In recent years, the office concept has become dematerialized. Teleworking, nomadism, mobile work, tele-management, coworking…
Today, companies are increasingly equipping themselves with tools and practices that enable teleworking and empower their employees to do so. According to the second edition of the Malakoff Mederic Humanis study conducted in 2018 among 1604 employees (including 581 managers) and 401 company managers with at least 10 employees: out of 5.5 million French people, 29% of employees report teleworking compared to 25% in 2017. The number of teleworkers is increasing, but the number of companies offering telework is not increasing or only slightly: it is those that were already doing so that are opening it up to more and more employees. This is despite the Macron Ordinance of 2017, which reformed the Labour Code and simplified the implementation of telework in companies (by cancelling the obligation to draft an amendment to the employment contract and by simply reaching an agreement between the employee and the manager). Despite the gradual democratization of telework, what are the causes that explain companies’ resistance to this practice?
Always existing obstacles
With the time it takes to get to work, which has gradually increased over the past ten years, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employees to reconcile their personal and professional lives. Teleworking is attractive to employees because, by reducing travel time and travel costs, it meets a growing need for flexible working hours, autonomy and empowerment, which makes it possible to better articulate between their two lives. Thus, telework improves the quality of work life and employee performance: fatigue decreases, health improves, sleep improves, absenteeism decreases… these are the benefits of this practice that increase employee productivity.
However, if the practice has advantages, it generates risks to be taken into account. According to the survey, 60% of employees believe that telework leads to an encroachment of professional life on personal life. Employees are overworked and may have a work addiction. They have difficulty disconnecting from their professional tasks. Thus, going to and from the office makes it easier to draw a line between the private and professional spheres. This interference within borders can be explained by the lack of space dedicated to work (more than half of teleworkers do not have a specific space to telework).
Similarly, teleworking can risk sedentary life, loss of social ties and therefore isolation. This fear is shared by 46% of managers. In addition, managers tend to refuse telework for fear of losing part of their responsibility or lack of trust. Not being in the same space, communication is less and the manager will have to delegate to employees making them more autonomous and responsible.
Some companies that have chosen to telework 100%.
Since 2017, some companies have taken the initiative to launch a World Telework Day on August 4 to highlight this practice and its benefits. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to some companies that have chosen 100% teleworking.
Since its launch five years ago, Fizzer has been working from home. Employees are spread over several countries: France (six employees are located in Dives-sur-Mer), Quebec City and Bali. “The furthest away are in Quebec and Bali,” explains Vincent Porquet, one of the three directors, "so it’s 13 hours of time difference between these people, and we manage to work like that, without necessarily having a meeting every 15 minutes. Employees work at home or in a coworking area.
The Chief Operating Officer explains that the work within the company is done remotely and asynchronously while communicating with a computer that is on loan from the company and applications such as Slack, Whatsapp and Skype. In addition, to avoid the risk of isolation, an online robot has been developed to ask employees every Monday for news of their weekend and everyone is invited to reply. This situation creates a synergy between them and it is a means of facilitating communication between remote employees.
Beyond this robot, teleworkers meet twice a year for a seminar. “It breaks down barriers, this is real life,” explains Fizzer’s co-founder. In order to ensure the smooth running of the company, two routine meetings are organised: one meeting each week to define objectives and one meeting of managers. In addition, each employee has 30 minutes of informal exchanges with his or her manager to prevent potential conflicts.
Platform.sh, launched in 2014 and specialized in the BtoB cloud, has chosen to adopt the policy of no offices and therefore 100% teleworking. Thanks to technological tools and a sophisticated organization, Frédéric Plais explains that he is able to manage a team of 135 people in 17 countries. “We are overconsumers of Slack,” explains Frédéric Plais, announcing that employees receive more than 6,000 messages per day selected in specific discussion channels.
Similarly, there is a “commendation” channel to praise an employee who has done a good job and a “complain” channel to specify whether things should be changed. Another tool used is “Zoom”. It is a web conferencing tool used to connect employees during daily meetings.
The same goes for BoondManager, a startup specializing in publishing management tools that aim to reconcile the personal and professional lives of employees. With a team of more than 20 employees, the employees are all teleworkers. “This allows more time for personal life. We realized that we were saving a lot of time, the time we no longer spend in transportation and unwanted conversations at work,” explains Anthony Lambert, co-founder of BoondManager. He goes on to announce that the company offers certain rituals to encourage internal communication: saying hello in the morning on Slack, participating in fitness, meditation and taro groups through a webcam. Unlike Platform.sh, which welcomes interns and young graduates from the Paris region who occasionally wish to work in offices, BoondManager only recruits “mature people”: “We have two main criteria: being mature and having a life next door, friends or family”, says the co-founder. However, in addition to the common point of teleworking, its two companies organize three to four seminars (team building and workshop) each year to promote team meetings.
Teleworking is therefore still growing, in some companies faster than others. It has definite advantages but is not suitable for everyone. Some people prefer the setting and social connections that a physical office can provide. Others, on the contrary, will prefer the freedom and autonomy that telework brings. While there is no universal answer, it is clear that telework must be supported, both at the implementation and in the long term.