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27 Sep 2021

Universal office voucher : the future sesame of the employee?

In recent months, the idea of a system allowing employees to access third-party workplaces has been gaining ground. Although its contours have yet to be defined, it offers promising prospects in terms of meeting expectations for flexibility and autonomy – if employers are convinced…

At the end of August, the France Tiers-Lieux association submitted the report “Tiers lieux, nos territoires en action” to the government. The ambition is to invent new ways of working, while promoting social links. The report recommends in particular the creation of an “office voucher”, inspired by the lunch voucher. It would allow employees to access these shared spaces when they are not in the office. Two months earlier, 33 leading business figures had already published an opinion piece in the press with the same aim.

The “office voucher” would be issued by the employer, or by a specialised company. It would depend on co-financing by the employer, the State and local authorities, and in the event of a company agreement, by the social and economic committee. This approach is in line with the national interprofessional agreement, signed at the end of 2020 by the trade unions. It has already provided for the possibility of teleworking elsewhere than at home.

An asset for improving the employee experience

The aim is therefore to respond to those who would like to work remotely but do not have suitable accommodation. It can be because of a lack of space, poor internet connection, etc. With this “office voucher”, any employee could have access :

  • to the local office of his or her choice,
  • in a coworking space,
  • a hotel
  • or any other type of third place.

The health crisis and its consequences on the organisation of work have indeed reshuffled the cards. The company premises are no longer the only possible places to work. In fact, as the Let’s Talk HR 2021 barometer reveals, 56% of human resources decision-makers want to improve the employee experience. How ? By putting in place measures to take better account of employees’ personal lives.

Positive impacts of the “office voucher” on both the employee and the company side

The principle of the “office voucher”, the contours of which have yet to be defined, offers several advantages to the teleworking employee. Firstly, it gives him or her more flexibility and autonomy in their organisation. It is like the personal training account, which aimed to give employees a sense of responsibility by making them actors in their professional development. It would also contribute to maintaining the social life of teleworkers. That is an important point of vigilance for companies committed to the well-being of their employees. In third places, less isolation!

For companies, the added value could be in the level of employee commitment and loyalty. This is not surprising. An employee who sees his or her company taking care of him or her is more motivated to fulfil his or her duties. Another significant advantage is the interest of the “office voucher” in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy. By contributing to the development of teleworking, it would lead to a reduction in unnecessary travel and therefore a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint.

Obstacles that still need to be removed

Several points of vigilance remain unresolved at this stage. For example, what proportion of employees would be interested in this option? Between those :

  • who prefer to go to the office,
  • and those who prefer the home office,

It remains to be determined whether this alternative appeals to enough employees to justify its implementation.

Above all, the main question mark concerns the financing. Like the lunch voucher, will the “office voucher” imply an additional cost for the employee? Moreover, some trade union representatives are wondering about the consequences of a possible financial contribution from the State or public authorities. The company, which is normally responsible for the costs associated with the activity of its teams, could see this as a windfall effect to sell real estate assets and encourage more employees to telework.

But the main challenge may well be to convince employers, who are still wary of innovative ways of organising work. According to a survey proposed by the consulting firm Génie des Lieux to nearly 4,000 employees and managers, only 24% of them are considering allowing their employees to telework in coworking spaces near their homes. It is probably only a matter of time: 61% of those questioned already believe that this option will be unavoidable soon.

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