Return to teleworking: how to get back on a good footing?

Olivier AZAN NewsEN

FORUM – by Renaud Ghia, Tixeo CEO

By announcing a reconfinement during his speech on Wednesday 28 October, Emmanuel Macron has, in fact, relaunched the massive use of teleworking to fight against the spread of the coronavirus. It is once again compulsory for workers, whether employees or self-employed, who can carry out their activities remotely.

While for some companies the rapid introduction of telework last March was a crash test that they would prefer not to repeat, for others it was a revelation.

At the beginning of the autumn, some companies have indeed decided to extend the experience, on a one-off or regular basis, while 70% of employees preferred or were encouraged to return to the office 5 days out of 5, as shown by the Dares survey published on 26 October 2020, which questioned companies with 10 or more employees in the non-agricultural private sector between 30 September and 13 October 2020, on their situation and the employment conditions of the workforce in September.

For companies that had never teleworked before, this organisation could have been complicated and difficult to set up: equipping employees with remote collaboration tools, organising video conferences, maintaining team cohesion, managing to trust, not controlling too much… so many parameters to take into account for managers who wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible. The priority for the companies was to dematerialise the workspace and make remote collaboration solutions available. Most of them managed to do this with varying degrees of agility, which now allows them to concentrate on managing their teams.

However, the main element that most managers have tended to neglect is that adopting a teleworking organisation requires them to maintain their habits and the daily links that unite the members of a team.

In order to telework effectively without employees losing their bearings, it is essential to continue to apply the rules and habits of the office, especially those related to working hours by inviting them to join and leave a virtual open-space for example, or to connect to their computer at set times as they would do at the office. In this way, the boundary between personal and professional life is respected, while formalising the right to disconnection.

Staying connected to avoid isolation and strengthen team cohesion…

According to an Ifop perception study on the impact of the crisis on all dimensions of occupational health carried out on a representative sample of 3,504 employees of private sector companies from 19 June to 15 July 2020 by Malakoff Humanis’ Comptoir de la nouvelle entreprise, one employee in five declared feeling more isolated during the crisis.

Indeed, many people felt abandoned, demotivated and alone in front of their computers. A single meeting in the morning or evening to take stock of the situation with their team is not enough to maintain team cohesion and only isolates employees the rest of the time; this is the main mistake that most companies have made in the sudden deployment of their teleworking organisation. It is important to maintain continuous contact throughout the day to avoid this feeling of loneliness and maintain a sense of belonging to the group. The company is a place of exchange and social relations that must be preserved in this new organisation, all the more so if teleworking is to be used in the long term.

Just like the coffee break, employees need informal and convivial moments of discussion to motivate and support each other and to maintain a team spirit. A virtual open-space where employees can stay connected and exchange ideas throughout the day is one example of solutions to enable employees to be together, even if they are far away.

…thanks to an adapted and secure video collaboration solution

For some companies, the choice of collaboration tools during containment had to be made in a hurry and without really taking the time to identify their needs and problems. This may, for example, explain the problems of isolation or the computer attacks that have been amplified during this critical period.

In order to regain a feeling close to that provided by a real work environment, it is essential to choose a videoconferencing tool that is reliable, easy to use, simple to deploy, and equipped with numerous collaboration functionalities, such as office and document sharing, file transfer or instant messaging.

The exponential increase in attacks and the bad practices observed in teleworking during containment took most French IT managers by surprise, according to the study “When the World stayed Home” published by Tanium and conducted among more than a thousand managers (CEO, CIO/DSI, CTO) of medium and large companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France (250 people) during the weeks of containment at the height of the global pandemic.

The implementation of telework must not hide the risks that this type of collaboration can pose to companies, such as industrial espionage. It is essential to be regularly informed about the protection of one’s information system. When employees are spread out in different locations, security must be optimal and be the subject of particular attention. A secure VPN is essential, as well as a company-specific cloud.

Both for reasons of compliance with the RGPD and for the security of the company and that of its customers, it is advisable to deploy the most reliable and secure solutions on the market, particularly those labelled by the French National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (ANSSI).  Such a strategy offers protection for sensitive data, which represent a prime target for hackers because of their economic value.

Similarly, the confidentiality of communications must not be neglected. Solutions that offer end-to-end encryption of communications (video, audio and data) regardless of the number of employees connected are to be favoured, as they only allow the sender and receiver(s) to decrypt the data without any decryption phase between the correspondents. It must prevent any electronic eavesdropping, including by telecommunications and Internet access providers and even by the publisher of videoconferencing solutions. Thus, no one is able to access the encryption keys needed to decrypt the conversation.

The spring confinement period was an initial test for companies, allowing them to take a step back from the good practices to adopt in such circumstances. Given this experience, they will be able to face the difficult period ahead with more expertise and mastery in the organisation of telework. Once the days are better, it would not be surprising if some of them adopt this model permanently.