Diving into the heart of BIC's new headquarters

Hybrid Stories
January 17, 2023
Published by

Everyone knows BIC, the company that has been with us since our first words on line paper. The most rebellious of us quickly switched from pens to lighters when we were teenagers, and then, as we grew up, to razors. This company is "part of the landscape", as they say, and represents one of the symbols of French industry.

So how does a company that is over 75 years old make itself attractive, create and maintain a special culture?

That's the question I asked myself as I walked past their huge logo (the famous BIC boy), proudly displayed on a modern building along the northern Paris ring road. By contacting Guillaume Coquet, the firm's Global Real Estate Manager, directly, I was able to make my way into their brand new offices to better understand the origin of this project.

The famous BIC Boy, clearly visible from the Paris ring road

The origins: a dive into the history of Bic

To fully understand the meaning of this new headquarters, we need to go back to the DNA of Bic. Founded in 1945, Bic has retained, in the words of its employees, the agility of a company on a human scale, while today being a multinational established in more than 10 countries around the world.

As for many companies, the large-scale implementation of remote work during and after the Covid crisis opened up the possibility of rethinking the company's way of working.

Historically, Bic's headquarters were located in Clichy, in the heart of a space that belonged to the company, but which no longer really corresponded to the expectations of employees and new ways of working.

With the desire to instill a new spirit within the company and to "re-board the employees", in the words of the HR Manager of the head office, Emmanuelle Moutrille, the idea was born to move the head office to a new, more modern building and to sell the old head office in order to move to a more common rental model today.

The essential involvement of employees in the new headquarters

The project team relied on several sociological studies, and spent a lot of time interviewing employees and team managers about what the Clichy headquarters represented. While some saw it as nothing more than an office site, others saw it as a "place to live". The need to collaborate between Business Units was however raised by the employees.

However, this building represented an important anchor for the BIC community, especially for an international company with several sites and centers of expertise on different continents.

The decision to launch this new real estate project was therefore made by involving the employees and taking their expectations into account.

It is easier to design a site that corresponds to the culture of the company when this site is designed internally(without calling upon an external contractor, editor's note): we know better the expectations of the employees, and what they will like.

In addition to consulting employees (useful for refining knowledge of expectations), the key point was to get stakeholders on board so that they themselves would be ambassadors for the project. To do this, BIC called on Colliers, an expert in the work environment, to raise employees' awareness of the change.

The use of an external service provider for change management issues is important, because humans are naturally distrustful of change, especially when it is brought about solely by internal stakeholders.

A good dose of education was also necessary and bore fruit, in particular by organizing visits to the new site, which was still under construction at the time. These visits "allowed employees to project themselves into their future work environment, and to reassure them that they were winners in this change", explains Karine Roussel, Office Manager of the Clichy site. Committed ambassadors for the project were also chosen, to make it easier to get the stakeholders on board.

See also : how to make a successful transition to the flex-office - The practical guide, with Europa Group

The new headquarters: between modernity and cultural details

Moving a headquarters that had been occupied for more than 20 years was no small matter, and it took all the persuasive power of the real estate department as well as the openness and attentiveness of the management for the new site project to see the light of day.

The objective was to create a site that generates engagement, reflects the Bic identity, and in which the 420 or so employees and service providers feel comfortable.

Guillaume Coquet explains: "The first thing we did was to internalize the entire design: we did not hire an architect or a project manager... This had two advantages: to make the most of our in-house knowledge of the BIC culture and employee expectations, and to make huge savings on the design part. The savings were reinvested in top-of-the-line equipment: Knoll furniture, curved screens, webcams and high-performance videoconferencing equipment... Everything was done to ensure that employees could work in the best possible conditions.

Quality furniture, clean interiors and art collection: the keys to an inspiring work environment

As for the meeting rooms, the offices have more than 24 of them: both classic rooms accessible via a digital room reservation system, the traditional Board Room located on the 7th floor with an unobstructed view of Paris and the Sacré Coeur of Montmartre, and many phone booths with one, two or four seats, accessible without reservation. Details have even been thought out to make these hybrid meetings happen in the best conditions: high-end webcams, Click-Share devices for easy screen sharing, blackout glass partitions on demand...

Photo credit: Didier Delmas for BIC

Finally, the spaces have been embellished with BIC's art collection, as well as details reminiscent of the brand's identity: the roundness of the BIC boy, the silhouette of the iconic pen...

It is a question of subtly reminding the identity of the brand, without bringing it too "vulgarly", in a too rough way.

All this results in 3 coherent, modern, bright floors: but also comfortable lounge areas, quiet spaces and others more collaborative, a terrace of 200 m2 with a view of all Paris, and, quite simply, life.

The 200m2 terrace with a view of Paris is a delight for BIC employees for all types of events. Photo credits: D Delmas

The result: more commitment and cohesion

The first observation is that this site has so far fulfilled all its objectives. The BIC employees have been charmed, and the evaluation of employee satisfaction is still underway, in order to collect the points of improvement that inevitably exist, but especially the points of satisfaction.

Secondly, this project was built with rationalization and efficiency in mind, while keeping employee well-being as a primary objective. "Already pre-Covid and institutionalization of remote work, studies indicate that offices were on average only 80% full at most, due to vacations, travel etc." explains Guillaume. "Now that remote work has been officially introduced(2 days a week, editor's note), this rate has dropped even further. We made the choice not to optimize our spaces too aggressively, as some companies do, with an overflow rate of 60% or even less, but rather to maintain this 80% rate in order to guarantee comfort for our employees."

It remains to be seen whether the culture objective has been achieved: the HR team and the management are delighted for the moment.

"This project is a great success, because we have managed to recreate a bond, and the employees are much more involved than before. The teams are finally mixing, and people want to come!" explains the Human Resources Manager.

The next steps? To take advantage of the positive effect of this new building to make it come alive through recurring events, on which the HR and Office Management teams are working. As Guillaume explains, "the teams are now taking ownership of the space and doing what they want with it. These events, many of which focus on CSR themes (at the request of BIC employees), or sharing of expertise between divisions, appeal to employees and engage them, in addition to motivating them to return to the office.

Thanks to Guillaume Coquet, Karine Roussel, Emmanuelle Moutrille for their welcome, their time and their experience sharing.

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