With its workshop and shops closed for almost three months, Rejoué has faced a series of challenges since the end of the lockdown. The resumption of its integration programme has been chaotic following difficult times while the future of its team-building activity remains uncertain.
To deal with the unprecedented health and economic crisis, the association has adapted, and sometimes even reinvented itself.
We focus on a Societe Generale Foundation partner promoting integration through work based on collecting and repairing toys.
A period of total shutdown
Rejoué runs a large workshop that gives new life to old toys by organising their collection, sorting, cleaning, and resale.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, it was forced to close its doors with all 38 employees on the association's integration programme furloughed. Working from home is simply not an option when it comes to a production-based business.
The lockdown resulted in losses of €50,000 for every month of inactivity.
The association's 14 permanent members of staff alternated between working from home and periods of furlough to continue to support employees on the programme.
The association’s director admits that Rejoué was not at all prepared for working from home; the practice was not part of the association’s culture. The employees were forced to quickly learn how to use new tools.
The crisis brought with it a need to adapt; we had to reinvent ourselves
Nathalie Ourry, director of Rejoué
A complicated easing of lockdown restrictions
As soon as the lockdown in France ended on 11 May, some of the permanent staff returned to the workshop to prepare for its reopening and the return of employees on the integration programme the following week.
The resumption plan was implemented not only for the management team, employees on the integration programme, but also volunteers and customers in shops.
However, just over half of the staff returned to work owing to childcare and health issues.
The resumption was greatly appreciated by many employees who had gone through difficult times.
“It’s easier to return to work than stay at home”, explains the association’s director. “The isolation brought about during the lockdown caused a lot of suffering for people who already feel isolated throughout the year. The return to work was a real relief.”
And although all the employees on the integration programme wanted to return to work, the aftereffects eventually followed. Today they are showing signs of dropping out, citing fear of commuting to the workshop or illness.
Reading between the lines, Nathalie believes she knows the underlying reasons for the exhaustion which took several weeks to appear.
“They thought their problems would go away once the lockdown was over. It was a very difficult period, but at least they knew it would come to end on 11 May. Even though the lockdown restrictions have been lifted and we can work again, they still have no accommodation and their family and health problems are still there. There’s no end date for those problems; no one can tell them it will all be better tomorrow.”
The reality is difficult to accept and requires a great deal of attention from the teams at Rejoué.
The association has increased its individual support to identify issues and prevent employees from slipping through the net. Thanks to Convergence, a reinforced support system that Rejoué is part of, the association offers psychological follow-up via talk groups and coaching in pairs.
Rejoué provides a host of initiatives to work on the well-being of their employees, such as music therapy workshops, led by permanent employees who have recently trained in the field.
Adapting and reinventing
For all those who worked in Rejoué’s sales business, the lockdown was used as a time to consider the future.
The association very quickly realised that the services it provides to its business partners were ill-suited to the post-Covid era.
In particular, this would affect the team-building sessions organised by Rejoué to involve the employees of their partner companies, including Societe Generale teams. Such an important activity will not be able to resume before many months.
However, a company came to the association to ask if it was possible to replace conventional team-building with “e-team building” sessions.
After giving themselves time to reflect, the Rejoué teams came back with a concept obviously very different from the events it usually organises, but which allows employees to get involved through the discovery and awareness of the circular economy. And while the employee is involved in the sessions, the company agrees to buy a certain number of toys for the benefit of a partner association. This makes it possible to highlight the virtuous circle of the operation with employees: giving, repurposing, providing employment to an employee returning to work and, ultimately, bringing happiness to children.
Companies find it difficult to recreate a group dynamic when everyone is working from home. The employees need to get involved; this is where Rejoué’s expertise comes in.”
Nathalie Ourry, director of Rejoué
Rejoué also soon got in touch with partner companies to better understand and address their current needs.
The association will arrange a series of pop-up sales popular among companies to clear part of the backlog of toys.
“We are adjusting to situations as they come up”, she explains.
Sometimes these new objectives come from other associations. At the beginning of the lockdown, an organisation working with young isolated mothers contacted Rejoué because they urgently needed 250 toys to keep the children busy during the period and recreate social links.
A year of uncertainty
“It will be a very difficult year”, admits Nathalie Ourry. “But we’ll make it through.”
Rejoué is forced to reinvent its business model and knows that the period is not over yet. The association often works with childcare centres and schools, but they are not buying toys at the moment, and instead are focusing on how to accommodate children in the best health conditions possible.
Nathalie points out the importance of having major partners to support them through the period and commit to actions in favour of the employees, even though the format will be very different from what they’d initially planned.
And, ever the optimist, the director of Rejoué reminds us that the high season for selling toys still lies ahead.
“Christmas is coming, and there’s no reason why people won’t buy toys from our shops or pop-up sales at our partner companies' sites.”