Flex office: space as a lever for managerial transformation

July 2021

In a previous article, the doctor in human and social sciences, specialist in flexibility Nicolas Cochard, reviewed the results of the survey conducted by the Workplace Management Chair of ESSEC. He then presented the flex-office as an economic equation which, if properly framed, could meet both the needs of the employer and the expectations of employees. However, the flex-office does indeed represent an upheaval within companies, especially for mid-management. Interview.

The workspace: a political place

For Nicolas Cochard, it is the middle managers who suffer the most from the switch to flex-office. “It impacts them more because an enterprise space is a political space. He declares. In fact, the traditional mode of arrangement was that the size of the office be proportional to the hierarchical position of its occupant. Likewise, the manager’s closed office, at whose door employees dared not knock, sent a very authoritative message.

However, with open work organizations, the manager sees himself dispossessed of these attributes of power. “All the symbolism of political space is collapsing. Managers today must lead differently: through legitimacy and competence. It is also rather healthy to be based on management on the ground, rather than on the symbolic attributes of power. »Explains Nicolas Cochard. However, the flex-office does not completely erase hierarchies. The verticality of organizations does persist, but in another form. "The counterpart of open accommodation is the panoptic effect, due to the fact that the N + 1 works alongside its employees. "Says the expert.

Flex-office: towards a management revolution

According to the doctor in human and social sciences, we are therefore witnessing a management revolution. Since Taylorism, the foreman, the manager, has a very specific place in the company. However, the flex-office moves the manager in the middle of his troops, which forces him to find a balance that he did not have to seek before. “This is great for teams who then have the support of their leader nearby. But for him, it represents an effort. He must remain close to his collaborators without becoming their “buddy”. »Adds Nicolas Cochard.

In addition to this difficulty in finding his place, the manager sometimes faces cognitive overload. Indeed, the closed office door had previously served as a physical filter. There had to be a good reason to come and knock on the manager's door. In the middle of an open space, this filter no longer exists and the manager is over-requested by his teams. He then has no time for his own individual tasks. This reality therefore raises questions about an organizational issue. How many people can a manager properly lead? “This is a question organizations will need to answer. If they want to move to open spatial forms and local management, this must be done in smaller managerial cells. »Considers Nicolas Cochard.

Space as a lever for managerial transformation

The flex-office is above all a subject of management. Space is also often an entry point to a more global transformation of companies. According to Nicolas Cochard: "As soon as you touch space, plan, you touch people. "
Also, a company carrying out a flex-office project must also rethink its managerial culture. "The success of a flex-office project depends on individuals, professions, culture. If the flex is not contextualized, it will be the horror for sure. An executive who wants to implement a flex copy paste because he has seen three photos of the Google office is sure to start the fire in his company. He warns.

For Nicolas Cochard, it is certain that the flex-office will develop in the coming months, in particular under the impetus of teleworking and the economic challenges it represents. “Employees will not be able to have everything: teleworking and the fixed office. It’s an economic equation that needs to be asked. But the main issue is human support. »He concludes.

Interview by Sibylle Pinochet, for widoobiz.

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