Teleworking, one year later: reinventing proximity management at a distance – EconomieMatin


According to one study Opinion Way for Microsoft France, 40% of French people consider the social link as the key to happiness at work. However, the distance and isolation induced by teleworking does not allow a real discussion between employees, as could be the case face-to-face. These connections and these weak ties have made conflict management more difficult to understand, all the more so in view of the obligation to work remotely, which remains a priority for the government, in the face of the spread of the virus.

For a year now, French employees have been living teleworking for a good number of them. And this situation described as “new normal” continues. The various speeches of the Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne, recalled the importance of remote work, when possible, in order to limit the spread of the virus. Today, the professional framework is a vector of social bond, whether in relation to its place in society but also between colleagues, which lasts beyond the actual working time. As a result, working outside the office can be counter-intuitive and make you lose your quality as a social integrator in professional activity.

The predominance of writing, a different perception

Teleworking marked the end of informal conversations between two doors or around the coffee machine. From now on, most of the exchanges between colleagues take place in writing, which can give rise to misunderstandings and misunderstandings; the written format encourages people to focus more on the words used than during oral exchanges.

Thus, whether with their hierarchy or with their colleagues, some employees may feel attacked by certain turns of phrase which, depending on the context, may be subject to interpretation; writing does not allow ideas to be formatted in the same way as speaking. Thus, the pressure and impact of the pandemic on mental health, combined with the distance between employees, can fuel more and more complex conflicts to resolve. The exchange format could then strain the communication and lead to unspoken things that could harm both the collaboration and the productivity of the people concerned, and extend to the rest of the team in some cases.

Man, this social animal

In addition, at the end of this first year of the pandemic, the morale of employees and managers in teleworking, for a year for some, has been strongly impacted by the crisis, the curfew, health constraints, and the lack of social contact. We were able to identify that in February 2021, only 33% of French employees said they had good morale., compared to 63% in March 2020.

Whatever the situation, the professional environment is a fertile ground for conflict. However, if they can be defused and resolved face-to-face, they are more complex to defuse remotely, and management teams do not necessarily have all the keys in hand to resolve them effectively; this is why communication has become essential to better manage these situations. Starting from Albert Einstein’s postulate that “A problem without a solution is a badly posed problem”, It is indeed essential for managers and departments to exchange information regularly and to know the feelings of their employees in order to be able to detect the slightest problem and attempt to remedy it. In a way, this distance is an opportunity to get closer and reinvent the role of manager.

Remote proximity manager

In the current context, the role of manager is forced to evolve. First of all, listening to employees becomes essential, to compensate for the absence of direct and spontaneous exchanges and the possibility of reading the body language of the interlocutor. This approach is far from natural and requires a new form of relationship to be put in place. Indeed, as analyzed by the professor Albert Mehrabian, at the end of the 60s, with the “3V rule: verbal, vocal and visual”: only 7% of communication would be verbal – namely the vocabulary used, 38% would be based on the intonation and sound of the voice, the vocal and 55% of the exchange would be visual, that is to say the reading of facial expressions and body language , according to the principle of synergology. Thus, 93% of communication would be non-verbal.

Remote management cannot therefore be modeled on more traditional office management; a relationship must be established and be accompanied by personalization. In fact, we manage a conflict or a problem better when we know our interlocutor, and his personality. To do this, companies can therefore set up tools to regularly survey their employees in order to collect their feelings about different situations related to the life of the company, their preferences, ensure that they feel in good condition to accomplish their mission. HR teams will then be able to analyze employee feedback, identify any points of conflict and put in place appropriate solutions to help managers in the field. The latter are now more in demand than ever to liaise with the teams and act as an HR field agent. Here too, collaboration between HR and managers will make it possible to optimize this management of the future.

The past year has been under the sign of distance and has turned practices upside down. Teleworking has resulted in a physical distance in the exercise of professional activity, which no longer allows for traditional management. From now on, proximity and knowledge between each other is essential and must be at the heart of management concerns. The work atmosphere and individual personality must be taken into consideration to ensure the maintenance of activities and productivity at a distance and so that work can continue to play its role of social link in an optimal way, even in a situation of distancing.