July and August are often the time to take stock of the past year. 2022 is a particularly atypical year, with almost two years of remote working that have brought about many changes within companies.
It is difficult for some employees to figure “returning” to the office without a day of teleworking, and difficult for others to envisage extending it. However, companies have been able to adapt and could perpetuate this new way of working according to their employees’ affinities. In this article, we present the preconceived ideas that can be an obstacle to this new work organization.
The COVID-19 Pandemic as a Starting Point for remote work
All countries for which comparable data are available experienced an increase in telework rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the extent of the increase varied significantly by country. According to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures in Australia, France, and the UK, 47% of employees teleworked during the 2020 confinements. In Japan, which has not instituted widespread lockdowns, the telecommuting rate increased from 10% to 28% between December 2019 and May 2020.
Digital sectors most impacted by telework
Digital-intensive industries such as information and communication services, professional, scientific and technical services, had the highest rates of telecommuting during the pandemic, with more than 50 percent of employees using telecommuting on average.
Larger companies more prepared to telework
Telecommuting rates during the pandemic were higher in larger companies than in smaller ones, reflecting lower digital adoption in the latter and their specialization in activities less amenable to remote work.
Teleworking is most common among senior managers
Workers with higher skill levels were more likely to telework during the pandemic. In the U.S., for example, those with a master’s degree or doctorate had a telecommuting rate 15 times higher than low-skilled employees.
Misconceptions about remote work, debunked
Although it is now well accepted by all organizations and companies, some concerns about the disadvantages of teleworking keep coming up.
Remote work makes it too hard to manage and measure performances
Most managerial challenges can be solved through training. Training managers to follow projects without being in physical contact with their teams is a practice that can be learned. To do this, it is first necessary to deconstruct an idea that persists in the collective imagination: that face-to-face meetings and time spent in the “office” are a guarantee of efficiency.
As the discussions on the adoption of the 4-day week in England and Germany show, time spent at work is not necessarily the most accurate indicator of productivity. Business leaders, organizational leaders and managers are entering a decisive phase in reimagining work. Measuring performance should not focus on the time employees spend on their tasks but on the efficiency of their output. So organizing an effective remote monitoring is within the reach of each team, and this requires the adoption of new working tools as well as effective communication points between teams and managers.
Face-to-face work would facilitate innovation
Inspiration, like lightning, can strike unpredictably. But there are other ways to create the right conditions for inspiration than physically gathering everyone in one place for days and hoping to create the spark of genius.
Defined and intentional brainstorming sessions with a structured agenda allow you to focus and develop ideas that could revolutionize your projects. Open discussion time before or after virtual meetings gives everyone easy informal access to leaders. Internal communication channels and discussion forums like Slack can serve as virtual corridors to spark good ideas. This allows everyone with ideas to share them, not just those who are traditionally more listened to in the organization to have their voices heard.
The most engaged employees would be those who want to come back to the office
Numerous studies showing that home-based workers put in more hours than in the office suggest that no, employees who don’t want to return to the office are no less invested than others. In fact, those who don’t want to work more don’t want to do less but want to work better and more efficiently.
Getting up early for work is helpful if you need to talk to people in a different time zone or if that’s when you’re sharpest. But having flexible hours also serves a purpose: to minimize fatigue and scheduling conflicts.
An employee’s commitment can then be undermined by adding more difficult working conditions such as longer commuting times, early start times, weekly meetings with no agenda…
Teleworkers, disconnected from the realities of their colleagues in the office?
Digital communication channels can compensate for much of the informal daily encounters in the hallways and on coffee breaks… They are accessible to everyone, regardless of location, status, mobility… But they can’t offer the full 4D immersion of non-verbal human communication, and they don’t work as well for new employees with no established relationships. Telecommuting doesn’t mean eliminating all face time. In fact, if you bring a new employee into your organization, you may well offer them a week of face-to-face orientation before switching to full or partial telecommuting.
Is telecommuting preferred by all employees?
The answer is: Wrong! Many employees can’t stand it anymore. They need to reconnect with their colleagues and their professional environment. Because if telecommuting, which many have discovered with the covid, has made followers, the 100% is much less popular. According to an Ifop survey published at the beginning of December, only 8% of Paris employees want to work exclusively from home. Meeting up with colleagues regularly and being able to exchange IRL* (In Real Life) with managers or clients remains a privileged moment appreciated by many.
Conclusion: how can telework be leveraged?
In many cases, the problems cited for teleworking – presenteeism, inequality, disengagement, lack of visibility – already existed with the traditional face-to-face model. Remote work, properly implemented, is increasingly a key feature of some candidates’ preferred choice. We just need to learn how to use it properly and adapt to everyone’s needs.
Telecommuting, which is being experimented with by most large companies, is a significant advantage in the search for new talent. The restructuring of needs and job offers allows to widen the perimeter of candidates’ search to focus on raw skills without compromise. Purely practical aspects such as geographical location or the fact of being motorized are no longer obstacles to hiring. The advent of telecommuting is reshuffling the deck in the search for new talent and allowing companies to find and select custom skills before focusing on a profile.