Teleworking: will office presence become the exception rather than the rule?

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The fourth industrial revolution is here. Since the arrival of digital tools in the workplace, the transformation of companies is unprecedented. Abolishing borders, reducing distances and speeding up time, digital technology has destabilized the entire organization of work. Moreover, when we know that the news generations aspire to a new relationship with work woven on well-being, what upheavals will the world of work face? After more than two months of forced telework, the question of the future of telework is on everyone's lips. Will this life-size experiment trigger profound changes in the organisation of French people's working lives? According to some studies, there is a good chance that it will. How are companies and employees reacting?

The Covid-19 health crisis having upset any organisation, containment has forced companies to introduce telework for the majority of their employees for two months, which is causing a real organisational revolution in the French corporate landscape. No one yet knows what impact this new way of working will have on the design of a company's operations. Nevertheless, it is already possible to define certain advantages and disadvantages of telework, to observe the reactions of directors, managers and employees to the upheavals to come, and also to try to apprehend the disappearance or not of offices, through several studies which have just come out simultaneously on these subjects, even if we remain at the stage of questioning, especially in a period of deconfinement where feelings remain particularly fragile. 

In Tech, 89 % of employees want to telework more 

By observing the Tech professions - the developers being the ones who practice the most teleworking in France - the CodinGame platform, specialized in the recruitment of developers, has realized an investigation on telework, during and after confinement: for this survey, more than 2,000 developers from 94 countries were able to share their views and experiences of teleworking. Before the Covid-19 crisis, only 32 % of the developers surveyed were allowed to telework. The remaining 70 %s were either not allowed to do so or did so on an ad hoc basis. However, following the deconfinement, many companies decided to rethink their organisational strategy by continuing to telework. Currently, 74% of the developers surveyed continue to work remotely, as initiated by the health crisis, and this is highly appreciated (average satisfaction score: 8 /10).
Nevertheless, if given the opportunity, 89% of the developers said they would like to telework more often. For them, the first benefit of teleworking is the considerable saving of travel time. Indeed, 46 % of the developers appreciate teleworking because it reduces the time spent commuting to work. The second advantage, according to 28 % of the developers surveyed, is the possibility of reconciling professional and personal life more easily on a daily basis. Working from home is also more efficient because there are fewer distractions and interruptions. In addition, the workplace becomes "mobile" because you can work from anywhere in the world.

Disadvantages? The study highlights some of the disadvantages of teleworking, one of the main ones being the lack of interaction and communication within the company. Some of the people surveyed consider that telework unbalances the relationship between their private and professional lives. In contrast to the 28 % respondents who believe that telework provides a better work-life balance, 29 % believe that telework is disruptive to this balance.

Of course, several factors influence the success or failure of telework: the employee's state of mind, the working environment at home, the family status, the company's organisational processes, ...

In another study conducted by The Kardham Groupa leading independent French player in professional real estate, the virtues of teleworking were discovered by all the people surveyed. (2) ! Based on 3 analysed items (perception of telework, performance maintenance and motivation), the survey reveals a very good adaptation of employees to telework, with an index of 7.26/10, despite a rather weak practice before confinement, and therefore a very satisfactory perceived performance, individually and collectively. 

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Leaders (also) believe in telework

This survey shows that telework will remain in the "next world". This is one of the main professional expectations of employees: nearly 80% of them want telework to continue. Across the studies, managers were seen as "up to the task": Over 80% of the respondents in the Kardham Group study felt strong support from management during the containment. Although managers came out of the containment period exhausted, they were still "up to the task": during containment, managerial relationships did not deteriorate, from the point of view of both managers and employees.
This study carried out by academics, under the direction of Nicolas Cochard, PhD in human and social sciences, and Head of Research & Development of the Kardham Group, with the expertise of psychologists, is only at the beginning of its teachings. The complete study is vast and will unveil all its contents next October.

In theThe BCG Observatory surveyin partnership with ANDRH (National Association of Human Resources Directors) on June 19, 2009. (3)In addition, 85 % of the HRDs wish to develop the practice of telework within their company in a sustainable way. However, they believe that this cannot concern all the functions of the company and they favour a hybrid model combining face-to-face and teleworking. 64% expect productivity gains and 88% are aware of the risks that this practice can pose to the sense of belonging or cohesion between employees. This adoption of telework must be accompanied by an overhaul of the managerial system for 93% companies. The new working methods (agile in particular) are also favoured by the companies that tested them during the crisis and wish to perpetuate them for 70%. 
93 % of the HRDs are also aware that this practice requires pre-requisites, such as the need to overhaul the managerial system. The role of the manager is being changed to clarify priorities, give more meaning, set clear and attainable objectives and develop teams; an evolution of working methods towards greater employee autonomy (87%), more collaboration between teams (59%) and transparency (59%).
Some issues related to the adoption of telework seem to be less addressed by HR departments, such as cybersecurity or the redesign of performance evaluation criteria. Finally, 57% of companies believe that this development will require little or no financial investment.

