The 2013/03/21 at 08:17
Thalès, Alcatel, Renault, Arkema, Michelin… As well as being well-known structures, these companies have another common point: they offer telecommuting, a practice that is expanding widely in France. Even though in this domain, major French companies are still far behind Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian countries where the rate of long-distance workers ranges from 20 % to 35 %, the trend is gaining ground. Between 2009 and 2012, the proportion of telecommuters went up from 8.9 % to 12.4 % of the French working population. But despite the Warsmann Bill dating from March 2012 that officially introduced telecommuting into the Code du Travail (French Employment Code), companies are still slow to sign agreements. The OBERGO (Observatoire du Télétravail, des Conditions de Travail et de l’Ergostressie or the French Observatory on Telecommuting, Working Conditions and Ergostress) indicates that a vast majority of the 1,500 companies with over 1,000 employees still have not taken the necessary steps in this domain.
The advantages of telecommuting are many, for employers as well as for employees, and more and more company heads are becoming aware of this fact. “In this digital and knowledge-society era, telecommuting is foremost amongst the new forms of work, not only in large urban centres but also in rural territories,” puts forward Bernard Delcros, President of the Murat Communauté de Communes (association of municipalities) which organises, every year, the Forum du Télétravail (Telecommuting Forum), the only national-scale event for this domain, alongside a number of partners such as the CCI of Cantal. According to a survey carried out in 2012 by the Greenworking firm, this working mode offers an average gain in productivity of +22 %. Other estimations advance an increase of productivity from 20 % to 30 %, depending on the case.
72 % of employees in the Île-de-France region (including Paris) declare themselves to be interested in this practice. Reduced absenteeism, greater efficiency and improved concentration, not forgetting time savings and extra sleep, are amongst the main assets. Telecommuters sleep an average of 45 minutes more every night, and an extra 37 minutes per day are devoted to family time. The satisfaction rate regarding telecommuting globally comes to 96 % according to the Greenworking survey, and is shared by telecommuters as well as managers and employers. But this practice entails a new relationship to work and a new managerial model grounded on trust and autonomy, at loggerheads with the French culture often based on control.
According to a report by INSEE, absenteeism even tends to disappear with telecommuting. The Greenworking survey nevertheless specifies that despite these advantages, telecommuting cannot be generalised to all companies, all roles or all individuals. Its benefits diminish as the proportion of telecommuters and the telecommuting rate increase. The optimal proportion of telecommuters in an organisation is thought to be 25 %, and the ideal telecommuting rate, 30 %.
There remain various hindrances to telecommuting, on the legal, political as well as cultural level. Poor knowledge about responsibilities, namely in the event of workplace accidents, a lack of tax incentives offered by authorities, and an underestimation of the advantages of this working mode too often assimilated to absence, prevent this trend from really taking off. “Yet results are more and more encouraging,” observes Bernard Delcros. The Forum du Télétravail increases publicity on the assets of this working mode and fights against common wrong perceptions. “We wish to continue to be a source of inspiration for other French regions, an engine for local dynamism, and a support for all telecommuting project owners,” he continues. As well as the important stakes it can represent in rural zones, telecommuting is developing in dedicated centres.
Crédit Agricole SA has developed a telecommuting centre situated in Saint Quentin en Yvelines where employees in the west of the Paris region can meet once a month. SFR has also launched a telecommuting experiment with some 150 volunteer employees. The Centre d’Analyse Stratégique (Centre for Strategic Analysis, a public research-based institution) is extremely optimistic about the development of this working mode. In its opinion, almost 50 % of the working population may be concerned in the next few years.