Prime Minister of France Jean Castex, right, welcomes European Parliament President David Sassoli, left, prior to their meeting at Matignon, Paris, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.
- France is requiring eligible employees to work from home for at least three days a week in January.
- Other countries, like Switzerland, are considering mandating work from home amid the omicron surge.
- Despite the mandate, many blue and white-collar workers are shut out of work-from-home opportunities.
France is requiring that all citizens who can work from home do so for three days a week in January as the omicron variant causes a surge in coronavirus infections throughout the world.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex declared the new measure on Monday. This is the second time during the pandemic that France has set such a rule, first doing so between March and May of last year. Research shows that work-from-home slows the spread of the virus, and doesn’t hamper productivity, but the discretion is often left to employers to let their workers do it — and many don’t give them the option.
Additionally, Castex limited outdoor public gatherings to 5,000 attendees and banned eating and drinking on long distance mass transit. Schools, however, will continue to reopen as planned in January.
This news comes as France clocks in a record number of infections, averaging about 70,000 new ones a day, according to the country’s coronavirus dashboard. On Saturday, France recorded more than 100,000 new infections, the highest number reported in the country since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
Work from home helps stop the spread, but many aren’t given the option
Castex’s mandate keeps parameters loose for who can and cannot work from home.
Only 30 percent of the French working population worked from home during the containment period last year, according to a survey conducted in August by data platform Statista. Disparities persisted between executives and blue collar workers: 61% of managers and senior professionals were able to work remotely. In contrast, 95% of blue-collar workers either had to stop working or work in person because their jobs did not allow them to do so from home. For white-collar workers, that number was 82%.
75% of respondents to the Gensler France Workplace Survey last year said they were satisfied with their work-from-home experience, even though 65% said that they believe it’s easier to work together at the office. Nearly half of respondents wanted their companies to increase work from opportunities (49%).
Research shows that working from home does not impact productivity. A study by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that 6 out of 10 workers reported being more productive at home than they expected to be in the past year, compared with 14% of respondents who said they finished less work. 40% of people said they were more productive at home during the pandemic than in the office.
The news comes as many European countries are reinstating some lockdown measures this week. Switzerland, which also previously implemented a work-from-home mandate, is also considering doing so again amid the impact of Omicron.
Scientists have found that working from home helps reduce the spread of the coronavirus by helping people avoid physical proximity to others on public transportation and in the office.
Germany closed many gyms, swimming pools, nightclubs, and movie theaters, also limiting private gatherings of vaccinated people to 10 at most. Restrictions to these spaces were also put in place in Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Scotland, and Greece. Iceland had never seen more than 200 cases per day during the entire pandemic, but recorded 672 infections in one day this week.