How does teleworking transform businesses?

In 2018, during this second edition of our Shaker event, we chose to continue looking more deeply at theme of the working environment. This time, we are questioning of ways of working by addressing the subject of teleworking. More and more companies allow or even encourage this way of working. Some key figures: 

  • 4% to 16% of French employees telecommute, 
  • 22% is the average additional productivity gain of a teleworker. 
  • 65% of French people who work in an office would like to be able to work remotely from time to time. According to a study by Ipsos.

We tried to find out more about this subject by meeting Maxime Berthelot, Product Manager at Buffer, an American company specialising in the management of corporate social networks, which has made the choice to no longer have offices, and with Xavier de Mazenod, founder of the Zevillage platform, a fervent promoter of new forms of flexible working


Teleworking: where are we now? 

Who can telecommute?

Even though the "knowledge" trades (journalism, developing, etc.) are more easily practiced outside company premises than the "contact" trades (doctor, farm worker, etc.), Xavier de Mazenod insists that teleworking is not limited to a certain type of trade or business: "we see that in industrial trades there is about the same proportion of teleworkers as in communication or creative agencies, that is, about 10%".

Why are our ways of working evolving?

Digitalisation has largely contributed to the evolution of work in general. But above all, it is a societal phenomenon, related to workspaces. Co-working spaces, day office rentals, working from home: today workers are tending to separate themselves from a single work space. 

What does the law say today? 

Regarding the legal framework, Xavier de Mazenod reminded us of two fundamental principles of the law concerning the implementation of teleworking:

  • Reversibility: an employee who wishes to telework one day can change their mind. There is no obligation to continue teleworking once the agreement has been signed between the company and the employee. 
  • Willingness: You cannot force an employee of your company to telecommute. It must be completely voluntary. Exceptions are made in the case of relocation of the employee where it is possible to propose it to avoid a dismissal.

The Macron Orders, signed in February 2018, have facilitated the process. It is no longer mandatory to obtain a company agreement and an amendment to the contract of employment in order to set up teleworking. "With these orders, all the legal and psychological blockages that hindered HR departments no longer exist and that's no bad thing", said Xavier de Mazenod.

Why make teleworking possible within your company? 

"For the past three years, we have seen an acceleration in the deployment of teleworking in business, all the CAC40 companies have put it in place and the corporate culture is adapting to this new method", remarked Xavier de Mazenod.

  • Improving the quality of life of your employees: a telecommuter reduces or eliminates the time spent in transport and therefore increases their active working time. Less tired and less stressed, they become more productive. For these reasons, there is an lot of demand from French people for flexibility at work.

"For the past three years, we have seen an acceleration in the deployment of teleworking in business, all the CAC40 companies have put it in place" Xavier de Mazenod

  • A strong argument for attracting talent: in the recruitment war, why limit yourself to the talents that are close to home? Many professions can be exercised remotely. Several things can help you to broaden your research spectrum and find "less expensive" talent. For example, in the case of Buffer, teleworking has allowed it to employ developers who are not based in San Francisco and find people as talented as those in Silicon Valley but at half the salary.
  • Increased employee productivity: the office has become a place that manufactures interruptions. Working out of the office means people can concentrate better; it is the ideal place for deep work*.

*Find more on this subject in our article: How are companies reinventing their workspaces?

The obstacles to adopting teleworking

According to Xavier Mazenod, telecommuting seems easier to set up in a new company rather than in "an established company, with management styles that are more traditional and face-to-face".

  • Fear that employees won't work: the question some employers and managers ask themselves is, "If I can't see my employees, how do I know if they are working?" This suspicion may be one of the reasons why the company is reluctant to implement teleworking. 
  • Fear that corporate culture will unravel: how can you maintain team spirit at a distance? How do you make sure that all the employees form a single, bonded team? It's up to you to set up weekly/monthly or even annual events like they do at Buffer, to allow everyone to meet and get to know each other better.
  • Fear of lack of effectiveness: our society is addicted to the question and answer formula. You have to change your perspective and understand that giving space to your colleagues is a good way of letting them flourish. It even seems that the problem might be the opposite one, and that employees become overzealous and work more. 

How do I set it up?

To set up teleworking it's better to follow a fairly simple process, so that you will avoid having to backpedal once you have committed to offering it to your employees:

  • Pilot phase: carrying out a test for a few months with a few motivated employees makes it possible to discover any problems and difficulties related to IT, security, workspace, organisation of management, etc.
  • Get an agreement with social partners: particularly when you are in a big company, it is important to get as close as possible to your social partners so that they have a constructive attitude. Not all confederations are in favour, but "union sections are asking for it because they realise that teleworking is a quality of life tool", says Xavier de Mazenod. 

"I don't see myself as a manager, I am really there to look after relationships, to keep myself informed about their lives, their psychological state, etc."

  • Involve top management: this is the key population that needs to be trained before everyone else. They must be trained in the management of trust, they must act as a guide for the employees, be able to recognise someone who can be a teleworker or someone who is less autonomous. Maxime Berthelot shared his managerial experience with us: "I don't see myself as a manager, I am really there to look after relationships, to keep myself informed about their lives, their psychological state, etc." A type of benevolence, which is the key word of a new form of more collaborative management.
  • Formalise it with an agreement: this will allow you to set clear rules and create a framework for implementing teleworking. Specify, for example, the minimum time to be spent in the office and recall the two principles of willingness and reversibility. Here, for example, is a memorandum of understanding written by Ucanss.
  • Provide the right tools: the right tools are as much the means of keeping in touch at a distance as the definition of processes that allow you to keep in touch with the remote employee on a regular basis. 

Things to watch out for (from the point of view of a telecommuter)

  • Be careful of isolation: we spoke about it above, but it is essential to think about getting them together with the other colleagues on their team. Either by organising a team building event, or by finding communication tools (slack, videoconferencing platform) that keep them in touch. It is imperative to remain available for colleagues wherever possible and to make an effort to keep in touch.
  • Be careful about blurred borders: because a teleworker works at home, or at the very least outside the offices of their employer, telework may be seen as an intrusion on their private space. However, a study by the Page Group has shown that 49% of French teleworkers think that working remotely has had a positive impact on their work/life balance. To avoid blurring borders, it may be a good idea to spend at least one day a week outside your home, in suitable co-working spaces, for example.

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