Before the pandemic, people working remotely from home or another space outside the office was relatively rare in France and all télétravail (remote working) was subject to a strict protocol and agreements in advance between employer and employee.
During the months of lockdown and 'stay home' orders that followed, working from home became the norm for many people, and emergency protocols came into force to increase flexibility on this topic.
Since March 2019, the government's recommendation is that anyone whose job can be done from home should work entirely from home.
In practice, once the first lockdown was lifted in June, many people have gone back to their offices, at least for part of the week. During the second lockdown rules were more relaxed that the first and although people were only supposed to be going to and from work if their job genuinely couldn't be done remotely, in practice there were not many checks on this.
Data from a study the Labour Ministry showed that 12 percent of people in France worked from home for five days a week in November, compared to 25 percent during the first lockdown in March.
Nevertheless, millions of people have been working largely or completely from home for 10 months now and many people have raised concerns about the psychological impact of isolation on those who work and live alone, as well as the impact on aspects of work such as teamwork.
In response to these concerns, the government has revised its home-working protocol to suggest that people go into the workplace for one day per week – if they want to and if their employer agrees.
The revised protocol says: “For employees who are 100 percent remote working, a return to face-to-face work is possible one day per week at most when they express the need, with the agreement of their employer.”
Employers still need to ensure that health protocols are followed in the workplace, from distancing to hand gel availability and wearing masks for people in shared indoor workspaces.
Under the new protocol, meetings and group gatherings are still barred.
“Meetings via audio or videoconference technology should be preferred and face-to-face meetings should remain the exception,” the text reads.
And don't think that your return to the workplace will involve gossiping over coffee with colleagues.