Work-life balance: these employees who make their boss move

Work-life balance: these employees who make their boss move

Smoke escapes from the kitchens, the clinking of glasses blends into the hubbub of conversations. This midday, Café Jules du Pouliguen, a small seaside resort in Loire-Atlantique, is full of tourists and regulars. Franck, the room manager, waltzes from one corner of the room to the other. His eye narrows when he entrusts the dessert menu to those with a sweet tooth: it’s hard to resist the homemade profiterole-style cannelés or the vanilla, suede and pistachio crème brûlées. After serving prestigious Parisian tables, the fifty-year-old arrived in this small town near La Baule in 2014. At the time of Covid-19, Franck asked his chef, Alexandre Thiebaud, to adjust his hours. His wife had fallen seriously ill, he wanted to give her more time. Since then, the one his colleagues friendly call “Parigot” starts at 6 a.m. and disappears before the evening service. “I have met few chefs as attentive as Alexandre,” he says. “If he and I had not found a solution, and even if I passionately love my job, I would not have been able to stay.”

Like Franck, more and more private sector employees – and not necessarily the most qualified – are now turning their heels when the position they are offered deviates too far from their expectations in terms of working conditions, or does not allow them to flourish as they wish. Of course, setting conditions when you occupy a low-valued position, in a profession weakened by technological changes or in which there is no shortage of labor, remains most of the time impossible. The Uber delivery person or the supermarket cashier are far from being able to assert their demands. But for others, a rebalancing of the relationship between employers and employees is undoubtedly at work.

This new situation, which disrupts the classic balance of power between capital and labor, has been brewing for a long time. The Covid pandemic, conducive to personal questioning, has further accentuated it, and the trend is not about to be reversed, all specialists believe. Because if the world of work has already gone through numerous upheavals since the advent of capitalism, with the arrival of Taylorism, Fordism or digital technology today, “for the first time, change is initiated from below”, analyzes Romain Bendavid, expert on life at work at Ifop and author of the study “Nothing will ever be the same again in life at work”.

Pierre, a 33-year-old computer engineer, noted with amusement this reversal while surfing the professional network Linkedin: it is now he who responds to companies “thank you for your request”, and no longer the latter who send him the classic ” Thank you for your application.” As researcher Romain Bendavid summarizes, “the employer must now prove that the work will integrate harmoniously into the employee’s life; it is up to him to adapt, and not the other way around.” An employee who now refuses to work hard: in 1990, 60% of French people assigned their job a “very important” place. They were only 24% in 2022*.

To attract his staff, Alexandre Thiebaud, Franck’s boss, also owner of a creperie in Pouliguen, purchased around ten apartments. It primarily houses permanent employees there, but this summer, two seasonal workers are also taking advantage of it. “With the incessant rain, they were happy not to have to camp!” he congratulates himself.

This accommodation made available to them strongly influenced the decision of Damien, head chef, and Julien, restaurant manager, to follow the restaurateur when he left La Rochelle to establish himself in the seaside resort. There is something for everyone, a stable team is becoming increasingly rare in the restaurant industry where, since the pandemic, many bosses have had to adjust schedules and increase salaries to retain their employees. “Management à la papa, we no longer want it! assures Alexandre Thiebaud, member of the office of the Union of Hotel Trades and Industries. We are trying to model the profession for the ten years to come, by rethinking working conditions. It’s a profound change.”

*European survey on values, carried out in France by Ifop in 1990, and Ifop Social Climate Standard, survey conducted in October 2022

Part-time success

About thirty kilometers from Le Pouliguen, Pierre, the engineer, is enjoying a few days of family vacation in Saint-Marc-sur-Mer. A few years ago, the young man negotiated a part-time job with the company in which he was then employed. “My decision may have been surprising because I was not yet a father,” he says. “But I wanted to enjoy free time with my partner. My personal life remains a priority, even if I also want to be happy in my life. my job.” Like him, 38% of French people believe that the balance between private and professional life is essential to promote fulfillment at work. In the case of Pierre, the negotiations with his management were not difficult to conduct. Specialized in IT, his profile is highly sought after. “Perhaps the most surprised were my parents,” admits this young dad, who plans to request an 80% part-time job soon. A request that is anything but unrealistic: “Human resources managers have understood that a more fulfilled employee is more productive,” says researcher Romain Bendavid. “This may seem obvious, but not everyone was always aware of it before.”

