#52 - 30 October 2020

Living where you work: is teleworking really the future of cities?

As a second lockdown begins in France, will the city of tomorrow be the city of teleworkers? Nothing is less certain. In March-April 2020, more than a third of French workers were forced to experiment telecommuting but only 50% said they were satisfied at the end of the lockdown, and only 9% of French people would be ready to switch to full-time telecommuting. Many reasons were put forth: the blurring of boundaries between professional and personal life, cramped housing, an increase in gender inequality... For many working people, the slogan of the next world is not “I don't have to go to the office anymore” but rather “come by my house, I live... in my office”.

It is true that telecommuting means the end of rush hour: farewell, traffic jams! For some people, it also means the possibility of leaving big cities and moving to a mid-sized town with cheaper housing. But those choices are not available to everyone: telecommuting is not applicable to many jobs, as seen with those who were on the frontline during the first lockdown. While teleworking removes the need to commute, the time saved by not going to the office may be used to travel to do something else, such as visiting friends. This is called the rebound effect: it eliminates trips related to the home-to-work commute but replaces them largely with other trips.

However, this does not mean giving up the idea of living and working in the same place. In the city of tomorrow, we will talk about workplaces in the plural form: home, office but also mixed spaces such as co-working spaces. And, for those who will go to the office, rush hours are not a foregone conclusion. The French city of Toulouse recently experimented with a pilot program between companies, mobility operators and elected officials to spread out peak hours and share home-to-work commutes. In short, working together... to work better. – Cécile Maisonneuve, President

→ This op-ed is an excerpt from recent chronicles by Cécile Maisonneuve, broadcast on France Info: find all broadcasts (in French) here.


No time to read? La Fabrique de la Cité has got you covered.

UNEXPECTED CHANGES The British government proposed that Transport for London extend the congestion charge perimeter as an option to cover fare revenue losses on public transport due to the pandemic. This is a tough decision since it will have major social impacts and might cause unexpected and unwanted effects on mobility, such as an increase of congestion in the densest zones of the British capital city. – Camille Combe, Project Manager

Related : our report “Funding mobility in a post-carbon world” which explores several funding mechanisms and their effect on the decarbonization of mobility.

BECAUSE THE NIGHT BELONGS TO US – Curfew and lockdown measures have revealed the socially and economically strategic character of the night. Our nocturnal practice of the city is a recent appropriation, first made possible by street lighting in the 19th century... immediately accompanied by measures of social control and exclusion. The way we live at night betrays the aspirations and failings of our societies: understanding them will allow us to reinvent the night tomorrow. – Chloë Voisin-Bormuth, Director of Research

According to a recent inquiry (in French) by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, 93% of the French population lives in the catchment area of a city in 2020, while urban peripheries are gaining more inhabitants than central municipalities. Éric Verdeil, a professor of geography at the École urbaine de Sciences Po, has described this phenomenon of demographic redistribution the extension of urban areas, “a movement to integrate the population into an urban dynamic”, even in rural areas. – Sarah Cosatto

AFFORDING “WORLD CITIES”As a result of the health crisis and the decline in international mobility, real estate prices in “world cities” are falling. The drop in the number of foreign students and executives has caused rents to fall by 8.1% over the year in London's wealthiest areas and by 11% in Manhattan. However, this is not synonymous with better access to housing because the incomes of some workers have also been reduced. – Romain Morin, Research Assistant

→ Related: our project about affordable housing in growing European metropolises.

Recent publications