Remote Work: Can Managers Still Act Against Abusive Employees?

The idea for this article was born one day last August, on a beach in the Var region. It is 4 pm and an impromptu volleyball match is being organized. At the end of the match, the conversation begins: “On vacation? What do you do for a living?” One of them explains that he works in the communications department of CAC40, and that he actually works remotely. His computer is there, folded, in the bag, between the melted biscuits and the sunscreen.

It's an exceptional situation, no doubt, but in Paris, this episode has stuck with me and I bring up the topic of remote working (and its generosity) with friends. On condition that their names are not mentioned, tongues are wagging. Mickaël* (hence the first name has been changed) is the “category manager” at the global distribution. On Fridays, he always works remotely. “Some afternoons, I play Play 5. I pause the game for a 3 p.m. meeting. The rest of the time, I touch the board on my computer to avoid disconnecting.”

Challenge: Hide Your Inactivity

In the age of internal Teams and Slack messaging, you might think it’s hard to hide your thumb. Not so. Some go so far as to invest in automated “motors” that provide regular movement of your computer mouse and thus make disconnections undetectable.

Here, the mouse “movement” is for sale online.Amazon

Jules*, a sales representative, also works remotely on Fridays. “I often don't do much”He admitted. His job is to hit sales targets, so things are simple in his mind: ” As long as I get to them, no one bothers me.”The same philosophy applies to Caroline*, an internal auditor at a large bank. She has a deadline to submit a report, which is already well in advance. So on this Friday in June 2024, she happily takes her foot off the gas pedal without feeling guilty.

It's funny, and I'm careful not to be taken lightly.

Alexis* (first name changed)

Exceptional, really? And at dinner with friends, the testimonies pile up. Alexis* is the chief of staff of a municipality in the Île-de-France region. Every Tuesday morning, it’s the gym. Not from 7 to 9, but from 9 to 11, at the same time as a Zoom meeting with about twenty other people. “I run the entire meeting on the elliptical and stop when I need to intervene.”

It would be an exaggeration to say that his relationship with remote work is lighthearted. It is not wise for Alexis to say that on Friday afternoons he has a habit of finding a conquest on the dating app who will come visit him. “It's just fun, and I'm careful not to be taken lightly.”

From “Full Remote Control” to “Full On-Site Presence”

What do these testimonials say? They certainly don’t represent all remote workers. The fact remains that these abuses exist and their magnitude is difficult to quantify, but there is no doubt that companies have already realized this.

We are thinking, of course, of American technology companies, which have struggled to bring back to their offices their employees who had been accustomed to “fully remote work” (working 100% remotely) for months. We remember Elon Musk, who in June 2022 urged employees to spend at least 40 hours a week in the office. When they failed to do so, he called on them to resign. Less brutally, Amazon returned in February 2023 to three days of face-to-face meetings. Everyone is officially putting forward the need to see each other in order to be more creative.

Even in France, companies are toughening their tone. At Groupama Immobilier, the remote work agreement was simply suspended last November. “We are going through a real estate crisis, and when you are going through a crisis… we have to stick together and that can't be done through Teams.”his boss then announced to Today in France. Therefore, remote work was prohibited until last February, which is the right time to measure the evolution of productivity and creativity.

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What has happened since then? Groupama Immobilier has finally resumed remote work. But when we asked what lessons had been learned from this experience, the company did not want to answer our questions.

Contrary to what you may have read in the press, companies are not willing to reduce remote work.

Benoit Serry, Vice President of the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH)

According to a study conducted by OpinionWay last October of 1,063 workers, 46% admitted that they feel pressured to return to face-to-face work. Another study, also conducted by KPMG in October, of 1,300 executives worldwide: 62% believe that working from home will be over by 2026. This is evidence that remote work can upend the…

Note that in 2024, a number of three-year teleworking agreements, hastily negotiated under the pressure of Covid, will come to an end. But when we ask officials involved in the negotiations, few describe France as turning its back on teleworking. “Contrary to what I read in the press, companies do not want to reduce remote work,” he added. Benoit Serry, Vice President of the National Association of Human Resources Managers (ANDRH), confirms. And those who restrict it are the minority.

“Companies have realized the benefits they can gain from remote work, especially in terms of real estate costs (since remote work is sometimes accompanied by the implementation of Flexible office, So the surface area is reduced (editor's note) and they want to continue to take advantage of it.confirms Maxime Legrand, National Secretary of the CFE-CGC Executives Federation. “This is not necessarily the case for small businesses, whose leaders tend to prefer seeing employees on-site.”a nuance on her part Emmanuelle Lavignac, national secretary of Ugict-CGT.

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As for some employees who tend to wander off when their manager isn't behind them, ANDRH's manager sees nothing to worry about. “Abuse is inevitable. Furthermore, we know that Friday is not the most productive day, this was the case before remote work.

Frank Mccarthy

<p class="sign">"Certified gamer. Problem solver. Internet enthusiast. Twitter scholar. Infuriatingly humble alcohol geek. Tv guru."</p>

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