The limits of remote working in France

The second wave is here. While some thought it was gone with the summer, COVID is coming back to poison our lives. Since last weekend, the largest big cities in France have been subject to a curfew. No one is allowed to go out after 9 p.m. The exit certificates are back. While a second general confinement does not seem to be on the agenda for the moment, especially for economic reasons, government is strongly urging those who can to return to remote working.

However, according to studies, only one in seven French people practice it today. No one seems really excited, whether it’s the bosses or the employees. Why telework is slipping? What are the factors that prevent its development? This is what we will try to see.

A quality of life at work not necessarily better, far from it

This is what emerges from a study for Les Echos and Harmonie Mutuelle. It establishes that 60% of teleworkers are subject in the first place to renewed anxiety. The latter being linked to the lack of interaction with colleagues, the feeling of isolation or the influx of emails or the intensive scheduling of virtual meetings. More than 2 in 3 fear that they will “never be able to disconnect” and 70% that the workplace will lose its function as a friendly place. Finally, 33% admit that family relationships are also a source of additional stress, according to a study by insurer Malakoff. While some specialists warn of a generalized precarious situation for mental balance, the physique is also under pressure.

Increased risk of low back pain

These are the first unexpected results of teleworking during confinement. In July, as part of surveys on the behavior of French people in front of Covid-19, Santé Publique France questioned 6,000 people on the possible occurrence of low back pain during confinement or worsening pain in the lower back. The result is worrying. 10% of those surveyed developed low back pain when they had never experienced it before. Why ? When we went into lockdown in March, it was done in a rush. The announcement was made just 4 days before the set-up. So we organized ourselves without thinking about well-being and ergonomics, to face a situation when we didn’t know when it would end. In addition, the home is often not equipped with the ergonomic setup found in many offices. In short, employees are not fully satisfied with remote work. Employees… and bosses.

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Employers who are also reluctant

This is the result of a study carried out in September by Willis Towers Watson. 41% of employers are reluctant to develop teleworking, and 61% of companies have not managed to adjust their rules in this area. The reasons given, the loss of efficiency and the emulation normally generated in workplaces. For Benoît Serre, vice-president of the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH), “corporate cohesion is disappearing”. Last problem, and not the least, the legislation is still vague. If the employer is required to provide the employee with his work equipment, French bosses fear that in the future they will have to pay heating, food or Internet premiums requested by the unions. Unions actively campaigning for better supervision of teleworking activity.

Increased stress, anxiety and lower back pain for employees. More and more suspicion on the side of the bosses. Teleworking therefore has many obstacles to overcome before reaching a consensus. But the finest connoisseurs will notice: has there already been a consensus in France?