Editorial of the “World“. It is still too early to measure the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on the organization of our society. But there is one area in which its impact was both immediate and spectacular: the organization of work. The first confinement, decreed in mid-March, had the consequence of imposing the quasi-generalization of teleworking where it was possible, while the practice had until then remained marginal. In May 2020, 40% of employees in companies with more than ten people worked remotely, according to a recent study by the Malakoff Humanis group.
The second confinement, decided in November during the second wave, trivialized the practice, prompting the social partners to conclude, in record time, a negotiation aimed at supervising its development, in particular in terms of data protection, respect for time. work and the right to disconnect. The discussions, which began on November 3, led, three weeks later, to a national professional agreement (ANI), endorsed by all stakeholders, with the exception of the CGT.
The emergence of a dramatic event will thus have overcome the reluctance which until now has contributed to attaching the vast majority of employees to their workplace: employers’ fear of losing control over their workforce was met by that of the employees of isolate oneself from the collective. The scale that the generalization of teleworking has taken on in 2020 opens up prospects for transformation in the entire social field.
Risks of burnout
The management, first of all, is in turmoil, because many business leaders have been surprised by the autonomy of their teams and are now wondering about the relevance of maintaining a work organization that is still very vertical. In a few months, the role of the office was called into question, forcing a whole section of the real estate sector to rethink its model. In the long term and if it is prolonged, the rise of teleworking can also promote regional planning by causing some employees to migrate from metropolitan areas to medium-sized towns. Finally, it can help fight against transport congestion, at a time when the public authorities seek to promote a more sustainable mode of development. According to a recent study from the Ile-de-France region, a day of teleworking would reduce travel by 13%.
The perverse effects should not, however, be underestimated. As long as the housing is poorly adapted, remote work, experienced by some as liberation, becomes hell for others. There are also risks of burn-out, of erasing the boundaries between professional and personal life, or of isolation. This is why the experience, if it is to be prolonged beyond the health crisis, requires flexibility. Fortunately, the social partners seem to have understood this.
The other effect is to widen further, in the labor market, the gulf which separates managers from other workers. While the former have teleworked very heavily, employees and workers have only been able to do so marginally. Glorified during the first confinement, the maintenance agents, cashiers, delivery men, road transporters who had shown, by their presence, how essential they were to the country today have reasons to be bitter: they have been forgotten.
Other workers, whose profession is not practiced at a distance, spent long months in short-time working in 2020, some losing part of their salary in the process. If not recognized and addressed, these new inequalities risk fueling strong and understandable social resentment.