COVID-19 and working remotely
The anxiety-inducing lock-down associated with no longer going to the workplace and meeting colleagues, as well as possible difficulties with communication technologies, worsen the effects of isolation.
One of the peculiarities of the period of lock-down, encouraged to continue afterwards, is the explosion in the number of remote-workers among the working population. Working from home has more than tripled, affecting a quarter of global employees! For many, this way of working was new and unforeseen. Despite the challenges of working from home, studies conducted post-lock-down show the following:
Working remotely has actually been received quite positively with 75% of the working population wishing to be able to continue to practice remote working, on an occasional to regular basis after the end of lock-down, even with the points of difficulty.
– Unexpected remote work
For many teleworkers, the requirement to work from home was an unexpected first. Ninety-five percent of teleworkers have settled in their main residence, a good half in a dedicated space, but a little over 40% without a dedicated space. And depending on the case, the teleworker was alone (46%), two (40%), or even more and a whole family, creating unusual sharing of space.
Thus, the quality of life in teleworking greatly depended on the type of residence and its dimensions, the number of people teleworking in the same residence, the existing equipment, business computer (75%) or personal (24%), individual or shared , and the quality of the internet connection.
– Unprepared teleworking
Support was lacking when setting up remote work. Fifty four percent of respondents to the Malakoff Humanis survey lacked support, such as training, awareness of the risks of teleworking. Sixty-eight percent of the newcomers to teleworking encountered the most difficulties of not having a suitable workspace or facing unforeseen technical difficulties in addition to their lack of training.
It must be said that prior to the outbreak of a global pandemic, many companies had not yet negotiated the implementation of teleworking in their company, and when an agreement was finally reached, many employees had little or no knowledge of it.
– A different relationship with their colleagues and their managers or collaborators
As not all types of employment are suitable for teleworking, it has been very unevenly practiced. Those in industrial jobs or with low qualifications, did not have the option to work remotely; therefore, telecommuting was higher among managers and executives as well as utilities agents.
During the pandemic, managers had to find new ways of working with their team, with ¾ trust in them (76%) and the confidence of their employees in themselves, for 2/3 a positive perception of the level of initiative and productivity and half for the atmosphere in the team. Non-managers are a little less enthusiastic with 2/3 who are positive in trusting their manager and 62% in the reverse trust, and a little more positive for the atmosphere in the team (53%).
– Benefits and drawbacks
The benefits are for all in the gain on travel and pollution. According to Odoxa, 2/3 have also found flexibility, time management and a better work-life balance. At the work level, many (30 to 40%) in these surveys appreciated autonomy, responsibility, efficiency, and creativity along with a greater possibility for concentration given that there were no open spaces and less no interruptions.
Of course, disadvantages also exist. Leading the drawbacks of teleworking was a feeling of isolation, distance from colleagues, especially since remote working was full-time. Monitoring the impact on workload or even time worked, difficulties in disconnecting from work, in the challenge of taking care of children while teleworking , has resulted in tensions within the family circle as well as the deterioration of psychological health.
Since the start of the new remote working global reality, many points remain to be considered and negotiated.
In the containment phase, teleworking was improvised which enabled companies and administrations to avoid a total shutdown. The employees got down to it with 25%of them continuing their work. But this unforeseen experience shows the many points to be addressed in order to move from improvised remote work to organized teleworking. Without claiming to be exhaustive, let us quote a few.
– Teleworking must be voluntary.
While not all jobs allow teleworking, we must address the problem of unequal access to teleworking between socio-professional categories.
Teleworking assumes good equipment and working conditions for the teleworker and the responsibility of the company for the costs incurred (equipment, Wi-Fi connection, etc.).
Partial, regular or occasional teleworking is in most cases preferable to 100% teleworking in order to avoid problems of isolation, loss of social ties, or even belonging to the company or administration, thus salvaging the work collective.
Support and training are essential, including technical training, employee education about the risks of teleworking and how to differentiate their time. A workload assessment along with the implementation of a “right to disconnect” policy are also necessary.
This learning is also crucial for the evolution of management methods: what is managing remotely? Managers must learn to have confidence in their teleworking employees by giving clear information on the objectives as well as the foreseeable difficulties; by developing autonomy and responsibility; by allowing expression from a distance, and by being a consultant and optimizer of skills. Quite a change!
We can see that, since 75% of employees who have “tasted” teleworking wish to return to it, and that the period of Covid-19 has led many companies to overcome their previous block against this form of work, many points need to be considered.developed and negotiated to allow a real expansion of teleworking, under optimal conditions for employees, allowing efficiency for companies and a benefit for the environment.