Workplace: a strategic business tool according to Cynthia Hamet

Hybrid Stories
February 10, 2023
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The subject of workplaces is now a strategic one. A range of choices and degrees of flexibility are available to managers. Well-designed workspaces, accessible at the right times, help to attract and retain the talent that contributes to a company's success. 

After 10 years at Ubisoft as Director of Real Estate & Workplace, Cynthia Hamet Rouilly joined Contentsquare a few months ago to perform similar functions. She considers that spaces and associated services are part of the operational drivers of companies’ strategy.

Founded in 2012, Contentsquare develops and markets software that analyzes the behavior, emotions and expectations of visitors to commercial websites. Over the last 5 years, this scale-up (which raised its 6th round of funding this summer) has grown from 300 to 1600 employees worldwide and from 4 to 20 offices.

Against this backdrop of strong growth several tech companies have experienced recently, Cynthia shares with Deskare her vision of the future of workspaces.

The importance of the company's real estate strategy 

Since the forced march of remote working, then its perpetuation, the expectations of the collaborators about their place of work did not stop evolving.

This accelerated transformation of mentalities has pushed companies to redefine their working models. Spaces and employee services will support this evolution: spreading the culture, improving collaboration and communication between employees or reinforcing the company's brand image.

The roadmap of the Workplace could be as follows:

  • Carry out an analysis of the existing situation: number of sites, sqm, employees, workstations, their occupancy rate, size and seating capacity of meeting rooms, activities carried out by employees in the office, aggregate information on employee demographics, elements of employee engagement, etc.
  • Interview top management to determine their expectations
  • Define the objectives to be achieved and the actions to be taken on subjects as varied as the layout of spaces, the dissemination of the company's culture through events and activities or a more inclusive service offer

A few months after the implementation of these actions, an evaluation of their impact will be carried out to check whether the objectives have been achieved and, if not, to rethink the methodology and/or the purpose (test and learn method). This evaluation will be quantitative (progression of ratios defined beforehand) and qualitative (surveys). 

Remote working and returning to the office: a question of balance

Several tech companies have recently expressed their conviction about their workplace strategy (Twitter, Google…): being regularly on site facilitates collaboration and thus develops employee commitment.

The proximity allows for a better understanding of each other, and a greater adherence to the company's project and culture.

"Personally, I totally agree with this thinking. I go to the office every day. It allows me to make a clear transition between my personal and professional life. I like the atmosphere and the dynamism, the informal discussions. I feel the company culture.
But I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. Some employees live far from their workplace or work more efficiently at home.

Forcing unwilling employees to return to the office too often could have counterproductive consequences. As workspace managers, our role is to be convincing and to make coming to the office meaningful, interesting and enjoyable.”

Making employees' days as pleasant as possible is what Cynthia's teams do.

Challenging the hybrid working policy to meet employees' expectations  

Office managers are obviously working at the office. They embody the company's culture and can act as ambassadors of it. They create a link between employees and their office and a connection between people. Breakfasts, surprise events… These festive moments can have a positive impact on the offices’ attendance.

With the pandemic, companies' mindsets made a switch, from workplace & real strategies that were top down to a co-construction with their employees. And this not over, the right balance stays an open topic.

Companies have to rethink their working models. It should lead to a wider range of models, more in line with their needs and the expectations of the employees. These models could take into account the local culture, the function of the team, the level of seniority… For example, in France, the face-to-face culture is strong. This is much less the case in the US. This seems to have an influence on adherence to the companies’ project and on the commitment of employees.

Once these models are redefined, companies will have to rethink their real estate strategy, office design and services program to support them.

We can imagine new ways of working (not at the office, nor at home) such as gathering a team through “work-events days”. Remote and office-based employees would meet 1 or 2 times a month in a facility rented occasionally for that purpose. These days would be the occasion for project updates, progress tracking against goals, metrics and performance review, celebrations and achievements… 

Back to the office: the role and challenges of workplace managers 

"Despite companies' workplace strategies, it will be difficult to impose a return to the office. Talent could be lost along the way. The role of the Workplace is to accompany/suggest the movement without forcing it. Iterations are to be expected: testing, accepting mistakes, offering flexible spaces. This will enable us to find solutions that work and avoid unnecessary investment.

Hard fixtures will no longer be in vogue. The flexibility of spaces (through furniture, movable partitions, accessories) will also make it possible to change their typology within the same day (to concentrate alone or with several people, to collaborate, to create, to have fun, to relax...).

One thing is certain, there will be fewer and fewer workstations.

Several options would then be possible:

  • Converting the space gained into more useful areas: collaboration, spaces to isolate oneself such as individual cubicles, relaxation, showrooms, etc.
  • Free up some of its real estate, generate savings and if finances allow: move closer to city centers where it is easier to attract employees and invest more in on-site service.

The current trend of remote working has had an impact on real estate costs for companies. As employees work from home, there may be a reduced need for large office space. 

However, it is important to weigh the potential benefits of reduced rent costs against other factors, such as loss of face-to-face interaction and productivity. A thorough analysis is needed to make an informed decision on the optimal use of workspace for a company.

Tips for providing a flexible working environment

At the same time, investment in flexible equipment can be beneficial for companies that are adapting to remote working. This can include laptops, tablets, mobile phones, online collaboration tools, etc. This type of equipment can help employees work from anywhere, at any time, improving flexibility and productivity.

To create a flexible work environment, you can follow these tips:

  • Offer remote working options for your employees
  • Encourage flexible working hours to fit work and personal life
  • Offer paid holidays and flexible leave periods
  • Provide technology tools to facilitate real-time collaboration and remote working
  • Fostering a corporate culture that values work-life balance and team spirit

In summary, over the past three years, work and its organisation have been undergoing structural changes, which impact on real estate strategies. Companies are adapting and this often involves 3 steps:

  1. Understand the expectations of employees: we have written a white paper on this subject with 3 experts who will help you to see things more clearly 
  1. Analyse the market in general and the hybrid practices of companies similar to yours: like what you are doing right now. Other companies have given us their analyses and good practices: PayFit, Bic, Great Place To Work (and many others to discover on our blog)
  1. Propose a framework and remain flexible so that the actions make sense, because if employees do not enjoy coming back, the organisation will not work in the long term

As a bonus, don't forget that data is key!