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Rising electricity costs: a brake on teleworking?

Rising electricity costs: a brake on teleworking?

Paulina Jonquères d’Oriola
3 min2 Feb 2023

Although teleworking has become a part of everyday life for employees, the soaring cost of electricity is worrying a number of workers and is even leading to a return to the office. For who really absorbs the costs of teleworking? And what do we know about the energy savings made on a global scale? Here is a look at the situation.

"In recent months, I have noticed a new phenomenon among my employees, especially the younger ones: about a quarter of the total workforce, i.e. those who had not yet returned to the office, have felt the need to do so. I have noticed this phenomenon since we moved into comfortable premises, which are certainly more pleasant than theirs" says Paul, a partner in an investment fund. This testimony corroborates that of Mélissa, 35, a sales representative in a Parisian start-up. The young woman works from her home in Lille, and the least we can say is that she is apprehensive about her electricity bill. And for good reason, according to Julien Tchernia, CEO and founder of the renewable energy supplier ekWateur, one day of teleworking per week would result in a 5 to 7% increase in electricity and gas consumption per year, he explains. For one day of teleworking per week, this would amount to an increase of €100 per year.

But on this point, teleworkers are not equal, because electricity can be included in the general building charges or go up in the individual bill, which is the case for Mélissa. "I live in a real heat sink because my flat is badly insulated. I do everything to limit my consumption (I work with a thick jumper and a blanket), my home is 17 degrees during the day, and despite this, I pay 250 euros a month in bills for my family flat. I am very concerned about the rising cost of energy" she says. As her company is based in Paris, the young woman cannot go to the office. To overcome this difficulty, she is experimenting with her employer to set up a monthly coworking package with the other remote employees based in Lille.

Telework package: what does the regulation say?

In other companies, telework packages have been negotiated with employees to compensate for the costs incurred by the worker, whether it be the cost of electricity, printers, equipment, or even the contribution to property or housing taxes. A package set up by the company Edusign, a specialist in dematerialised time sheets. "We offer a telework bonus of 50 euros per month for all employees, whether or not they are remote. This bonus was deployed more quickly than expected in the face of various cost of living increases" says Elliot Boucher, co-founder. He notes that the inflationary context has also led to requests for increases that are more substantial than expected. He also explains that the company has supported its teleworkers by training them in eco-actions that can be carried out at home.

An important point: it is important to know that this young company of about twenty employees, whose premises are currently based at Station F, is "remote first". This means that the majority of its employees do not live in Paris and work from home. In addition, the company's premises are not large enough to accommodate the entire team at the same time. It therefore falls within the regulatory framework where employees are entitled to ask for a lump sum compensation if their company cannot accommodate them every day. In the opposite case, negotiations take place within the company but the employer is not legally obliged to set up this package since telework is a choice of the employee. Hence the back-to-office movement.

"Do not pass on general costs to employees".

According to a study conducted last April by Critix France, an American provider of teleworking solutions, "84% of French employees would like their company to compensate them for fuel and/or energy costs when they telework, in the form of a salary increase or an allowance", explains Sophie Troistorff, General Manager, in an interview with Capital. In short, this is a huge debate, and we are only in its infancy, especially for employees who are sandwiched between the rising cost of petrol and electricity.

What about the rebound effects of telework?

It is true that more and more companies are undersizing their offices, certainly in order to meet their employees' demand for teleworking, but also because this represents considerable gains in terms of real estate and energy, since companies' bills will be multiplied by three or four this winter. A real point of vigilance according to Raphaelle Bertholon, CFE-CGC National Secretary for the Economy, Industry, Digital and Housing, who reminds us that employees can be reimbursed for telework-related expenses (if the employer obliges them to telework or does not provide an office), and that private individuals currently benefit from the tariff shield set up by the State. But will it still be in place next year, especially as the situation is not going to improve? For several years now, specialised institutes such as France Stratégie have been alerting the Government to the tension on the electricity market due to insufficient national production.

Raphaelle Bertholon therefore invites us to take a step back and think globally about energy sobriety. "Between heating an office space that is the equivalent of 15m2 (and I'm being generous), and a 90m2 home (the average in France according to INSEE), we have the right to wonder about the relevance of the thing. Of course, the cases differ depending on whether you travel by metro or by car, but you have to think that public transport is not going to stop because some employees are teleworking. Especially as it is the taxpayer who indirectly finances these costs at the level of the local authorities" she analyses.

In a report on the rebound effects of telework, ADEME outlines a first assessment of the actual reduction of the carbon footprint through telework. On average, rebound effects reduce the environmental benefits of telework by 31%. They are related to additional personal travel that was not possible before, housing consumption, digital pollution due to teleworking tools, or waste related to the purchase of electronic equipment. In the end, Ademe concludes that the environmental benefits are "significant and justify encouraging the development of telework". Nevertheless, the agency plans to continue its evaluation of the rebound effects in the longer term.

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