Friday, December 4, 2009

French report predicts 50% homeworking by 2020

A report from the French Prime Minister's office, published this month, predicts that as many as 50% of jobs could involve home-working within 10 years.

These predictions are surprising in view of France's relatively slow adoption of home-working or tele-working, which is well established in Britain, USA and many northern European countries, and relies on ideas that were originally promoted in the 1960s. The concept was initially boosted by advances in technology - the availability of the first home computers in the 1980s and public access to the internet in 1983.

Since then numerous social and economic advantages have been claimed, including job flexibility (part time working, self employment, job sharing, working in retirement, accessibility for handicapped etc), an improved work/life balance, reduced stress, and reduced commuting and its positive effects on the environment. Home working has been found to be particularly attractive to groups such as working mothers, who can combine a professional career with bringing up children - without the need to pay for expensive childcare services.

Among the restraints cited in the French report are management attitudes to home working, resistance by trade unions, concerns about job contracts and home safety, and poor quality electronic infrastructure. France also has the lowest level of employments among seniors (aged 55 - 64) at under 40% compared with Sweden's 70% and 62% in USA and 58% in Britain. The idea of working in retirement is virtualy unkown and until recently penalised by the social services, while both managers and seniors themselves consider they are too old to learn the new technology.

The Report cites the example of British Telecom where 64% of jobs are 'flexible' and 12% of employees work at home. This is in marked contrast to France Telecom, currently in the throes of privatisation after many years as a public service, and where up to 30 suicides have been reported among staff.

In conclusion, the Report cites some recent boosters to the idea of home-working and tele-working. They include the economic crisis, which as led to reductions in business travel and the use instead of tele-conferencing, and the cost of acquiring, renting and equipping business premises. Another factor has been reaction to the current 'flu epidemic which has necessitated the closure of offices and schools, with many institutions surviving by means of tele-working.

Relating all of this to the property sector, it is noteworthy that almost all new-built properties now include a 'home office' or work space in their specification.

Source: Prime Minster's Office - Centre d'analyse stratégique, November 2009.