees

Food for thought :

"The value of this measure varies according to the surface area saved with remote work / flex office, and according to the profile. It can be interesting to equip a 100% remote work profile who doesn't "cost" any surface area and for whom the equipment will be a physical reminder of the wellbeing measures taken by his employer".

The return to the office and the end of remote work: fact or fiction?

The news has made headlines in the mainstream press: remote work, it's over! Even Apple and Google are saying so... The futurists of work!

So, no more remote work?

Of course not.

Numerous large companies across the Atlantic have made the news by ending the full-remote model, or by severely restricting it. Most of them have introduced a Return to Office ("RTO") system, imposing a minimum number of days in the office.

In short, nothing more and nothing less than the hybrid model favored by the majority of businesses today. Rest assured, we won't be saying goodbye to the laptop on the living room table any time soon.

That said, many senior management teams, and with them Human Resources departments, are pushing for a return to the office.

Our advice: to ensure that this dynamic is accepted and positively received by employees, care must be taken to communicate the profound meaning of this approach. Deploying a hybrid working policy is the perfect opportunity to remind employees of the shared values and "Why" of the company that are necessary to attract young talent, and therefore not to reduce this policy to a simple number of authorized days per week.

Some companies have succeeded in adopting a marketing approach to "branding" their return to the office and making it a strength of their employer brand. Wavestone with Smartworking@Wavestone, L'Oréal with Best Of Both Worlds... Some, like Spotify, even communicate openly on the results of their hybrid policy (attrition, ease of recruitment, etc.).

To find out more: The fly and the urinal: how nudge can make "Back to the office" smarter

In this back-to-office approach, it's also useful to set up rituals so that face-to-face days don't resemble "any other day". The aim here is to guarantee the differentiating experience of the office, by defining, for example, a recurring physical team time, in an informal space, which provides a break from the daily grind of operations.

In fact, after a few weeks of working as a team, you're likely to be disappointed if a day at the office, although "all together", looks exactly like a day's work that could have been done at remote work...

Training the manager: the forgotten face of hybrid work

It's a simple fact: few stakeholders have seen their role so radically changed by the hybrid as the team manager.

Take one of the most complex tasks in any company: managing people and guaranteeing the performance of a sum of individuals. Add to this the distance, the difficulty of informal exchanges, the constant questioning of agendas... and you get an explosive cocktail, responsible for many burn-outs among managers overwhelmed by their post-Covid responsibilities.

So how do you support your managers with hybrid solutions?

On a very technical level, we need to teach habits of hybrid management.

Hosting a hybrid meeting, setting a systematic agenda for meetings, requesting advance preparation for meetings, sharing minutes and making them easily accessible, requiring webcams to be turned on... These are all micro-measures which, when accumulated, can save hours of constant searching for siloed information and keep employees engaged.

From a more macro point of view, managers also need to be in a position to easily assess the performance of their staff, even from a distance. Management by objectives has become essential to avoid untenable micromanagement situations at a distance.

The hybrid has led to the flagrant failure of practices that were already not working pre-Covid: micro-management, a culture of timetabling, "réunionite", etc.

To guarantee the success of a hybrid model, it is therefore essential to include in its predictions an incompressible cost for training managers (through coaching and workshops). To ensure neutrality of approach, the use of external structures is recommended.

Once trained, the manager himself must then be able to pass on the best practices of hybrid working to his team, so that all stakeholders are aligned with each other's expectations.

Successfully renegotiate the hybrid work agreement, reassure managers that remote work is here to stay, and provide them with support: you've got everything you need to make a success of your return from vacation, and leave with peace of mind!

So, which office will meet your employees' new expectations? Access our white paper to discover our experts' advice and feedback!