COVID-19: Will telecommuting strategies stop the virus from circulating?


How can we best organise on-site workplace and school attendance periods and remote work to slow the circulation of Sars-CoV-2? Is it better to separate classes? Bring your whole team in at the same time? Set this up on daily or weekly schedules? The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most countries to impose contact limitations in workplaces, universities and schools. Scientists from the CNRS, Université Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, ENS de Lyon and INRIA1 , in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur and INSERM, have analysed the impact of two strategies, rotating and on-off strategies2 , in stopping the epidemic as it reaches a community, whether in a school or in an office. Their results show that below a certain local reproduction number threshold3 in the community, the two strategies, combined with other health measures, effectively control the epidemic, although the ‘Rotating week-by-week’ strategy is the most effective of those studied. These results, published on 26 August 2021 in PLOS Computational Biology, offer new elements to guide public health decisions related to distance working, office or school.

  • 1The French laboratories involved are at the Institut de Recherche en Informatique Fondamentale (CNRS/Université de Paris), LIP6 (CNRS/Sorbonne Université), GIPSA-Lab (CNRS/Université Grenoble Alpes), Département d’Informatique de l’ENS de Lyon, Centre de Recherche en Epidémiologie et Santé des Populations (INSERM/Université Paris-Saclay/UVSQ), Laboratoire Epidémiologie et Modélisation de la Résistance aux Antimicrobiens (Institut Pasteur/INSERM/UVSQ).
  • 2Rotation is intended to maintain a continuous presence in the workplace, while on-off is intended to maintain community cohesion. For example, for a school, in both cases an individual will only go to school one day in two or one week in two, but as part of a rotation strategy, the community is split in two: Cohort A goes to school while Cohort B stays at home, and vice versa; in an on-off strategy, everyone goes to school at the same time or stays at home at the same time.
  • 3The local reproduction number , or “local R0,” indicates the average number of new cases of a disease that a single infected and contagious person will generate in the community, on average, in a population without any immunity.

Mitigating COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces and schools by hybrid telecommuting. Simon Mauras, Vincent Cohen-Addad, Guillaume Duboc, Max Dupré la Tour, Paolo Frasca, Claire Mathieu, Lulla Opatowski, Laurent Viennot. PLOS Computational Biology, 26 august 2021. DOI :


Claire Mathieu
CNRS Researcher
Simon Mauras
PhD student
Alexiane Agullo
CNRS press officer