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COVID-19: Picking up the pace on the transformation of work

Charlotte Noel
April 27, 2020

We continue with our ‘Words of the Day After series with an emphasis on: work. The  COVID-19 pandemic has brought us into unknown territory. It has rattled our world to its core; shaken the way we live, consume, study and work.

In Greek, “Krisis” means ‘decision’ or ‘choice’. We decide what life post-Covid-19 will look like. We shall learn from this and build a better future. As Esther Duflo, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, said, “with climate change, things will be even worse. Let’s find the motivation to change, to find the true mission of the Company, which cares about its social and environmental impact”, let’s change the way we work.

Remote working, learning, and newly-found camaraderie are all making headlines. We are providing working methods, as well as potential expectations for the future.

Many companies no longer have walls… yet they have a cloud

Everything changed in France on 17th March 2020. From one day to the next, millions of people were confined to their homes, asked to stay away from their offices, and fundamentally change their habits. About 8 to 12 million employees are now working from home. According to the Ministry of Labour, far more than the 1.8 million were already regularly working in this fashion in 2017, according to the French Directorate for Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES).

At Capgemini, 97% of our employees worldwide have also changed their way of working.

Many had only a few hours to provide themselves with the equipment to be able to work from home: Teams, Skype, iObeya, Trello, Slack, Klaxoon and Zoom, the latter of which recorded 200 million participants in daily meetings in March, compared to a 10 million in December. Whilst this has encouraged digitalisation, we ought to acknowledge it may have disrupted those less comfortable with technology.

Remote working is all about tech, but it’s also about culture. Kids briefly appear on videoconferences, and the usual routine for teenagers isn’t easy, neither is the time for preparing meals. However, our habits must change to facilitate. The coronavirus crisis emphasizes the need for more lateral, decentralised and autonomous thinking. Teams have built new habits, and their managers have had to realign priorities, and plan for the day after. Agility, empathy and resilience are key.

There is good news; less travel means less pollution. Coronavirus could be the cause of the greatest reduction of CO2 emissions since World War II, according to the work of the Global Carbon Project or of the Chaire Economie du Climat de Paris Dauphine. According to a YouGov survey, 77% of French people see this crisis as an opportunity for ambitious ecological transition.

At the end of this ordeal, will we be prepared to massively continue working from home, like at UpWork or Gitlab, where 80% of employees are dispersed all over the world? Will job interviews on Skype become the norm? Will we desert megacities to work in the countryside? Will we recruit talents without frontiers in Manila, Bombay, Lisbon and New York? Will we work ultra-flexible hours so that we can have team meetings over several time zones? Will we leave the car in the garage to maintain the peace and quiet and keep the air pure?

Key jobs are at the front line, while others are organising solidarity

Not everyone can work from home. To some extent, it’s a story of white and blue collar workers. Carers, bin men, supermarket staff, logistics staff and many others simply have to go to  work. It took for this unprecedented crisis and clapping at 8pm on our porches to be reminded of the value of these public services. Shops like Auchan and Carrefour have announced exceptional bonuses to reward their courage.

But, even at home, we all have a role to play. We can sign up individually or in teams on platforms like TousConfinésTousEngagé, help farmers in the fields or transform the product or service we sell for a good cause: LVMH or Yves Rocher, which are producing hand sanitiser, Airbnb which is offering accommodation to care workers, MAIF insurance firm which has seen a reduction in the number of claims and is donating €100 million to its insured parties or to associations.

Capgemini Invent, is helping APHP free of charge to roll out the Covidom application to remotely track patients with or suspected to have Covid-19.

A sense of purpose – especially amongst our younger society – is now flowing through every generation. According to a survey by Society magazine, 56% of French people believe this crisis will provide an opportunity to redefine what is important and relevant to them.

When the crisis is over, will we continue our efforts of solidarity, giving our time or our know-how to help social entrepreneurs, associations and people in need? Will we make the leap of job-sharing between a business and an association? Will we be able to propose new performance indicators to teams and managers, to promote positive social and environmental impacts? Will we put CSR at the centre of discussions in order to transform our businesses and our jobs?  

The reinvention of online learning 

The health crisis hit hard, and suddenly. Thousands of medical students have been trained in ventilation techniques and respiratory treatments thanks to online videos.
While INSEE announced in early April that the global economy was running at around 65% of its normal rhythm, some people have taken the opportunity to learn via online platforms, such as Coursera, Open Classroom or even Youtube: learn to code, boost your productivity, understand the history of art, etc. There is something here for everyone and in every profession! The rate of downloading educational applications jumped 1087% in the United States in March 2020 according to a Statista report.

Why don’t we make use of the lockdown to learn something online? What if everyone could reinvent themselves and change profession thanks to the Internet? What if the professions that hire tomorrow required new skills, such as eco-design?

Entrepreneurship, a new field of possibilities

It’s a particularly harsh time for entrepreneurs, who are having to show stealth. As Marc Simoncini recalled in an interview with Le Figaro, “stop burning cash, now is not the time for hyper-growth, focus on profitability”. Imagine the 40,000 vehicles for hire in France, without activity since the lockdown and which have lost 80% of their income.

New company registrations in France fell 25.5% in March 2020 according to INSEE.

However, in these difficult times, it is essential to innovate [1] and shake up the status quo. Some great initiatives are emerging, as with the Loop platform by La Fabrique by CA, which allows farmers to sell their products directly to consumers, or CovidBot developed by which fights against misinformation.

Will new graduates venture into start-ups, despite the looming economic shock? Will large groups develop intrapreneurship and studio start-ups to allow for safer innovation?  Will the State come up with a new social contract to protect independent workers?

Remote working, online learning, intrapreneurship, job sharing: what we used to call “the future of work” has become our present. Let’s learn and make the post-Covid-19 period as good as we can!

This article is an English adaptation of a post initially created in French.

[1] You can find similar reading in our article called Innovating for a recession, by Mark Payne, Partner at Fahrenheit 212.


Constance Jeanperrin

Senior Innovation Manager

Fahrenheit 212

Vincent Gueguen

Principal, People & Organizations

Capgemini Invent