Monday, 13 april 2020 | Redacción CEU
The COVID-19 crisis pushed many companies around the world to embrace teleworking. For the last weeks, for many people, working no longer has involved commuting to their workplaces. Instead, working in slippers has already become the new trend. In most cases, professionals undertake the tasks on their workdays equipped with just a computer, a smartphone, a pen and a notebook. This is an unprecedented situation that is not only shaking our country, but the rest of the planet as well. This makes us wonder whether this new situation will affect the future of work across the world.
Humanity as a whole has always witnessed with astonishment the rapid development of technology; with astonishment, but also with some concerns. Regardless of whether we are supporters or detractors of its progress, these days we are more aware than ever of what technology means in our lives. Without a doubt, this forced break would have been more dramatic, at least in terms of employment, if we did not have many of our digital tools. In fact, many "disconnected" companies have been forced to make a U-turn for their own survival.
Teleworking to continue working
In 2018, Eurostat’s data revealed that only 4.3% of the Spanish working population worked remotely. That figure amounted to 13.3% and 14% in countries such as Finland and the Netherlands respectively. However, the European Statistical Office also claimed that the average number of workers who regularly teleworked in the European Union was 5.2% at that time. In a more recent study that corresponds to the last quarter of 2019, Adecco determined that the Spanish percentage of teleworking was 7.9%, thus reaching the historical maximum. Although this is not an unimportant figure, it reflects a very different scenario from the current one, in which many companies have no choice but to make their employees work remotely.
To achieve this, many organizations have had to reinvent themselves in a few days and say goodbye to the deep-rooted culture of presenteeism. The organizations that are working remotely for the first time as a result of this health crisis have not had a trial and learning period. This may have negative consequences such as low levels of productivity, problems related to cybersecurity, difficulties in achieving goals, technical complications or states of stress and anxiety. Needless to say, this current context is substantially different from that of a regular teleworking day. Professionals must face different scenarios resulting from the confinement measures such as child care during work, overexposure to COVID-19 information or working in a context of tension generated by this crisis.
Precisely because this is such a dramatic shift, it cannot be considered a telewoking pilot test in a strict sense. If so, certain guidelines, which are now practically impossible, would have been followed. For example: carrying out a preliminary test with only a small group of workers, designing a proper monitoring system, making the necessary adjustments and changes according to this tracking before implement it, etc. A rapid implementation of this teleworking model is also likely to lead to poor practices like work overload or twenty-four-hour availability. On the other hand, this exceptional circumstance may serve as a turning point in the global approach to teleworking.