FORUM – by Renaud Ghia, Tixeo CEO
“Telework”, one of the words that we will have heard a lot this year and which has become part of our daily lives with the health crisis.
Some will say that there will be no turning back, that teleworking will become more and more common, others will say that it was not a choice, that this new working method was imposed and that therefore companies will soon forget it and return to their office habits and to this culture of presenteeism that many of them find difficult to abandon. They are all right.
But if the year 2020 has often been a real springboard for this way of working, companies must today detach themselves from this first experience linked to the pandemic and look further. Imagine a new world in which each individual will be able to choose of his or her own free will whether or not he or she wishes to be attached to a fixed office when his or her job allows it and the social interactions he or she wishes to have or not. Realise the range of possibilities that telework opens up, both for their organisation and for society as a whole.
The opportunity to choose a nomadic lifestyle
The vision of teleworking that companies have today is limited to allowing their employees to work from home, on condition that they give them the address of their workplace for insurance purposes, and that they make sure they have a good internet connection so that they can collaborate easily. Teleworkers are still rather limited in their travel possibilities, as some companies, even in advance of teleworking, for example, require them to stay in the same time zone as the team in France so as not to complicate exchanges, or not to go too far away from the head office in case they have to go to the office for appointments. This particular year did not encourage companies to imagine teleworking in the long term, partly because some people may have felt isolated. But wouldn’t it be rather the general feeling of the population, whose lives are punctuated by many restrictions and long, confined months, rather than being away from their colleagues?
With the many tools available on the market today, the arrival of 5G, and the mentalities that will change, working on the other side of the world or in the French countryside will no longer be a science fiction world. This is already the case in large groups with offices all over the world and where teams in Dubai are exchanging with others in the United States, and it’s going very well.
But it is possible to go even further, to imagine being able to change location whenever you want, to no longer be attached to an office in a particular city, to be able to work for a while in the Canary Islands and then trade the heat of the islands for the freezing cold of Canada the following year, or the month after that. With the innovations that will accelerate, companies will, for example, be able to hold meetings with people’s holograms live to make the exchanges less pixelated and more palpable. No longer having to live in a specific place in the world for work would profoundly change our society.
Towards a more flexible society and a rethought urban model
Attitudes are indeed changing, and will make regulations evolve as much as possible while ensuring the safety of employees. The compliance of their accommodation with technical and health standards to be able to work at a distance should not go against telework. They will be able to choose the conditions under which they wish to work and the environment that suits them best, whether it is within four walls or on a beach, as long as the work is done.
In a society where administration and deadlines dictate the pace of daily life, it is time to think differently. In a more flexible world, the nomadic school would be more and more developed with the support and supervision of the CNED, children could learn wherever they are and from any device. A more flexible school system would allow the younger generations to be more open to the world.
We would see a transformation in the use of physical offices from workplaces to meeting places that allow people to get together whenever they want. Many more city dwellers would move to the countryside in search of a better quality of life, creating a real urban exodus. But what would become of the deserted cities and business districts already disrupted by the health crisis?
Greener cities with less traffic and more available housing, repopulated countryside, growth of small local shops, healthier lifestyles, teleworking in the next decade could move our society in the right direction.
This year full of twists and changes in our society is only the beginning of a new era. Even if it is not suitable to all professions, teleworking is one of the formidable means of reshaping the way our society functions, while respecting the needs of each individual. Today we are still in a state of emergency, but we must give telework a chance once the pandemic is over.