According to a further investigation made by the flexible office operator Deskeo (1), 85% of managers believe that telework is a real underlying trend that will intensify in the future. This view is even more pronounced among managers (89%) and executives (81%) than among employees (74%). Managers and employees would agree on an optimal pace of two telework days per week, believing that telework has no negative impact on productivity.

Telework rhymes with productivity: Far from procrastinating, the vast majority of employees (85%) do not see a negative impact on their productivity by teleworking, on the contrary. 12% even consider themselves much more productive at a distance, 42% overall more productive and 31% see no difference.

The same goes for managers and executives. Forced telework during containment has clearly opened the eyes of many decision-makers to the benefits of telework. Only 12% of them consider their teams less productive when working remotely.

Managers and employees on the same wavelength 

Once the health crisis is over, 73% of French employees would like to telework up to two days a week. In detail, one day a week would already be sufficient for 25% of the respondents, while 48% would opt for two days a week.

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Such a move to telework in the future would have immediate consequences on office occupancy rates. If we strictly follow the demand expressed by employees in this survey, 35% of workstations would be empty over a full week... The generalization of part-time telework may make it possible to optimize (or even reduce) office space, but under certain conditions. Indeed, if all teleworkers are absent from the office on Mondays and Fridays, the company will continue to pay for premises that will be half empty 40% of the time. To avoid this, the transition to a hybrid organization between face-to-face work and telework must be prepared and supervised, in particular by organizing a coherent rotation within the teams.

On the decision-makers' side too, the idea of granting two days of telework per week does not seem insurmountable... provided that employees are sufficiently autonomous to manage their tasks. On this subject, French managers seem to have a lot of confidence in their teams: 89% think that the majority of their staff are autonomous enough to telework regularly. Nearly one French manager in three (30%) even considers that all his subordinates are sufficiently autonomous to organise their schedule as they wish.

Don't touch my station?

In May 2020, a Deskeo survey showed that 79% of the French would be willing to sacrifice their regular workstation in order to do more teleworking. In the minds of managers too, this practice, often referred to as "telework", is a common practice. desk sharing "is starting to make its way! Indeed, 60% of them would be interested in organizing their spaces in "no fixed office" mode: 31% would seriously think about it and 29% would consider it. But 34 % are still opposed to it to this day.

Generally speaking, the impact on the total cost of the offices is not that great. Above all, the square meters saved make it possible to opt for a more central location in order to reduce employee travel times, or to invest in more professional, more comfortable equipment... For Frank Zorn, co-founder of Deskeo: " Between days off, RTTs, business travel, off-site meetings, sick leave and now telework, there are many reasons why a workstation becomes empty. Desk sharing makes it possible to rationalize the m2, but beware of over-optimization! "

Indeed, experience has shown that the reduction in space is rarely so great when adopting an organization without fixed offices. Firstly, because the number of posts must be slightly higher than the needs identified in order to leave room for adjustment. Second, because additional space is needed for such an organization to function: meeting rooms, collaborative spaces, quiet zones, etc. « The decision to move to flex-office should therefore not be motivated exclusively by financial imperatives. Above all, it is a way of offering spaces that are better adapted to the needs of employees.concludes Frank Zorn.

The journal of exploration and analysis on the Stream 02 architecture published in 2012 (already!) an article fascinating questioning the organization of companies: Does the company still need a workplace? After many years of focusing on structural, organisational, financial and human variables, it is time to tackle the spatial issue, taking a fresh look at it, to think of the workplace as a subject - its usefulness - rather than an object - its surface - and to make the company a place for meetings and continuous learning, a source of innovation and performance but also of attractiveness and retention of talent. A new organization of space must facilitate breathing between the time of connection and exchange and the time of concentration and distance - a breathing that is now essential to all forms of creation.

Julien Eymeri, organization consultant, editor of the article, explains the results of a survey conducted by a company manager in California, among his employees: the office does not appear to be a favourable place for efficient work, but the answers also seem to show a willingness to flee from everything the office represents: a dedicated and fixed physical space, invested over a determined and collective period of time (the "office hours").

