While the government is urging companies to generalize teleworking since the first confinement, no figure has yet been communicated on the real number of teleworkers in France. However, it would seem that employees in the private sector work on average 3.7 days teleworking per week.
Whatever the numbers, it is clear that teleworking (whether chosen by the employee or imposed by the company) has suddenly become the new normal in the company. While it brings certain benefits (beyond health issues), it is also anchoring a new form of discrimination between those who telework (and sometimes feel “invisible”) and those who cannot telework (and feel “overexposed”).
While a third of working people can easily telework, more than a third of French people have a job that is not at all suitable for teleworking! And with the relaxation of confinement during this second wave, this groove widened even further; A sure sign of a discrimination that will last and to which companies will have to tackle very quickly to avoid the confrontation of two worlds of work!
This new form of discrimination will have impacts, first and foremost the creation of a new divide and a modification of the relationship to recognition. And it is obvious that the further we go on the path of teleworking, the more the gap will widen and the discrimination will amplify between those who can and cannot telework (since the first confinement, there are more than 1,000 agreements on teleworking which have been signed or which are in the process of being signed – source Legifrance). This is a whole new divide. Whereas so far the “only” divide we were talking about was that between those who have a job and those who do not; while fundamentally, the two models – each with advantages and disadvantages – should not be opposed. Some jobs can be done by telecommuting, others not. Just as some trades can be automated, others cannot. It is a fact.
Discrimination in the world of work has a multiple face
While the 13th barometer of the perception of discrimination in employment (ILO December 2020) has just been published, the figures are quite edifying. 24% of people questioned report having been confronted with both forms of downgrading at work, stigmatizing words or behavior and discrimination (according to physical appearance (40%), sex (40%), state of health (30%)). 42% of working people say they have witnessed discrimination (s) or discriminatory harassment. The next edition of this barometer will certainly include a new form of discrimination: that of access to teleworking. Because teleworking creates new forms of discrimination:
Discrimination on the job, profession or status: The gap will widen between support functions and production functions, between managers and workers, between blue collar workers and. white collar workers… The status and social conditions will become a reason for discrimination in teleworking.
Digital discrimination : Numerical discrimination is twofold. On the one hand, that linked to the difficulty of accessing digital technology which affects 16.5% of the French population. How can I telework if I am not equipped or trained in digital tools? On the other hand, that linked to the generational divide: Seniors vs. Millennials, Digital Native
Discrimination as to location : Is my “home” suitable for a work environment and in line with the quality of life at work?
Gender discrimination : “A woman in a telework situation does the housework and manages the children”. Still too much of a cliché in 2020! The theme of equality? opportunities, between men and women, faced with the possibilities of tel? work refers more directly to? the problem of the sexual division of labor but sees the furrow still widening …
Just as in 2000, startups have permanently shaken up the approach to work and the consideration of employees in large groups and SMEs, confinement is now revolutionizing in turn the way of conceiving the relationship with work, with others, in time and in meaning. Indeed, working remotely can lead to a confusion of places, a less structured and much more flexible distribution of working and living times..
However, by completely eliminating informal times, teleworking requires them to be recreated remotely to offer meaning, connection, a feeling of belonging and break with isolation (felt by 40% of employees in a situation of full-time teleworking ). These new paradigms bring new practices, organizational modes, professional relationships and call for new behaviors. The babyfoot of startups is now giving way to the culture of remote links. Now it’s up to HR and managers to create informal breaths to cultivate meaning and link and develop new managerial skills to break the codes of control. Indeed, if face-to-face facilitates or even legitimizes the control of employees, teleworking requires a change of managerial representation and reinforcement of the notion of trust.
Review traditional HR management and management codes
The very way of looking at telework has changed. It was fairly accepted in a “pre-Covidian” era that in a telework situation, one could have to manage children, the house, his medical obligations, … or simply that the telework day was a 100% day. without a meeting to focus on specific tasks. The spread of telework has changed everything. Don’t you spend all your days in videoconferencing now? The telework day has finally become a regular working day. This version 2.0 of remote work also modifies the traditional methods of organization of human resources management, particularly at the managerial level. Teleworking changes thinking about the use of time and upsets the boundaries between private and professional life. Remote work amounts to positioning the employee on a wire, the balance must be ensured by the company through the rules it must set. This is excellent news because teleworking, if it becomes a new standard, absolutely must be supervised. Framed to protect all employees and this now very thin border between professional and private life.
6 ways to reduce discrimination linked to teleworking
Because the hybrid model is becoming the norm.
The creation of a new profession : the Flex-Officer. Just as the happyness manager’s mission is to instill happiness at work and improve the quality of life of employees, the Flex-Officer will be responsible for facilitating hybrid work, ensuring the proper application of agreements related to teleworking and ” support employees both from a material point of view and for training in teleworking or remote work.
The rewriting of teleworking agreements integrating the notions of boundaries between private and professional life in one place. But also by re-defining the complex frontier between trust and control. Finally, agreements on teleworking which integrate QWL in Flex-Office.
The training of all : Because teleworking and managing remotely cannot be improvised, all employees must be massively trained in remote work, remote management, teleworking, as well as training in the use of digital tools. The training must transmit “the toolbox” allowing the right reflexes of individual and collective practices and limiting the digital divide.
Changing the mindset of leaders : it is essential to work on the representation of teleworking among managers, to get them to review their posture. This change management must start with the leaders to break the representations of a hybrid collaboration model that will become the norm. We must also work on the representation of gender; to finally get out of the male / female clichés at home and whose women feel an even stronger discrimination since the first confinement.
Model criteria and assessment methods : teleworking has this very beneficial effect of naturally pushing to review the evaluation criteria by basing them on the results. Evaluation remains an essential management tool, but a tool that must be developed by integrating new forms of work. In France, would this finally spell the end of the culture of presenteeism?
The creation of meaning and connection without the place : A new mission for HR and managers will be to set up a strategy for cultivating meaning at a distance, through communications, the establishment of informal remote exchanges (online sports sessions, virtual coffee , gaming sessions,…).
Teleworking and its supervision are a very good thing! We will be able to enter a new phase of the world of work based on a hybrid model: the Flex-Office, which allows more agility, more freedom, which will gradually eliminate hierarchical management based on control to leave the place for a matrix organization based on trust. However, getting ready for a new phase! And HRDs and managers are on the front line to avoid new forms of discrimination, integrate teleworking into QWL agreements, govern the legal and insurance framework, negotiate telework agreements and support the transformation of the relationship to time.
The challenge is great, because the expectations are high, as is the temptation to return to the pre-Covidian model. Business leaders must quickly grasp the subject to initiate these transformations, those who have anticipated it will be the precursors of new models of governance and management tomorrow.