Working from home – the new norm!

The French government introduced a “remote working” law in January 2018 meaning workers had the right to telework. If an employer refused, they had to justify their decision. The objective of this law was to “persuade” employers towards more flexible working practices. However, old habits die hard and not much changed until the arrival of Covid! In an unprecedented situation millions of workers suddenly found themselves working remotely.

So what jobs are suitable for homeworking?

Home working suits the knowledge sector better, essentially keyboard work. Not all professions, manufacturing, retail, …can accommodate home working although this should not be an excuse not to apply some flexible policies.

Just as homeworking isn’t practical for all businesses (at every step business needs are a consideration), neither does it suit all employees or personality types. Common home working complaints were the difficulties of working around children, singleton solitude and employees with m2 issues! A recent Kaspersky research group involving 10,500 people across 12 European countries and Japan showed that 75% of people aged up to 25 felt lonely since lockdown. They described the first couple of weeks as being a nice break but the lack of physical contact and structure to daily life difficult to bear.

The many challenges of home working include:

  • Getting to grips with the latest conference call software, poor internet connection 4G/5G,…
  • Managers didn’t/don’t necessarily know how to motivate teams remotely. Some, at the end of the confinement period, will simply want to return to their old ways. Will there be an increase in Residency Agreements (Clause de résidence et déménagement)? Since Covid 30% of HR Directors have been confronted with workers having moved to another region and requesting adaptations to their working conditions! (Source ANDRH)
  • Technology also opened up the possibility of flexible or extended working hours! French workers have the legal right to disconnect, but not every employer respects this right and not every employee can self-regulate working time.
  • Homeworking encroached into private space, extroverts missed the office interaction and research found that creative work is best done face-to-face, ….

Home working for recruitment purposes

Some of us are better suited to home working than others namely those that can focus and get work done! Motivating yourself can be a challenge requiring self-discipline! Without the buzz of the office some will simply not translate thoughts into actions, postponing tasks ad vitam aeternam! Research shows that of the Big Five Personality traits, the conscientious types are better suited for home working. They are seen as more “reliable and prompt” and character traits include organization, method and thoroughness.

For companies actively recruiting, offering flexible working practices is attractive to the talent pool and also plays an important role in retention. Giving a quota of home working days to be used, is seen as more attractive than imposing the home working days. Offering a prime for working from home is also attractive.

Home Working Tips

  • If you lack self-discipline, have a timetable, be organized, set up a routine, have reminders of what needs doing, a draft agenda for the day. Good task management software exists to help you organise your days.
  • Your employer will provide you with all the technical equipment to work productively from home but it is also important to adapt a proper work space.
  • Working from home often translates into less physical exercise! Try to make up for this loss.
  • Stay in touch with people. Video calls are not the same as face-to-face meetings but they are an alternative.
  • Set rules, close doors, to avoid unwanted background noise : children, TV, vacuum, …).
  • During fixed-times cut out distractions, TV, music, social media, home chores, …
  • Try getting up and dressed at your usual time and use your economised commuter time for personal tasks.
  • You can work longer hours, but you don’t have to! Fix limits, timetables, hours, …
  • Look smart during video meetings, working at home does not excuse poor presentation.
  • Learn more about yourself and your working style and adapt it as much as possible to the home working situation.
  • Try the Pomodoro method, 20 minutes of focused work followed by a 5 min. There are plenty of alt. apps: Any.do, Be Focused, Plantie, Flat Tomato, Egggzy, Focus-to-do, …
  • Finally, seek help from your HR department. Most HR professionals are working on the subject for you as well as learning home-working on-the-job just like everyone else !

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Many of us have realized we can work just as well from home as from the office. The Institute of Directors found that 74% of a 1,000 firms surveyed planned on maintaining the increase in home working. Anact in a recent study found that 36% of employees wanted to continue home working 3 days per week and 56% wanted 1 or 2 days per week. It seems this hybrid working method may be here to stay, the future will tell! 

Written by Lynda Petit, a French-British recruitment consultant with 20+ years experience, CIPD qualified, member of ANDRH, based and operating in France.

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