“Work can no longer be a bunker that turns its back on the rest of life”

According to sociologist Bruno Marzloff, author of Without fixed desk (FYP, 2013), teleworking directs us towards a great ideological fight and management rules that will have to be reinvented.

What was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the organization of work?

On March 15, 2020, we brutally freed ourselves from a century of Fordism [la production standardisée mise en pratique par Henry Ford aux Etats-Unis]. This model was held by its buttresses: social protection, paid holidays, retirement. With confinement, we go from a temporal and spatial structuring still linked to the factory with the metro-work-sleep routine to workers who leave their headquarters en masse to be behind their screens. Digital technology had been around for twenty-five years already, but it is as if its familiarization and integration had suddenly arisen.

Have we taken an irreversible step?

A large company will no longer be able not to integrate teleworking, the fruit is ripe to pick. Despite the difficulties of coexistence in the same site of family and professional activities, the model worked and even proved to be formidably effective in terms of productivity.

An American study analyzed the emails and professional agendas shared by 3.1 million employees in the United States, Europe and the Middle East over a period of sixteen weeks, including those of confinement. Remote employees work an average of forty-eight minutes more per day. The development of teleworking also makes it possible to reduce real estate costs. The Salesforce tower, symbol of the power of tech, in San Francisco (California), has been emptied: the cloud giant will not force its 10,000 employees to return to work on site.

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Neologisms already describe the dismemberment of workspaces: we speak of ” firms from nowhere “, Literally” companies out of nowhere “, from” zoom towns[la tendance à s’installer dans des villes moyennes]. We are moving towards an evolution of the functionality of the headquarters, a drastic reduction of the office space, accompanied by an archipelago of workspaces. Expect a new generation of places that will allow you to work when you’re not in the office. The regrouping of professional activities will take place in a chain of various locations to be built between the employer’s headquarters and the residences of the working people, with effects on transport and residential location. Work can no longer be a bunker that turns its back on the rest of life.

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Will management evolve with hybrid organizations?

We are leaving the Fordist model of industry for a model that is no doubt also Fordist: it is not because we are no longer at headquarters that we are no longer under control. Teleworkers can be subjected to an invisible but powerful injunction to be in front of the screen, with Fordism control techniques that endure in other forms. The middle management is taken aback, its organizational conditions are reduced to dust in the face of the rout of the troops. The rules of management must be reinvented, and it will not be easy. We are heading towards a major ideological battle, with on the one hand a management that supports flexibility by empowering employees and developing confidence, and on the other a strengthening of remote surveillance practices.