Telework was introduced on a very large scale in March 2020 and has become the norm for many French people over the last fifteen months. This new situation implies a positioning of the companies and new negotiations, like Renault which has just finalised its new agreement on telework. What impact could the generalisation of telework have on the development of our territories? This trend of telework is very uncertain, but it can have a strong impact on mobility, but also on residential and tertiary real estate. It represents a real point of tension concerning the development of the territory.
Telework, a trend that is growing stronger by the day?
In his previous work on Post-Covid scenarios and futures of work, Leonard took a close look at the trends that are driving new forms of work and his future projections. Before the health crisis, telework was already on the rise in France. Often associated with working from home, this new form of work is in fact broader, characterising the fact of carrying out one’s professional activity on a part-time or full-time basis from one’s home or from a place other than one’s usual office.
With a regulatory framework strengthened by the reform of the labour code in 2017, employees gave telework a satisfaction rating of 8 out of 10, allowing for greater autonomy, financial savings and a better work-life balance, according to the annual “Malakoff Humanis 2021 Telework Barometer”.
The crisis then appeared as a booster, increasing the number of telework days in a typical week from 1.6 days in November 2019 to 3.4 in April 2020 with a 50% share of full-time teleworkers. The return to normalcy brings the question of the “after”. On the employee side, 86% would like to continue to telework after the health crisis, 49% on a regular basis. In the case of managers, 67% are in favour of this continuity, even if there are some concerns, notably about the control of the presence of employees or the difficulty of adapting individual management to each employee.
While a consensus between managers and employees is emerging between 1 and 3 days and the share of “teleworkable” professions is estimated at about 62%, the life of a large number of French people could be impacted both in terms of daily mobility and in the choice of living places, reshuffling the cards of the development of our territories.
A trend that serves the urban exodus and reshuffles real estate issues
The impact of these changes on both commercial and residential property could be considerable.
In terms of offices, the new working methods will allow companies to reduce the surface area of their head offices. With a generalisation of flex-office, in addition to the possibility of teleworking for 2 or 3 days a week, Renault envisages savings of several tens of millions of euros per year. These organisational changes will involve rethinking the way head offices are designed, which will thus have new functionalities.
At the same time, residential property could also be affected. The continuation of the urban exodus measured during the confinements is still very uncertain, but could be reinforced by the choices made by companies in terms of teleworking.
This urban exodus could take several forms and have multiple consequences for real estate. First of all, telework could become a driving force to change one’s main residence. The desire to improve one’s living environment, the quality of one’s home – with a room dedicated to the workspace – are all motivations that drive people to move to the city. These moves could lead to gentrification of the urban periphery and thus create a ‘domino’ effect of population displacement, forcing some French people to move further away from employment areas. Secondly, the acquisition of a second home would allow teleworkers to split their weeks in two. An increase in real estate pressure with more and more m² per person could be measured, going against the objectives of reducing land artificialisation and fighting against the housing shortage. These new lifestyles would be a source of increased inequality and would become a real issue of social fracture.
What impact will these changes in lifestyle have on mobility?
These changes in lifestyle could force cities to rethink the organisation of transport. Indeed, as mentioned above, multiple rebound effects could be induced by the movement of teleworkers. In a change of living space, new methods of transport “consumption” are also likely to emerge.
From an environmental point of view, telework appears as a positive alternative reducing the impact of transport, without developing the issues of digital impact and energy consumption of housing. Focusing on daily mobility, if the urban exodus is confirmed, what would be the impact of going from ten home-work journeys to two or four journeys in case of teleworking from home? The ADEME has modelled this phenomenon in a study “Characterisation of the rebound effects induced by telework”, which it calls the “direct modal effect”. The environmental impacts associated with regular commuting to and from work have led to an estimated benefit of 271 kg of annual C02 per day of weekly telework.
However, living the urban exodus also means accepting to change one’s lifestyle. Today, big cities tend to have a “quarter of an hour city”, a living space where all essential services are concentrated in less than fifteen minutes walking distance: shops, work, schools, doctors, parks… In their urban exodus, teleworkers would move to what can be called “rural areas of the quarter of an hour” where, on the contrary, the essential services are no longer found in a space of fifteen minutes walking distance, but fifteen minutes by car. In the course of its study, ADEME modelled some of these rebound effects. The “modal chain effect” (dropping off children, shopping on the way, etc.) plus a “new daily mobility” effect could be responsible for an increase of 67.7 kg of C02 / year / day of weekly telework, i.e. offsetting 24.9% of the benefits measured for the “direct modal effect”.
New forms of work and in particular the implementation of telework have become a matter of concern for companies. The impact of these choices could reshape our lifestyles and the way we plan our territory. In his prospective works such as the Post-Covid scenarios and the futures of work, Leonard explores the possible futures generated by these major trends. Spatial planning thus becomes a new field of exploration for Leonard’s foresight teams. The objective of this new exploration is to question our way of thinking about the territory, as well as the evolution of the role of the different actors in the face of these new challenges, particularly environmental ones.
Clément Kériel, Assistant foresight coordinator
With the collaboration of Isabelle Lambert, foresight coordinator