And if for once Elon Musk was not a visionary? Let’s talk telecommuting.

Faced with the outcry caused by the publication of the somewhat abrupt email sent by the boss of Tesla to his employees and revealed by the American media, Victor Carreau (CEO of Comet Meetings) wonders about the correct understanding by companies of the new uses of work, and how they find the balance between office and remote work

The controversy caused by the supposed internal communication of Elon Musk vis-à-vis Tesla employees does not only have drawbacks: it provides an excellent opportunity to note that the new uses of work and the hybrid models are not always successes. First, it is necessary to place Elon Musk’s words in their American context. The history of Silicon Valley companies reminds us of two striking examples of the brutal cessation of teleworking in companies that are nevertheless at the cutting edge of progress: first there was Marissa Meyer at Yahoo, who had sounded the return to office, arguing that only the office enables true human interactions and experiences. At the time, Yahoo had many telecommuting employees, some of whom were poorly supervised. IBM for its part radically abandoned it in 2017 after having been a pioneer in the field for 20 years. The firm had justified this choice by the need for innovation that it wanted to prioritize with respect to productivity.

These two examples give a first clue: remote work framework and balance between productivity and creativity would be the right ingredients for a successful hybrid organization.

Dose the use of telework

While telecommuting may be perfectly suited for productivity times, it is not for everyone. Lockdowns have shown this to us: in large cities, many employees have living spaces that are too small or poorly suited to this practice. Furthermore, the transformation of the organization of work towards more flexibility leads companies to sequence the organization around three highlights: production, which some call in-depth work (deep work in English), times of collaboration, and times of socialization. Production is compatible with telework, on the other hand collaborating and socializing are less so, or in a very limited way. Because the work also serves this objective: to be together and cement the corporate culture.

A company must allow its employees to organize themselves around these highlights, without forcing them to telecommute. All teleworking is not desirable outside of a pandemic context. If it is not useful to come together, or the benefits are not obvious to employees, they will end up detaching themselves from their company and leaving it. In the war for talent that is currently at work in all companies, the risk of losing the best because the organization is not adapted to their way of life is not to be taken lightly. What Elon Musk can afford to say or do, not all bosses can afford. His position as a “tech guru” and a “desirable” entrepreneur allows him to impose organizations on his teams – which no other boss can afford, and that’s happy. Let’s also keep in mind that he is about to trigger layoffs and that this email can be a lever to accelerate departures.

Rethink the organization of offices to adapt to new uses

However, the question of adapting offices and the organization of companies to the needs of employees is essential, because it is this that will make the difference in terms of motivation and management. What are the subject matter experts telling us? First, that our environment influences the quality of our work and our well-being. Because in many companies, employees come to the office for times of collaboration and socialization, it must be reorganized around these two times, both from a spatial organization point of view, but also from a service point of view. Most hybrid companies are now experiencing a recurring problem: the lack of meeting rooms. Employees who come to the office need to meet more, regularly and better. Making face-to-face meetings useful, attractive and desired for the right reasons is ultimately today’s major managerial problem.

Victor Carreau CEO of Comet Meetings.

Victor Carreau is the CEO of Comet Meetings which he co-founded with Maxime Albertus and Nicholas Findling. Comet is one of the key players in the Future of Work and has a strong vision for the future of the office world. His conviction: “Meeting is the new office”, or when the office of tomorrow is a place of collaboration and socialization. Comet offers the combination of an exceptional working environment and a set of innovative hotel services, the Comet experience is designed to stimulate team cohesion, performance and well-being. With soon 10 places dedicated to strategic meetings and more than 300,000m2 of offices operated in Paris, Brussels and Madrid, Comet supports companies of all sizes (CAC40, ETI, start-ups) and has welcomed more than 300,000 clients since its creation. Since 2020 Comet has also supported owners by rethinking their real estate assets so that they truly meet the needs of the 21st century.

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