Is hybrid work going to look different across Europe? “Definitely” says Fabien Girerd, CEO of Jooxter. In our first Q&A with him, we asked him to give us the lowdown on how different countries are getting back to the office.
You work with companies all over Europe. Are countries taking different approaches to reopening offices or is everyone going with a hybrid model?
Yes, without a doubt there’s a difference. In general, European companies are going back to the office but they are going back in very different ways. Outside Europe, as in the US, it tends to be everyone back full time and at the same time. That’s not true in Europe, it’s mostly hybrid. That might be down to the government advice or it could be because they’ve seen productivity gains. In addition, the culture has thrived in an unexpected way in lockdown. Or another reason might be that organisations have been able to get access to talents they couldn’t before.
You mention government advice is prompting companies to adopt hybrid work. What do you mean by this?
Well in Greece, for example, the government has said hybrid work has to be an option 50% of the time starting in September.
So is Greece home to more advanced adopters of hybrid work?
You might think that but there are only a few that will be ready. That’s quite surprising in some ways because companies have known this would be the case for over a year. But only now are they properly turning their attention to it and very few, I’d estimate less than 20%, will be ready.
Is that in terms of having space organised properly?
Yes, but it’s also about being ready to help staff adjust and feel confident to go into the office. That’s also a bit about the process and the technology to support it. Indeed, they need booking systems, quick ways to check-in, and the analysis tools that can tell facilities teams how and when space is used.
Is there a country that is getting it right?
Italy is the most developed on hybrid work models and on the adoption of smart workplace design technologies. It has really helped Italians cope with the fall out of the pandemic. We see a readiness to provide tools to employees so they can book ahead and check-in at the office. A number of them are even making the steps to integrate space planning with access control systems so they have a complete picture of real-time office usage.
For example, Deloitte has been following a more progressive return to the office by using digital workplace management tools since May 2020. These companies are seeing better attendance, can more readily comply with safety rules because they can manage the working population with ease. They also benefit from good productivity levels and higher employee retention rates.
Are other countries being as decisive?
Not as much as you’d think. In France, companies are not ready to make the decision whether or not to adopt hybrid work. They also aren’t sure how to make it happen if that’s the route they choose. I think it is closely related to culture. Going to work is a very social experience in France and this fabric of working life is severely missed by employees. Hybrid isn’t an alternative they really want to see adopted even though it’s an important step towards full recovery. They’d rather go back in totality.
That said there are some leaders that could prove the concept for others. Credit Agricole has been using smart workplace design tools to maximise office space for some years and is now ready to adapt it to meet hybrid models. For example, they encourage employees to use branches rather than headquarter offices. French offices for Deloitte and RSM adapted an automatic desk management tool as part of their back to the office solution. These are international companies who will be selecting and choosing the best models around the world and applying them to their offices, or at least piloting them in other places.
Are there any other unusual examples?
I’d say Luxembourg is perhaps one of the more interesting countries. In Luxembourg, people commute from surrounding countries like Belgium and France and as such, going to the office can affect your taxes. This adds an extraordinary dynamic and there are some very careful calculations going on to help employees manage hybrid working and their financial position. As you might imagine it’s accounting, auditing and financial services that are leading the way on this.
Do you think hybrid work will pick up speed?
Yes, I do. Hybrid work is definitely the way ahead in Europe and more and more companies are talking to us about how they can plan space differently and use technology to give people control over their working day. But they are also looking at it as part of a bigger strategy. We know it’s possible to reduce office space by 27% yet still make gains on productivity. They want to know how they can do this – how they can save money but still boost productivity and link their approach to talent attraction and retention. It’s complex in some cases but with the right blend of technology it’s very possible to come out of the pandemic with a stronger employee brand, and a stronger balance sheet.
If you are interested in the matter, we organise regularly expert panels on the new ways of working and you can find our replays here.