Best Practices Work Smart at Aremis

“Work Smart is a real cultural transformation of the company”

We are a signatory of the Work Smart charter and has been a network partner of the initiative for some time. Patrice Jaquier, Director of Aremis Switzerland, explains the reasons for this commitment.

What motivated you to take this step?

“Flexible working is one of the key recommendations we give to our clients in terms of well-being at work, reduction of real estate costs and carbon footprint. It was therefore natural for us to adopt this approach for our own company. Signing the charter is therefore a confirmation of this desire, but also a way of sharing best practices with other signatories.”

How long have you been practising Work Smart at Aremis?

“Aremis’ management has been working together for more than 20 years in various entities. Following a Management-Buy-Out in 2010, the company was created in its current form, and from the start Work Smart was defined as one of the pillars of our new organisation.What are the advantages for a group like yours? Given our activities, we are very mobile throughout Western Europe, to serve our clients, but also to share with our colleagues in different subsidiaries the expertise we have developed locally. It was therefore essential to put in place a very agile organisation, which allows us to work productively from anywhere at any time.”

So this structure is beneficial to everyone?

“Yes, because we are very much committed to family values and we advocate a fair balance between professional and private life. We are also sensitive to our social responsibility and our carbon footprint is reduced by more than 50% compared to a traditional work environment.”

So you are driven by altruistic motives?

(laughs) “Let’s not hide the fact that there is also a financial interest; our offices are on average 50% occupied. So it would be nonsense for every employee to have an allocated work space. Instead, we practice Work Smart within our offices, by providing spaces dedicated to the activity of the moment: a traditional desk for concentration, a booth for confidential conversations and telephones, meeting rooms of varying sizes, collaborative spaces to encourage creativity, etc. In concrete terms, we have only 70 workplaces in all our offices for just over 120 employees in the group.”

So how do the employees organise themselves on a daily basis?

“First of all, it is our clients that dictate our mobility; on average, our consultants spend 50 to 70% of their time with them. Secondly, whenever possible, we invite our employees to work from home. We pay them a monthly lump sum for this, which includes the cost of setting up an adequate infrastructure at home. We require at least one day of office work per week to maintain team cohesion and avoid a disconnect with the company’s values. Finally, in some cases, we use coworking spaces, notably for our presence in Luxembourg and Zurich.”

I imagine that your premises are very modern for the implementation of Work Smart in companies?

“Not really. Our Brussels office is located in a 19th century castle, our Paris office is in the 8th arrondissement, surrounded by Haussmann buildings and in Lausanne we occupy a flat. But it is true that in each case we have chosen to invest in interior design in order to put in place a truly effective concept. This working environment is a very important motivating factor and we notice it in the atmosphere in our offices and in the general productivity.”

It sounds very attractive, but aren’t there any negative points to Work Smart?

“To avoid this, we need to look at several aspects. In the office, there may be a feeling of loss of identity and reference points, as there is no longer an assigned office. At home, there is a risk that the workspace will be unsuitable and can be detrimental to health. Without visual contact with colleagues, it is also more difficult to manage one’s availability and avoid social isolation.”

Are there solutions to overcome this?

“Yes, there are in every case, and in this respect the Work Smart initiative has helped us to implement them well thanks to the study “Work Smart – Feel Well” published in 2017. We did a workshop to make employees aware of these risks and to give them simple ways to deal with them.”

Finally, what advice would you give to a company that wants to start Work Smart?

“A Work Smart concept cannot be improvised; it is a real cultural transformation of the company, the foundations of which must be autonomy, responsibility and trust. Several aspects must be taken into consideration and regularly monitored. One must be prepared to adapt the organisation over time according to the feedback from employees and the evolution of projects within the company.”

Aremis is a European consulting and services company in the field of corporate real estate. Thanks to its experience and innovative technologies, Aremis’ specialists help their clients to manage their portfolio and in particular workspaces, building and occupant services. They build and implement tailor-made solutions by integrating the different points of view of owners, managers and occupants.