Telecommuting: The Panacea? Well-being? Loneliness?

Telecommuting is often considered from the perspective of improving quality of life. No more crowded commutes, time saved on travel… The possibility to adjust schedules according to family rhythms… But telecommuting has a downside that cannot be underestimated, that of loneliness and the difficult separation of private and professional life. Let’s focus on telecommuting.

SFL has just published the results of the 6th Paris Workplace barometer, conducted in partnership with Ifop (1,600 employees surveyed, working in an office, in Paris and the first suburbs) to measure the impact of interactions between employees on their performance and well-being and therefore what is particularly interesting, its corollary, telecommuting.

Telecommuting is often favored by employees. 46% wish to have the opportunity to use it occasionally. It is gradually becoming a habit in the workplace. It appears to be a factor of well-being but also of trust with the hierarchy. It can be observed that 41% of the employees in the Paris region surveyed work outside their office at least once a week, whether at home or in a third place. So it is indeed a new reality.

However, it is clear that the effects of telecommuting on the sense of belonging and social life in the company are at the heart of the Paris Workplace 2019 challenge. It does not only analyze the motivations or elements of satisfaction of telecommuters. It systematically compares this population with non-telecommuters on more than 50 items. That is to say, it does not rely solely on received ideas and goes beyond those systematically stated.

Telecommuting? Feeling of isolation?

The study found that employees who regularly telecommute (at least once a week) are more likely to feel isolated. Telecommuters are also twice as likely to “often feel bored” at work (34%).

Telecommuting: Fear of Job Loss

The distance from the company has effects that entrepreneurs often encounter when they go on vacation, such as missing an opportunity or not being there at a crucial moment. Thus, regular telecommuters are three times more likely to “fear being laid off” (24% compared to 8% for the average of other employees).

However, the survey does not establish the impact of telecommuting on the well-being and performance of employees. Regular telecommuters have exactly the same well-being score at work as others (6.6/10). They are also more likely to feel stressed. More surprisingly: they have as much difficulty as their colleagues in concentrating. As a result, telecommuters give themselves an average score of 7.4/10 for their performance, slightly lower than the average of other employees (7.6/10).

How to optimize telecommuting?

The new report “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work” proposes a very significant synthesis of the research conducted by the two organizations in fifteen countries, including ten EU member states (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Sweden), as well as in Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, and the United States. This report establishes findings based on employees using new technologies (ICT):

  • Employees who work outside the employer’s premises, including regular telecommuters,
  • Employees who occasionally resort to telecommuting and digital nomadic work (T/TNN).

What are the recommendations proposed?

This report encourages formal part-time telecommuting to help telecommuters maintain ties with their colleagues and improve their well-being. However, it emphasizes the need to restrict informal and additional telecommuting, which involves long working hours.

Disconnecting, a principle

If telecommuting develops, it is necessary to disconnect to maintain a separation between paid work and personal life. France and Germany are beginning to consider adjustments at the company level, within the framework of existing legislation or new laws. In the future, concrete measures could be considered to prevent professional life from becoming a source of difficulties: shutting down computer servers outside of working hours to prevent the sending of emails during breaks and vacations. It must be recognized that some companies aware of the issues are already implementing this.

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