Many French people have tested teleworking during the first confinement and could keep the taste of it. A generalisation of telework, even if it remains partial, would have a potentially significant impact on the world of work and beyond. If implemented under the right conditions, telework can represent an opportunity for the economy, going beyond its current health benefits alone.
Remote working, also known as teleworking or telecommuting, was far from prevalent in pre-COVID France but became much more widespread during the spring 2020 lockdown, helping to keep economic activity going. Depending on the survey, some 25% to 44% of French workers reported working from home during this period. The shift to remote work occurred under unusual, pandemic-related conditions and was primarily the domain of those in managerial positions (66% of managers) and concentrated in certain occupations.
There is, as yet, no consensus in the economic literature about the impact of remote work on productivity. There are multiple factors at play: (i) the conditions of the remote working setup (tools, training for both workers and their managers); (ii) the organisation of work and management style (employee autonomy, output- vs attendance-based expectations, management's ability to adapt); (iii) the nature of the occupation (how interdependent it is with other tasks, how much creativity is required, how independently it can be performed).
In the longer term, post-pandemic, telework will also have impacts on labour market supply and demand, spatial distribution and the environment. Multiple and at times conflicting effects make it difficult to quantify these impacts, but they cannot be ignored. A massive shift toward telework would have significant aggregate effects on more than just how work is organised.
Post-pandemic, the existing regulatory framework governing telework appears to be sufficiently flexible to allow the practice to become more widespread, something a growing number of both employees and employers would like to see. But social dialogue in the workplace is vital to ensuring remote work is introduced under the right conditions, tailored to the characteristics of the company.