In the Kardham Group's survey, the respondents paradoxically believe that teleworking leads to an obstacle to collaboration between teams: nearly 95% of the employees are eager to meet their colleagues, which says a lot about the social and collective vocation of the office. But beware, these social ties were often limited to the direct team, with 66% of respondents indicating a decrease in inter-team relations.

Offices in pain

A few weeks after the end of containment, the impact of the health crisis on companies' office needs is already being felt. More than a third (35%) of managers say that their premises are now unsuitable for their needs. In detail, 11% of those surveyed find their offices too small and 24% too large. The crisis has meant opportunities for some who find themselves cramped and threats for others who will have to reduce the size of their offices. When you add to this the democratisation of teleworking, more and more companies will have to change offices to adapt to their new needs.

The 7th edition of the Actineo Observatory's barometer of the quality of life in the office, carried out with the Sociovision Institute in 2017, provides answers to a number of questions such as "What is the environment perceived as ideal by working people working in an office? "Is the announced transformation of work spaces (flex office, open space, coworking, etc.), fuelled by a hyper-connected and collaborative generation of millennials, really underway? "Are space and time management the new challenges to be taken up by companies? ».

Until the health crisis, 3 out of 5 working people worked in a closed office, but 2 out of 5 were already ready to work in flex office (without an assigned workstation). New practices reveal that 32 %s use coworking, fablabs, innovation incubators (45 %s of working people under 35 years old); 1/3 of French working people working in offices wanted to practice telework and 25 %s practice it officially. Today, more than 1 worker out of 4 is a regular nomadic worker.

For Nicolas Cochard of the Kardham Group, " These initial results show that there will be a before/after spring 2020 for workplaces. Telework will develop and will therefore have an impact on workplaces, which are occupied differently. Our study highlights major trends that need to be questioned on a case by case basis, simply because each organisation has its own specificities and especially because hindsight is not enough. It will also be interesting to see, in October 2020, four months after the end of containment, how these trends are confirmed or refuted. ".

 

(1) Methodology of the study: survey of 2,901 professionals throughout France, carried out online, on the BuzzPress France and Deskeo proprietary panel, during the period from 19 to 24 June 2020. Profiles of respondents: 38% of employees, 34% of managers and 28% of executives.
Number of employees: Less than 10 persons: 27%, between 10 and 50 persons: 26%, between 50 and 100 persons: 15%, between 100 and 500 persons: 16%, between 500 and 1,000 persons: 5%, between 1,000 and 5,000 persons: 7%, more than 5,000 persons: 4%.
Breakdown of the sectors of activity concerned : Assistance, Administration: 6% / Building and Public Works, Construction, Design Office: 6% / Trade, Marketing, Sales: 17% / Consulting: 8% / General Management, Profit Centre Management: 5% / IT, Telecoms: 17% / Catering, Tourism, Hotels, Leisure: 14% / Health, Social, Personal Services: 9% / Production, Maintenance: 1% / Environment, Fittings: 1% / Distribution, Warehouse: 5% / Management, Finance, HR, Accounting, Audit: 6% / Metallurgy, Mechanics, Aeronautics: 1% / Logistics, Purchasing, Stock, Transport: 3%, Agri-Agro - Agriculture, Viticulture, Fishing: 1%. All the information put forward by the interviewees is declarative.

(2) Survey approach and methodology: Questionnaire survey (111 items) from March 2020 to October 2020, carried out (to date) with 1,700 anonymised respondents selected on a voluntary basis from 7 French companies with between 50 and 1,200 employees. Two response times: during containment and from deconfinement.
Scientific method with a first descriptive phase (percentages) and then an inferential statistical analysis of the variables.

(3) Study "The future of work as seen by HRDs in the new post-COVID reality", carried out by the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH) from 26 March to 6 April among 550 of its members.

Header image Photo by Zénaïde Gaboriau and Alice Leblanc 'Bureau', winner of the contest. EXPLORE OUTSIDE THE BOX on the theme of the future of work, organized by the French Institute of Design.

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facazenave@laposte.net
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Flex office is not possible in times of pandemic: too much risk of infection through the office ... as well as the open space and its air conditioning. Only the closed office occupied by a single person can still be used as an office, but the costs will be too high for employers because the surfaces must be multiplied. In the end, teleworking when possible remains the best solution. And for jobs that are said to be essential, but which in reality for some people are not (such as cashiers), individuals will be replaced by technology. https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2020/07/18/amazon-accelere-vers-un-monde-sans-caissieres_6046600_3234.html

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