Teleworking: SMEs are groping their way, under pressure from employees



100% remote work? Two or three days a week? Or back to face-to-face? Since 1er September, and the end of State injunctions, companies have their hands on teleworking. A major subject but also highly sensitive. And that sometimes turns into a puzzle in small and medium-sized businesses.

Perceived as a lesser evil imposing itself under pressure from employees, or seen as a tremendous opportunity, remote work is the key HR topic for this fall. Now that they are no longer forced to do so, some leaders are closing the door, such as Jacques Mottard, president of Sword, a digital services company created in Lyon in 2000 and established since then in Luxembourg: “We played along during the Covid, but in a period of stability, I am 100% hostile to it because productivity is inexorably reduced. But these cases are increasingly rare. In reality, everyone is fumbling to find the right recipe.

Sygmatel requires you to come back to the office in the event of an important meeting

“You would have questioned me two years ago, I would have answered you that teleworking, ‘it’s a thing for digital sores'”, admits Olivier de La Chevasnerie, at the head of Sygmatel, a Nantes electricity group (350 employees spread over 12 sites in France). “But today, it is a subject of no return, I have changed my mind”, asks the man who has been at the head of the Entreprendre Network for four years. The switch in March 2020 of 50 of its employees to teleworking was, as for many SMEs, a trigger. Its implementation, even if it does not concern the 300 employees in installation and maintenance, was discussed before the summer.

The principles were laid down in a charter: one day a week on a voluntary basis and after agreement of the manager, with a few clauses, such as that of returning in the event of an important meeting. On the other hand, the initial idea of ​​excluding teleworking on Monday and Friday was abandoned in front of the reaction of the employees. Case by case is also accepted, like this computer scientist who left to live in Saint-Brieuc, in Brittany, and who only returns occasionally. “His department head agreed, I let it happen,” says Olivier de La Chevasnerie. Teleworking is emulated by site managers (40 people) who would like to taste it. “With the crisis, there were a lot of issues of friction or misunderstanding. Teleworking almost became one, fortunately this is no longer the case, ”continues the manager.

BoondManager keeps its 35 employees 100% at a distance

At this software publisher for computer services and engineering companies (SSII), everyone is teleworking. No question of changing a work model anchored since the creation of the Brest company twelve years ago. “Since that date, we have never had a common office,” says Lucie Barreau, the marketing manager. Everyone works from home. Lucie Barreau is based in Bordeaux, one of the partners lives in Barcelona while another has always been from Brest. “We are all familiar with this remote working method. A messaging system allows you to exchange and follow everyone’s schedule. Video conferences are regular. We can even meet virtually during coffee breaks, ”continues the manager. And that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Three times a year, face-to-face seminars bring together the entire BoondManager team for two or three days. The company, which achieves an annual turnover of 4 million euros, intends to accelerate its hiring to reach a team of around one hundred people in five years. The ability to work remotely is one of the criteria. Each recruitment requires special attention in order to select sufficiently mature candidates capable of managing themselves. “Very quickly, after only two or three weeks, we see if the person adapts to 100% teleworking”, reacts Lucie Barreau.

At Semardel, we no longer fear the white collar-blue collar war

Semardel, an Ile-de-France mixed-economy company specializing in waste collection and treatment, is still surprised to have negotiated the conditions for teleworking with union representatives in just a few days. The agreement was signed on 1er September, with two possible days per week. However, it was not a foregone conclusion. First, the company did not have the culture at all before the Covid. Then, the activity is not predestined there: 80% of the trades of the company, which employs 570 people, cannot be done remotely. “Before the pandemic, we noted a demand from the support and administration functions, but we feared that this would create a divide in society,” recalls Bénédicte Maine, HRD.

The first confinement and its mandatory teleworking for some of the teams swept everything away. “We understood that it worked”, slice the HRD. And then the question of attractiveness to recruit talent also arose. A survey was carried out last summer among 200 employees, whether they worked remotely or not. The tasks were scrutinized, between those which require concentration, reflection and those which on the contrary require exchange, brainstorming, creativity. Remote work was also opened to managers, although the company refused it. In the end, 150 people practice it. A report will be drawn in a year on its effectiveness with a review clause. Does teleworking not risk reviving the white collar-blue collar divide? “For those who cannot telecommute, we are studying other aspects such as more suitable equipment or more flexible schedules”, comments Bénédicte Maine.

Sia Partners deals with the relocation of its consultants to the provinces

It does not matter where the future consultant that the strategy and management consulting firm Sia Partners is currently looking for will be located. “Whether he’s in Paris, New York, London or Marseille doesn’t matter to us. Location is no longer a criterion for our recruitments of top managers, ”explains Anatole de La Brosse, deputy general manager of this group which has 2,000 employees worldwide. If the health crisis has shattered its last reservations about teleworking, the company is not new to the subject. In 2012, it opened a first office in Lyon to accommodate its support functions and support the decentralization of some of its clients.

“The teleworking of these teams with our Paris headquarters has become the norm,” continues the manager. This year, the aspiration for provincial gentleness of several confirmed consultants decided the group to open two other offices, in Nantes this spring and more recently in Marseille, where a dozen employees have moved, including Anatole de La Brosse himself. . ” To prevent the flight of our talents is also the opportunity to find new ones in the regions and to invest in new markets such as the maritime sector, ”he explains. The strategy pays off: in Nantes, Sia Partners recruited two former talents of the group who had given up their careers to settle down.

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