Check out this extract from my GlobalTV Talk Show interview with host Ed Cohen

Today’s episode is an extract from my most recent interview on GlobalTV Talk Show, hosted by my dear friend Ed Cohen. The interview took place in April. In this extract we talk about the impact of work from home on organisations, the Great Resignation, the role of unions, and how companies will have to rethink work, beyond simply allowing some of their workforce to be remote.


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This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Work from home, performance management and the Great Resignation

Ed Cohen:

So, for your business, the impact of working from home, working from anywhere, on performance management and C&B, that’s a big topic, right?

Sandrine Bardot:

It is a big topic, which is going to become bigger in 2021 than it was in 2020.

Last year, everybody went into panic mode first, and then into fix mode very quickly, to fix their short-term issues. And now we see that, even with vaccines, things are not reopening as quick as maybe we were a bit naive to believe in the beginning. So, companies will have to rethink about how they evaluate performance.

We have a saying in French : “loin des yeux, loin du coeur”, which means that if you don’t see people, you forget about them (out of sight, out of mind). If companies reopen and they have a hybrid workplace, where some people are mixing working from home and from the office or some people are fully remote, companies will need to make sure that they don’t pass over people because they can’t be seen as much, because they’re remote, especially for promotion and financial rewards.

Organizations are going to have to start to think about that, because if they don’t, employees will vote with their feet. We keep seeing survey upon survey saying that if employers do not offer flexible work environments much more when they were offering before 2020, then people will consider looking for another job. There has been, for the past 2 or 3 years, even longer, very small salary movement in the Western world, like 2%-3% budgets. The only way that people could really improve their financial situation, if they couldn’t get an internal promotion, was to change jobs, because that’s typically when you get a better offer by a new employer, and you have a little bit more negotiating power.

What we will see is that, once people get out of their “Oh, I’m frozen by fear” state, if they see that their employer is not giving them the flexibility they want, and they feel that they are not being rewarded for the effort that they put to maintain those companies afloat since last year, they will definitely vote with their feet. We will see that.

Organising the return-to-office while maintaining flexibility

Ed Cohen:

Well, I’ve read similar surveys here… Later this spring, as companies figure out how to open up or what to do, there’s a fear factor, that even though people are being vaccinated here, in the US anyway, they’re afraid. Is it clean, safe? I mean, how can you trust?

Sandrine Bardot:

Yes, it’s very difficult.

I think, for companies, they also need to realize that, until those who are parenting can fully rely on schools to be 100% open and safe for their children, that people would still have to deal with kids staying at home. And then, if the parents have to be back at the office, how do they deal with that, when there is no nursery, no home services allowed and all these kind of stuff?

Plus, for those who don’t have kids, they look at the parents who have kids who are going to school, are not vaccinated and are currently, apparently, becoming one of the main vectors of the virus. Often these kids don’t have symptoms, meaning the virus can spread even more easily.

That’s why organizations need to be open-minded. Even if they don’t want people to really have that much flexibility, they will have to continue to offer the flexibility for, in my opinion, at least until the end of 2021.

I know that some companies, and especially in tech, have started to say that people will have to go back to work. But we only hear that statement. What we don’t know is which percentage of people it will be, and if it’s done on a volunteering basis. Apparently, younger generations, and this I can understand, find it more difficult to be fully remote, because they don’t get to learn from the environment, so they would maybe tend to be more positive about returning to work.

If the organisation feels some people must be back at work, that’s fine, because everybody’s happy with that if people can volunteer to return to office. However if you try to force people back to the office, they will come, because they have to. But the next day, their CV is ready, and is going out on the marketplace. This is what’s going to happen.

Ed Cohen:

Yeah. A lot of it. The numbers that I’ve seen from pretty reputable organizations is, up to 40% of the workforce is going to be very actively looking for a new job, right away.

Sandrine Bardot:

It will be compounded by how people react to what happened in the last 18 months at their organization. Maybe some people were lucky not to lose their job, and so they didn’t complain. But if their employer was a little bit brusque in their way to handle the crisis, or reacted in a way which was about cost-saving, and the cost-saving means, “Let’s get rid of people,” not, “Let’s try to be creative to save costs in other ways,” people will remember that.

10 years after the 2008 crisis, this will finish to undermine the basis of trust between employees and the employers who did not show that they were trying to protect their staff. Maybe employers didn’t have a chance or a choice, but they need to show it to their employees, for them to understand that other solutions have been looked at before saying “Let’s get rid of 10%, 20%, 30% of the headcount.”

The role of unions

Ed Cohen:

So, what do you think : in your experience, will unions come back because of that?

Sandrine Bardot:

Ah, that’s an interesting question. I do not know, actually. I think the challenge of unions is that, they were very well organized for the manufacturing world. And so, they need to be able to reinvent themselves, to address the needs of more office-based and-

Ed Cohen:

And tech.

Sandrine Bardot:

Yes. And knowledge workers and so on.

Where the unions would be very helpful, to employees at least, (maybe the employer doesn’t like it), but at least from an employee point of view, is where tech is going to have a major impact.

If you think of truck drivers, waiters, all those kinds of positions that are going to be, as per projections from the World Economic Forum, McKinsey and others, massively disrupted, and where the jobs are going to disappear en masse in the coming few years, I’m not sure that trade unions can really do something against the trend of technology.

They can defend employees in a situation which is maybe a little bit more stable, where they’re trying to get better benefits, they’re trying to get salary and this kind of stuff, but when the jobs are disappearing, and there’s no financial way to keep all the people, it’s much more difficult. And it’s not the fault of anybody, but that’s just the reality.

Re-organising not just the office space, but ways of working

Ed Cohen:

So, the head of the JP Morgan Chase bank recently said that or every 100 people, because of work from home, they only need 50 or 60 desks. So that means a major reuse of the real estate.

Sandrine Bardot:

Yes, yes. Not necessarily less space, if you put more spaces for collaboration, where people maybe go and interact.

One of the things that I think very few companies are really thinking about, is to prepare for a truly hybrid workforce. In companies like GitHub, for example, that were fully distributed right from the beginning, when there’s a meeting, if there are nine people who are going to physically attend and one is going to be remote, the more advanced companies now say, “Okay, five people in the meeting room, and the extra four, even though they might be physically here, will need to go each to their desk, to also be remote during the meeting, so that it’s half and half, and nobody’s being at a disadvantage”.

But few companies are really trying to rethink that, are really trying to rethink principles, like in Facebook. I was reading once that, I don’t know if it was all of Facebook or just one team, but they said, “On Thursday, or whatever day of the week, we will have no meetings, so that our engineers can do the famous deep work and focused work, where they’re not interrupted”.

Companies will have to really think about it, but it will take time. It will take the kind of Great Resignation backlash for companies to really understand what was not working. The old way of doing things really cannot come back, because once the thing is out of the box, we cannot put it back in.

Ed Cohen:

That’s right. Sandrine Bardot, thank you for being on Global TV Talkshow again.

Sandrine Bardot:

My pleasure.

Ed Cohen:

And, I want to welcome you to come back, say, once a month, and give us an update on these trends that we’ve been discussing the past half hour.

Sandrine Bardot:


To watch the full interview, go here :

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