Telecommuting, a substantial increase in the trend towards remote work compared to face-to-face work!
Confusion reigns as to which ending to use. And the good old Académie has been quick to bypass the spelling issue in favor of "à distance" and "en présence". But, can we seriously say: "next week, no telecommuting for me, I'm working in presence...?" "Mal dit", my French teacher would have written.
That said, there is a prevailing usage in the French language regarding the correct way to form these qualifying adjectives from nouns, even if they are neologisms. Why "prevail"? Because, while it's true that rules have been laid down, there are always exceptions.
Distantial or distanciel?
Jean-François Castille, lecturer in French language and literature at the University of Caen, clarifies these two rules (MOOC unicaen, Strengthen your skills orthographic) :
- adjectives derived from "ance" nouns end in "ciel". For example, "circumstance" will end in "circumstantial". But, the exception confirming the rule, "substance" will end in "substantiel"!
- adjectives derived from "ence" nouns end in "tiel". Thus, "essence" will give its derivative "essentiel". But "révérence" will give "révérenciel". I bow my head, speechless!
Guillaume Terrien, champion speller who won the Dicos d'Or in 2004, points out that of the sixty or so words in [sjεl], around a third are written as "sky". According to him, spelling is based on the following principles:
- an adjective in [sjεl] formed from a word in [ās] ("ance") is usually written with a "T".
- an adjective formed from an "ice" noun is written with a "C" (thus, "indice" gives "indiciel"). But what about the singular "interstice"?
- three exceptions to the first principle: circumstantial, trend-based and reverential.
- Latin-derived adjectives already containing a "C": official, superficial and artificial.
In short, let's try to retain the rules of sixty or so words, but above all the exceptions. And so, slipping on the rules, the language escapes us and reveals those interstitial spaces in which all these difficulties are played out!
To answer the question posed, we prefer "en présentiel" or "en distanciel", but for simplicity's sake we can simply say that we work "in the office", or "on site" in the first case, and that we are "teleworking" or "working remotely" in the second.