Flex office: an insoluble economic equation?

July 2021

Still unknown, the flex-office questioned. According to the new study closed by the ESSEC Workplace Management Chair, only 8% of French people favor flex-office work, 8% preferring more traditional organizations such as the office and open-space. Doctor in human and social sciences, specialist in flexibility, to which he has dedicated a book, Nicolas Cochard brings some nuances to these results.

According to Nicolas Cochard, head of studies, research and development at Kardham, partner of the ESSEC Workplace Management Chair, it is quite natural to be attached to a dedicated office. For many employees, it represents an identity symbol within their company. However, the flex-office is not incompatible with this need for benchmarks in an established territory. To be accepted by employees, it must be seen above all as an economic equation which brings a certain number of gains in exchange for the loss of their appointed place.

Flex-office: above all an economic equation

First and foremost, Nicolas Cochard recalls that the primary motivation for companies to set up the flex-office is of an economic nature. This is based on the fact that a fixed workstation is never 100% occupied by an employee. “Even before the crisis, a workstation was only occupied 50% of the working time. Because employees are in meetings, on vacation, with a client ... With the rise of teleworking, we will drop to around 20% of the occupancy rate. At the price of real estate per year, especially in Paris, it’s impossible to pay that much for an office that is occupied only 20% of the time. »Calculates Nicolas Cochard.

Also, more and more companies are relying on flex-office to reduce their costs. Indeed, the flex-office is the fact of having fewer seated working positions than employees. Most often, it is based on a ratio of 0.8, or 8 places for 10 employees. This implies that not all employees can be in the office all at the same time and that a seat can be used for several employees. It thus complements nomadic working methods such as teleworking.

Employees who are a priori resistant to flex-office: why?

This way of working does not seem to satisfy all stakeholders. Employees, in particular, are rather reluctant. For Nicolas Cochard, distrust of the flex-office is quite natural because the inconveniences caused by this type of organization are very easily identifiable. It is first and foremost the loss of one's individual space. Indeed, for many employees, not having an assigned place is synonymous with dehumanization and a loss of their identity within the company.

“Since the 1960s, environmental psychologists have been studying the issue of offices. According to them, the physical and material place that everyone occupies in the office represents their social place, their place in the organization. It’s part of his identity. Having a dedicated office therefore meets a perfectly natural need for anchoring because humans are animals, and like animals, they need to mark their territory. »Explains Nicolas Cochard. Also, to gain acceptance for flex-office, it is important to show employees what they have to gain from it.

Flex-office: how to set the equation

The flex-office works on a compromise and faces the loss of an assigned office a number of profits. "The gain lies mainly in the question of autonomy and confidence," says Nicolas Cochard. With the flex-office, the employer assumes that the employee can be at work without being present in the walls. This implies that he trusts him in the management of his work space-time. Also, with the flex-office, the employee certainly loses his assigned place, but in exchange, he gains in comfort. "All the more so if the company, by reducing its real estate space, can have smaller but cheaper premises and therefore better placed: in the city center for example.

Nicolas Cochard therefore thinks that the flex-office would gain more support if the people questioned could better visualize the advantages of this organization. “Today, only 10-14% of workers operate flex mode. Most of those questioned therefore answer a priori, without really knowing what that implies. »He specifies. According to him, many employees are ultimately won over by flex-office after testing it, even if not all of them.

The fantasy of Full-flex

If the flex-office can be a source of comfort for employees, Nicolas Cochard readily admits that this way of working does not suit everyone. He notably cites the case of support functions such as accountants, lawyers, HRDs. These jobs, which still require the use of paper or a need for confidentiality, cannot be done in flex mode. These functions must therefore have a fixed office, sometimes even closed. Other employees, whose job would, in theory, be compatible with flex-office, however, cannot get used to it. According to Nicolas Cochard, the employer must then be able to respond to these employees in the

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Nathalie Neyret

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