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Confinement: Telework and family life don't mix

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At the time of Covid-19, 76% of French teleworkers already miss their offices! Since March 12, when the President of the French Republic announced the closure of schools, nurseries and higher education establishments, the French and their families have been living in confinement. A situation that brings to light some of the contradictions in our society regarding the relationship between work and family life.

After less than two weeks of confinement, this is what emerges from a study by Deskeo (1), , who questioned more than 2,736 professionals about their forced teleworking conditions. A survey that shows a very complex situation.

Home office nation

The vast majority of French people rigorously apply the containment policy. Fewer than one in three respondents (29%) say they continue to work at their usual workplace. On the other hand, 59% of French people say they work at home and 11% in their second home. Of this 70% of teleworkers, 89% are not used to working remotely and are therefore discovering the home office.

Ill-equipped...

Among the advice given by professionals on how to organise themselves effectively in teleworking, having a dedicated room to isolate themselves is always a good idea. Unfortunately, this recommendation only applies to a minority of French people. Indeed, more than 73% of the respondents do not have a dedicated space for teleworking.

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What impact on working time?

With regard to the length of working hours, half of the French have seen the difference since the start of confinement. Thus, 32% of those surveyed feel that they work longer than usual when 1 in 5 French people admit to working less than normal. For the latter, the drop in general activity observed in recent days throughout France is certainly linked to this decline.

Lunch break goes to the ace

Even if they are at home, half of the French (49%) currently in forced telework admit to skipping lunch. In fact, 37% of those surveyed eat lunch occasionally and 14% continue to work at mealtimes.

More time to... work!

With the elimination of their daily commute, 59% of French people find that they work more. On the other hand, 54% of those surveyed use this time saved to cook and 52% to sleep a little more. At the same time, 38% use it to play with their children and 33% to do household chores. Sports (25%) and leisure activities (16%) are more difficult to access during this period of confinement, even though we note that more men are generally more likely to make time for them.

Away from colleagues

In order to maintain a social link with their colleagues, 74% of the respondents do... not much. Indeed, while 29% communicate regularly by telephone, very few French people use the technological means at their disposal to share their lunches (2%), happy hours (2%) or coffee breaks (1%) by videoconference.

In need of an office

No doubt few people would have answered yes to this question in normal times, but today more than 73% of men and 79% of women admit to regretting their office and their daily work space.

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Double jeopardy

In addition to the fear of being affected by the coronavirus, 79% of men and more than 83% of women admit to being extremely afraid of losing their jobs given the current situation.

Digital invasion of privacy

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of studies highlighting the invasion of personal life through professional activities. In a study on individual autonomy in the age of the smartphone, American researchers showhow individuals who agree to answer their e-mails outside working hours produce expectations of response at all times, which intensifies their work. They then find themselves unable to regain control of their personal lives.

Two professors from emlyon business school, Dima Younes, Associate Professor of Organizational Theory, and Ludivine Perray, , Associate Professor of Finance and Accounting, analyzed how the announcement of national containment, which could have reassured parents since it was intended to protect their children, seems instead to have caused widespread panic.

Social networks relay videos, photos, and comments expressing the anguish of being confined together. A video showing a father hiding behind a set at his daughter's beck and call was shared 72,000 times in three days on Facebook alone.
viral poster reports: "I just heard the President announce the closure of all schools... Reassure me, it's with the kids inside? "Yet we love our children. How can we explain these reactions? What does the expression of this anxiety to come face to face tell us?

New technologies have also changed work to the extent that they have made it possible to extend working hours, as in supermarkets equipped with automatic cash registers, or have made it possible to work at any time on platforms offering micro-tasks that can be done while waiting for the bus, or on any other idle time - as the promoters of these models argue.
On the other hand, workplaces have not become more flexible and family-friendly. Dealing with family problems in the same way as one can deal with work problems at home - that is, transparently - is certainly not legitimate in the workplace. We rarely tell our colleagues to give us a moment to deal with family concerns.

The family and, in particular, children must remain invisible to the employer. The employer can even develop solutions such as concierge services or company crèches to ensure that these elements do not disrupt the smooth running of the business.
When employees fail to make their personal lives invisible, they are punished. Gender pay inequalities are the most visible symptom of this - if only because the woman procreates and not the man.

Privacy Boundary

This desire to make one's family invisible to one's employer is accentuated with professional autonomy: the more autonomy we have, the more we will seek to reassure our employer about our dedication and availability for our professional tasks, and the more we will seek to make our family invisible.

The low participation of executives in organizational events such as "the Christmas tree" reflects this willingness to hide their family life - and therefore their unavailability for work - from their employer. While we do hear some (more rarely some) talk about leaving school from time to time, such discussions remain rare. Rather, they are aimed at making oneself sympathetic and giving a more humane image when one's professional performance is not in question.

As long as technology made it possible to answer e-mails without our professional entourage intruding on our home, making the family invisible was still possible. Now, when videoconferencing is invited into our home, it becomes impossible, let alone our curious children who parade in front of our camera during our virtual meetings. To show their devotion to their work, some would then choose to pretend that they want to "get rid of" it. Hence the remote postings that have been plentiful on social networks for the past week.

Personal Recognition

The second major mechanism at work is that of gratification. In a sociological study that seeks to understand why parents say their children are their priority when they work overtime without even being asked, Arlie Hochschild points out the value of focusing on the concept of "reward", which refers to a form of reward in French.

It shows that American employees do not always work overtime at the employer's request, nor out of financial need, but because they receive more recognition. To illustrate this point, she reports the words of a father who emphasizes the impossibility of dialogue with his teenager while he has fluid relations with his colleagues.

The author shows that these people gradually convince themselves of their unavailability, and begin to imagine what they would have done if they had more time, to create imaginary personalities. Confinement takes away this escape route that is work.

Vicious circle

If there are people who can still decide their working hours, the fact remains that, in the current capitalist system whereeveryone is in competition with everyone else, those who stay a long time to run away from their family problems force others to follow?

When it comes to attempts to reconcile family and working life, the term "burnout" is often used. The challenge is only greater if, in addition to our work, we have to take care of your children, teach at home, cook for all meals, clean more frequently since everyone is there, and manage the well-being and emotions of the whole family.

Generally speaking, exhaustion causes over-consumption which aimsat searching for a self that we cannot build in the time allotted to us. This is why we take memberships in sports clubs when we can't even find the energy to go, we buy books that we know we don't have time to read, we cover our children with toys hoping to put them at a distance, and so on.

Losing our self in the midst of this chaos, will we have to consume in order to "find" ourselves, and therefore work more in the hope of earning more in order to be able to maintain this infernal vicious circle?

Will this truce of capitalist time allow us to break out of these vicious circles? For the time being, we continue to act as if nothing had happened. But how long will we hold out? Precariousness probably won't help. The labour market will become more competitive.
The future will tell us whether the misfortunes caused by the health crisis will accentuate this vicious circle, or whether the truce will allow us to slow down and find other ways of living, other ways of being and existing, and to regain the balance between family and work.
(Source: The Conversation, editorial partner of UP' Magazine, 24/03/2020)

(1) Study methodology : survey of 2,736 professionals throughout France, carried out online, on the BuzzPress France proprietary panel, using the quota method, during the period from 19 to 24 March 2020.
Respondent profiles: 21% of self-employed, 79% of employees. Number of employees: 24% from 1 to 10, 36% from 10 to 50, 32% from 50 to 200: 8% more than 200.
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 respondents is declarative.

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