2020 marked a turning point in the rise of teleworking in France. While French companies resorted to teleworking only exceptionally (only 29% of employees had teleworked in 2018, one year after the Macron orders), coming up against managerial reluctance, the first confinement imposed teleworking by force of things, making it compulsory, with personal constraints sometimes not very compatible with the greatest efficiency.
After resolving technological and logistical obstacles, teleworking was essential for more than 40% of French workers at the height of the crisis and won the votes of the most skeptical employees. Thus, a CSA study for Malakoff Humanis carried out in May 2020 showed that 84% of teleworkers wanted to continue to telework after confinement.
However, the teleworking imposed seems to have affected the satisfaction of the employees for this mode of operation. For their part, managers discuss the risks to team cohesion, loss of skills, etc.
If agreements have been concluded with the unions to provide the best possible framework for the practice of teleworking, how can telework be made to be a source of fulfillment for all teams? What are the challenges for human resources managers in the field? What models should be put in place?
Support for employees: new HR challenges
Imposed or chosen, teleworking is definitely part of a new work organization. Beyond its advantages, the risks of working away from home (anxiety, musculoskeletal disorders, sedentary lifestyle, isolation, etc.) should not be ignored or minimized in order to take them into account and provide adequate solutions. The first confinement highlighted the benefits that each employee could derive from one or more days of teleworking to regain his balance between professional and personal life (reduction of transport time, more flexible organization of working time, etc.).
Thus, one of the major challenges for HR managers then consists in offering each employee personalized support, while remaining vigilant about personal situations to offer the necessary flexibility, in schedules, missions and to develop anything that can help the employee. to manage a personal context while maintaining its activity.
Likewise, staying close to your teams makes it possible to detect distress situations that may emerge over time. Maintaining a visual link, via videoconferencing for example, is essential to perceive whether a person is in difficulty, and to offer him appropriate psychological, even medical, support. Fortunately, in 2020, infrastructures, technological tools and telecommunications networks make it possible to remain interconnected thanks to increasingly ergonomic, comprehensive corporate messaging systems (videoconferencing, file transfer, instant messaging) and, it is a new challenge, secure.
In any case, trust, flexibility and adaptability remain the pillars of the relationship. In this, we have a lot to learn from so-called liberated or empowering business models, where the meaning re-given to work unites teams around a project.
Flex-Office, a new standard?
Another revolution underway in the business world induced by the transition to a hybrid working method is the layout of premises and technological equipment in offices. Employees must be able to be reached and reachable from any position and have access to all the working documents they need in a secure manner. The IT Services Department must take up two challenges: listening to the needs of end users, who work daily with new tools designed by and for them, but also finding secure solutions to limit the risks of cyberthreats and preserve sovereign data. ‘business.
Moreover, if all the employees are not at the same time in the office, should we switch to a Flex-Office organization? This mode of operation may be of interest to certain sectors which have adopted teleworking, when employees do not have an assigned office. However, shared desks may not be suitable for all organizations. In many companies, workspaces are organized according to the work units and their specificities, the tools and equipment necessary to carry out their missions. This leads us to wonder about the possibility for each Business Unit to have a dedicated workspace. However, consideration could be given to office occupancy rates in order to optimize costs: where 10 workstations were needed, 7 or 8 will be sufficient. The creation of collaborative spaces, the development of open space, areas for reflection and creation, boxes where to isolate oneself, meeting rooms will also be considered. These new dynamic workspaces, by making it possible to leave a usual framework, stimulate creativity and internal cohesion in the teams, which – as we have seen above – will be an essential pillar in the hybridization of work.
Towards a hybrid way of working
However, 100% teleworking is not an end in itself. Since the implementation of the Macron orders in the fall of 2017, teleworking has been a reality for many companies. From the end of the 2000s, some had anticipated the need to change work organization methods by signing teleworking agreements very early on with the social partners. The year 2020 has made easier access to teleworking and has moved the lines. Indeed, after having noticed that teleworking works, that the tasks can be accomplished remotely without any problem, that the technology offers the adequate means of communication to continue the activity without experiencing any interruption, that the fact of no longer being moving saves time, and therefore allows a better balance between professional and personal life, can we imagine remaining 100% teleworking in the long term?
If the benefits are to be taken into account, they cannot however erase the need for social ties, for people, for exchanges around the coffee machine … however, they open up new perspectives towards a hybrid working method, where employees can adapt their workplaces according to the needs of their team, requiring or not their presence on site, but also their personal requirements.
In this new normal, teleworking must be structured. It is in this sense that the teleworking agreements signed by certain companies are important to impose a framework for both employers and employees.
Hybrid work implies hybrid management: treating remote employees and those on site equally, according to their qualities but also to their access to the company’s productive tools; ensure that the skills remain up to date for each employee, therefore offer training accordingly. The responsibilities of managers must evolve to return to the fundamentals of management: being the guarantor of project management, the development of operational teams, cohesion and communication within a team.
By highlighting the beneficial but also harmful aspects of remote working, a reflection on good practices and on the improvements necessary for a good acceptance of teleworking is imperative. The question now is not whether to adopt teleworking, but how to adopt it while guaranteeing the well-being of its employees as part of their missions. Indeed, in an uncertain and volatile economic context, a company whose employees are fulfilling in their work is 43% more productive than the average (Bloom at Work figures – Oct 2019). Thus the quality of life at work is a sine qua non for the success of the company. If teleworking is now widely accepted by employees, management and management, thanks to rapid and large-scale feedback, there are still many challenges to be met for the business world such as successful hybridization of work, offer the right technological and managerial tools to ensure the continuity of the activity as well as the well-being of its employees, in normal times or in crisis.