Are the French reluctant to telework?



► “The weight of the hierarchy is still excessive”

Jérôme Chemin, Deputy Secretary General of the CFDT-cadres

“For a long time, teleworking was viewed in France by business leaders and department managers with suspicion. To use a now famous joke, they felt that the term mostly meant a lot of television and a little work.

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The health crisis has of course accelerated the development of this form of work, even if we see that large companies have been able to organize themselves more easily than SMEs and VSEs, which emphasize the obligation of interactions between employees. But we have seen that for many company directors, whatever their size, the end of confinements and the gradual return to offices have been felt as the end of recess.

This resistance seems to be greater in France than in other countries, for example the Netherlands or Belgium, where managers’ trust in employees is more expressed. This illustrates the still excessive weight of the hierarchy here, the need for those in charge to have their troops in front of their eyes. However, we must also understand that they themselves are subject to hierarchical pressure and that they often only pass it on.

In fact, the organization of companies is sometimes so rigid that certain departments announce teleworking agreements, because it sounds good socially outside, while these agreements prove inapplicable in the field, the managers not being there. trained. We are also realizing that more and more companies are setting up “hybrid manager” training courses. However, the managers concerned have so far not received any training in team management. In a way, the Covid crisis and teleworking highlight the need to prepare for functions that fewer and fewer young people accept, believing that the gain in remuneration is not up to the hassle.

For its part, the government is not credible when it expresses its bad humor. He knows that he has no power to sanction companies. If he really wanted teleworking to develop, he could ensure that companies’ obligation to do so was enshrined in law. And not be satisfied with a framework which relies solely on the goodwill of the latter.

Only 20% of employees telework today. This is progress, because they were only 5% before the crisis. We can go further. Today an employee whose only 20% of tasks are allowed by teleworking will often be refused. Still, that means he could benefit one in five days. The CFDT therefore works so that we no longer reason in terms of positions but rather activities. We could thus arrive at 30% of employees teleworking. “

► “This reluctance comes from both employees and employers”

Jean-Eudes du Mesnil, secretary general of CPME

“This reluctance comes from both employees and employers. Teleworking can be applied in practice to around 30% of jobs, all trades and companies combined. Before the health crisis, it was relatively anecdotal. At the start of the pandemic, companies had to adapt urgently. Despite the health situation, the employees were enthusiastic, seeing it as an opportunity to save time. Then they realized a certain number of disadvantages: some could not carry out their work in good conditions, for lack of an office in the accommodation or because of the presence of small children. Likewise, those who need contact with colleagues for their personal equilibrium have found themselves isolated.

Employers quickly noticed that teleworking made it possible to run the business without filling in the gaps. What informal exchanges allow is no longer possible when meetings only take place by videoconference, an employee can no longer push open the door of a colleague’s office to move a file forward. Productivity is no longer the same, not to mention the difficulties in integrating trainees, young people on work-study programs, new hires … In addition, certain sectors of activity are suffering from the increase in teleworking: restaurants have seen their turnover. business down, just like dry cleaners or hospitality and office cleaning companies.

Teleworking, on the other hand, has made it possible to revitalize certain medium-sized towns, where workers have moved to integrate teleworking into their rhythm of life. It has become a differentiating factor in the choice of a company for the rising generation: young graduates do not hesitate to ask if they will be able to telecommute. In a context of labor shortage, many companies have therefore had to adapt by signing company agreements to include one or two days of teleworking per week.

In the end, the results are therefore quite mixed. Today, companies do not live with the threat, exerted by the Ministry of Labor, of a fine in the event of failure to telework. At the start of the crisis, they had adapted by investing in plexiglass, arrows on the ground, by modifying their processes. The government relied on companies to limit the spread of the virus, in a climate of confidence. This can be broken when the possibility of a sanction is raised. Especially since it is not within the competence of a labor inspector to decide which position is likely to be exercised or not by teleworking: faced with a computer specialist, the inspector will perhaps consider that he can telecommute. But if he handles ultra-confidential data, his employer has reasons not to want him to use networks other than those of the company. “

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