The meteoric rise of teleworking provides another indicator of the changes underway. Forced to gain flexibility, many companies had to implement it in a sustainable manner after Covid. Patrick, financial director and member of the management board of a subsidiary of a French insurer, recognizes this: “Without teleworking, there is little chance today that a young person will come to us. And this is also an argument for weight to preserve our good elements.”

Last winter, a senior employee asked to work 100% remotely. The company weighed the pros and cons before agreeing. “Team cohesion also involves face-to-face meetings, but the risk of this employee leaving was too great,” explains Patrick. On the Web, the Welcome to the Jungle site, which lists job offers, devotes a special page to 100% distance learning. There are jobs for accountants, computer engineers, marketing assistants, etc. Depending on the profiles, companies adjust to demands and individualize working conditions to attract and retain employees.

A different moral contract

According to a study by the Department of Research Animation, Studies and Statistics (Dares), French people stay on average eleven years with the same employer. But this duration could well be shortened as mentalities evolve. “The implicit moral contract by virtue of which the oldest passed on the know-how of the company to young entrants has had its day, except in the restaurant and hotel industry,” notes Marc Loriol, labor sociologist and researcher at the CNRS* . The younger generations, naturally more open to new things than their elders, have also grown up in a society which has constantly talked to them about “flexibility” and “adaptation”. “They understood the message perfectly,” notes Romain Bendavid. And in a period where the decline in the unemployment rate continues – it affected 7.3% of workers in 2022 according to INSEE – we are more easily allowed to leave our job if it is not suitable. Not to mention that, to boost your pay slip, it is often more effective to change employers than to wait to move up the ladder.

*Author of Addiction to work, Ed. The Manuscript, 168p.; €14.50.

“CSR”: three now famous letters, to evoke the “corporate social responsibility policy”. In recent years, CSR has appeared as the martingale to seduce candidates and prevent resignations. Organizations that claim to do so are supposed to integrate social and environmental concerns into their activities. Display, sometimes, but the trick no longer passes, observes Jean-Baptiste Barfety, author of the recent report “Du sens à l’œuvre*”, in which ten human resources directors of large groups sign ten commitments to give back meaning at work. “Future employees question the sincerity of CSR promises. They seek consistency between discourse and practice by questioning their interlocutors on this subject and recruiters must be able to talk about it.” Sites rating the performance of companies in this area are popping up on the Internet. Glassdoor certifies you “find the company that deserves you”, ChooseMyCompany encourages you to discover “the ranking of companies that take care of their stakeholders”. The rating criteria take into account career opportunities, remuneration, culture, values, etc.

*Study carried out by ProjetSens, June 22, 2023.

Values ​​other than money

Justine, a graduate of AgroParisTech, could have claimed a much better paid position on leaving this institute. She preferred to be guided by her values. “I wanted to work in the food industry to make quality food accessible to as many people as possible and to educate on agricultural subjects,” explains this lively thirty-something. However, this is not systematically the case in large companies. in which I was able to do my internships.” The attention paid to the fight against sexism in the professional environment, the dialogue with managers, the quality and frequency of feedback on the work provided… These themes also weighed in the balance when the young woman had to do her choice. Companies are now warned: the 2023 employee has desires, convictions, and therefore requirements. They will have to deal with it.

Find meaning

Well-being at work does not necessarily provide an answer to another question that torments today’s employees: that of meaning. A nurse can suffer from a grueling daily life, but derive great satisfaction from her job. In the 16th century, Luther made “work” a vocation linked to the divine call. Much later, Karl Marx, of course, but also Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil in turn looked at the meaning of work. In the late 1980s, the theme became a research topic in itself. Through his profession, the individual obtains social status, recognition of his usefulness. “Employees want to understand the impact of their task on general action,” underlines Jean-Baptiste Barfety, founder of Projet Sens.

Associate employees with company performance

Another sign of the beginning of a rebalancing between employee and employer, the idea of ​​sharing value is gaining ground, under the leadership of the unions. A bill is currently under consideration in Parliament to better associate employees with the performance and capital of their company, via several formulas: profit-sharing (employee savings scheme), participation (redistribution of part of the profits ) or employee shareholding. The text aims to make these mechanisms compulsory for any company with 11 to 49 employees having a positive result at least equal to 1% of its turnover over three consecutive years.

The teleworking revolution

It affects all developed countries, and dates back well before Covid-19. In 2002, the European social partners signed a framework agreement regulating its introduction. At the time, it was about protecting employees in the face of the development of new technologies. Today, teleworking is considered more as a right benefiting employees. It causes a lasting change in the organization of the work space: implementation of flex office – employees no longer have an assigned office and set up wherever they want – reduction or increase in collective spaces, etc. .

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