TELEWORKING – “Continue to telecommute when possible”. This is what Emmanuel Macron said in his speech on Tuesday 24 November, without set a time horizon. In a meeting with the social partners on November 16, the Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne announced that these measures would apply “Until the Christmas holidays”.
Since the beginning of November, the Pros-Consulte platform, specialist in well-being at work, has been receiving calls distressed teleworkers small and medium-sized businesses via the toll-free number set up by the government to listen to them, advise them and support them. “They have the right to three free calls,” says Clara *, work psychologist for the Pros-Consulte network, interviewed by The HuffPost. She would like to point out that while the people she receives on the phone are not doing well, not all teleworkers are bad.
“When telecommuting has been thought about by the company, or when it was already practiced before the health crisis, it goes well. But when companies were forced to telework and transpose the same operation as on their site, but remotely, a lot of tensions appeared ”, Clara analyzes. “In the office, being available is normal. When the teleworker is at home, he is not free in the same way, ”she continues. Before concluding: “teleworking only accentuates already complicated situations, when social ties are no longer there to regulate conflicts”.
The referrals of calls to psychiatrists still increased by 50% compared to the month of September, reports a brand strategy manager of the listening platform, and, according to a study carried out before the second confinement by the quality cabinet life at work and prevention of psychosocial risks, Human Footprint, cited by France Culture, one in two employees is now in psychological distress.
Excessive visios and multiplication of calls
“I feel coped” is a sentence already heard by this work psychologist via the toll-free number of the Ministry of Labor. “Since the person is not within the walls of the workplace, they feel like they no longer have privacy, that we are going home permanently”. Examples of complaints: excessive video for nothing, or multiple calls over the same half-hour, when the employee had planned something else.
“It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t work, just that he organized his work differently,” warns Clara. Using the phone for urgent things, reserving meetings for team points and instant messaging for short information and to keep in touch with colleagues are avenues mentioned by the psychologist. “You cannot change the fact of teleworking, but you can change your perception of telework, ask yourself: what is important and what is not? We have to manage this prioritization ”, Clara book.
Among the testimonials of teleworkers collected by Clara, a manager also shared his difficulties: “He was fed up because his employees always said no to everything, moaned in video and expressed unease. He did not realize this degradation of atmosphere and, thanks to my leading questions, we realized how much work was too much in the homes of his employees. He questioned himself and was able to make a difference, ”she reports.
Connection time and right to disconnect
According to the “Barometer of the psychological health of French employees in times of crisis” carried out by OpinionWay during the first confinement and cited by France Culture, during remote meetings, 7 out of 10 teleworkers have in mind that many people do not listen or do something else at the same time, and 6 in 10 believe digital tools are used to monitor whether they log on at the right time. A teleworker also reported to Clara that her workload was increased compared to her normal job. For example, he had to manage more tracking tables in Excel, a task he did not necessarily do at his work site.
“It’s terrible this connection time while I work before or after, but the time I have to log in is also the time I have to take my children to school”, confided also a mother to the psychologist. The psychologist noticed that in women, the barrier between private and professional life is more complicated, when it is necessary, in addition to the workload, to manage the daily life of a home.
“It is difficult to separate professional and personal moments, the right to disconnect is much less transparent. We are constantly connected to our computer and therefore online to respond to multiple requests … ”. Alexandre *, a consultant in a large Parisian consultancy firm in teleworking for nine months, lives alone in a small apartment in the 15th arrondissement, and regrets that his “night” corner is, for example, attached to his “work” corner. No real office chair, table, or dual screen either.
Delimit time and space
In families or couples, closeness is sometimes a source of conflict, especially when everyone has to use the box and the video does not work, anxiety, or even sleep disorders. “You have to be able to bring down your emotional load: tell yourself that doing a video in a bathroom, momentarily, doesn’t matter. To help them, I ask them if they have a place to work for them ”.
Being able to demarcate time is the key, recalls the psychologist, who accompanied a mother in great difficulty: “She would not stop. Between the machines to start, the children to prepare, the mails to watch, everything was mixed up. She loved taking her car to work because that was the time when she mentally prepared for work. I suggested that he replace his commute with a 10-15 minute walk to cut through the house, and “change your hats.” She had never thought about it, she thought it was great ”.
“No more time outside of work to laugh together”
A phenomenon less expressed by men. “I manage to sit in my office and not take into account that there are people nearby,” reports a teleworker consulted. Men also suffer, but more from the lack of social ties. “I feel isolated, locked up, hostage at home,” a financial advisor confided to Clara. “I I feel abandoned, empty, ”said this other single woman.
The psychologist from the Pros-Consulte network recalls that this isolation sometimes prevents defusing misunderstood emails, which will necessarily be interpreted negatively under the influence of anxiety. Alexandre, consultant, confirms this difficulty in managing this sociability: “We cannot see each other outside among colleagues to share moments outside of work and laugh together. The link is digital and the break with reality is difficult for some people to understand. Fortunately, we are a tight-knit and resilient team who are facing this crisis with the will to emerge stronger and more effective ”.
“I don’t know why I work anymore”
Another problem accentuated by teleworking: the loss of sense of the profession. “I don’t know why I work anymore” reported this woman who works in advertising. When the social bond with his colleagues is no longer there to compensate for a lack of interest in work, some teleworkers question themselves, or even retrain. “This is not negative in itself, I am here to remind them that this questioning can also allow them other opportunities,” recalls Clara.
All the teleworkers heard by this psychologist agree on at least one thing: they can’t wait to be able to return to their desks, even just a few days a week, because in teleworking, not everything is good to throw away.
* First names have been changed
See also on The HuffPost: Do Bosses Trust Their Telecommuting Employees?