Remote work: two or three days a week for optimal performance

Remote work is likely to have a long-term positive impact on business performance. This is an observation made by the National Council for Productivity, attached to France’s strategy, in a report assessing France’s performance during the health crisis.

Eight out of ten remote workers want to continue

Part of the report focuses on the acceleration of remote work over the past two years. If in 2019 4% of employees practiced it regularly, then in January 2021 this share increased to 27%. Eight out of ten remote workers now say they want to continue working remotely, the council notes.

The use of occasional teleworking is in full swing: thus, almost 38% of jobs in France will work remotely in the long term. According to analysts, one percentage point of the share of remote workers in total employment will, on average, increase overall productivity by about 0.45%. Extrapolating to a longer term, the report says that increasing remote work from 5% to 25% of total employment could increase productivity by about 9%.

This is a very optimistic analysis, but analysts prefer to remain cautious, stating that this is a “first estimate”, which should be confirmed after the situation stabilizes.

Positive perception of the hybrid model

Judging by the previous two years, remote work is perceived quite well by the relevant employees. The CNP is based on an OECD survey showing that executives and employees generally have a positive attitude towards remote work, both in terms of business performance and human well-being. According to the report, this argument should not be neglected when calculating performance, as “efficiency gains are partly driven by employee satisfaction.”

However, 100% remote work is not recommended. Analysts say that employee satisfaction “could potentially increase if the rate of remote work adoption remains low.”

Beyond a certain threshold, remote work can weaken communication and reduce social interactions. So you can find the golden mean. For CNP, the ideal would be two or three days of remote work per week. These estimates are based on the inverted “U” theory presented by economists Antonin Berjot, Gilbert Sette, and Simon Drapala. In their opinion, the optimal duration of remote work is at the “intermediate level” in order to maximize productivity gains.

Thus, there is something to please fans of the hybrid work model, which organizations are learning more and more about.

Constant calls

In the face of all these points of view, there is theory… and there is practice. Indeed, the report does not lose sight of the fact that the impact of remote work on productivity remains heterogeneous depending on the nature of the tasks. Digital tools have their limitations when it comes to maintaining close and frequent coordination between teams.

While some industries, such as information, communications and tech, have large proportions of teleworkers, this is not the case for all employees, especially when it comes to “urgent and complex” tasks, the report notes.

In addition, the spread of remote work may even slow down the training and integration of new employees in the long run. According to the OECD, about 70% of managers believe that it is more difficult to train staff in a remote work environment and that employees learn less “on the job”.

Reducing labor costs

The report also takes into account the impact of remote work on the cost of work. Companies that plan to work more remotely in the future are 14% more likely to move, according to a Banque de France study cited by CNP.

However, the land restructuring could push some to “re-evaluate the location of their employees and reduce labor costs by having those employees work in areas with lower costs,” the report said.

On the other side of the Atlantic, such ill effects of permanent remote work are already being feared by American employees of Google who decide to settle in less expensive cities.

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