In the past, I have said, much to the displeasure of some people, that in some sense, to survive, a country must behave like a hotel whose citizens are its employees and which does its best to let the world know its culture, identity, specificity, and properly welcome those who arrive at their shores to invest, spend their money or contribute their skills.
We will soon have to say the same thing about companies, and here is why:
Remote work, which the pandemic has imposed has changed the way companies are organized; depending on the country, 20% to 50% of employees (employees, managers, researchers, professors, doctors) and many self-employed people have worked from home on a full-time basis. These people have found many advantages: better family life, more comfort, less time lost on commuting and endless meetings. Businesses have also benefited, with employees available for much more flexible and extended hours. All in all, productivity is often much higher.
We will not return to the previous state of things. First of all, because the pandemic is far from over, and even if we do not decide on a new general lockdown, many employees will not want to take the risk of returning to work in large work spaces. Secondly, because the pandemic has brought home the fact that a complex economy (where services sometimes account for up to 70% of GDP) can function very largely with remote work. It is even thought that, by 2035, at least one billion people will be working remotely.
However, if remote work becomes too widespread, or if it becomes more generalized, or if employees remain away from the offices of their company on a full-time, long-term basis, then working remotely will become a reality and we will discover that this is bad for companies (which will suffer from having only narcissistic and disloyal mercenaries as collaborators) and for employees (who will suffer from not having the opportunity to get out of their homes and exchange with colleagues, and who will understand that it is easier to fire them when they are isolated, will feel more and more alienated from the company’s values). All in all, companies in which remote work policy is too widespread at every level of their hierarchy will die for not having been able to maintain a common spirit and project, and relatedly a common sense of what to defend.
It is therefore essential to do two things to save companies:
On one hand, by finding a way to make employees feel attached to their companies. This requires the development of common values and a company project, for at least the next ten years, which has enough muster for employees to be proud of it; this cannot be reduced to a vague discourse on corporate social responsibility, or a simple change in the status of the company: we know of “B Corp” and “mission companies” that exploit their employees to manufacture products that are harmful to their consumers.
On the other hand, by making workplaces, especially head offices, very welcoming to employees. Specifically, if employees are to want to come there, company restaurants, meeting rooms, workplaces will have to resemble those found in the most convivial hotels.
This will open up a new field for the tourism industry, so devastated by the crisis:
The tourism industry will be able to contribute its skills to renovate head offices and tertiary workplaces; and build new ones. Similarly, it will be able to play a role in the development of hospitals, to provide a pleasant environment for the sick and their families, and in the development of retirement homes, which also have everything to gain by benefiting from real hotel expertise, or even by using hotels that are surplus to requirements.
So many exciting projects…