Being able to perform work, or part of the work, remotely was an ongoing trend in the previous years. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the phenomenon by forcing a large part of the workforce to stay away from the workplace, which for many meant being at home. This large-scale social experiment of remote working has demonstrated that numerous tasks could actually be carried out outside of offices premises.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way companies organise work and by now data suggests that remote work or hybrid forms of work (i.e. combination of remote work and office work) is here to stay. The survey conducted by The Adecco Group among 8’000 office-based workers shows that 74% would like a mix of office-based and remote work in the future and that the willingness to implement these alternative models of work is shared on the management side.
The long-term implementation of remote work and hybrid forms of work in a post-Covid era does not come without challenges, both from an organizational and regulatory point of view – those are tackled in the first part of this Paper. The main obstacles identified are as follows:
If unregulated, remote work could worsen inequalities, as not all workers enjoy the same access to this model. Inequalities may also arise between workers who decide to return to the workplace.
To ensure that remote work goes hand in hand with an increased productivity, a strong focus should be put on workers’ physical and mental well-being.
Cost, wages and taxes
Working remotely implies new costs, and potentially new ways of calculating wages and taxes. On the company level, employers should make clear which costs are incumbent to who and governments should adapt the tax system to this new way of working.
Cybersecurity and IT tools
The spread of the remote work model has made businesses even more vulnerable to cyberattacks and investments in IT tools are needed, as well as re- and upskilling of the workforce to enable employees to embrace the full potential of the remote work model.
The Paper further describes the regulatory environment and presents the relevant ILO (International Labour Organization) and EU directives, as well as countries that already have legislation on remote work in place. The Paper offers an extensive comparative overview of what the national legislations on remote work entail.
A set of policy recommendations to make remote work; work for everyone round off the Paper. Those recommendations are addressed to both employers and governments as we urge them to take actions now, to ensure an inclusive, sustainable and secured implementation of the remote work model.
More precisely, we urge Governments to:
Provide a legislative framework for remote work. The framework should answer the following questions:
- Contractual obligations: What are the conditions for remote work? Are they given by contract or on a voluntary basis? And can they be reversed? Does the framework allow for employees to request a remote work arrangement? If needed, can employers deny such a request and under which criteria?
- Employees’ right and obligations: What are the employees’ right and obligations? Do they have a Right to request remote work? Should the country introduce a Right to disconnect? Is there equality of Rights?
- Employers’ rights and obligations: What are the employers’ rights and obligations? Can they request from employees to work remotely?
- Equipment: who should provide /pay/install/maintain equipment necessary to the practice of remote work?
- Cost: who should bear the cost associated with remote work (rent, Wi-Fi, electricity etc)?
- Surveillance: to what extent can employers make use of surveillance software to monitor employees’ activity?
- OHS: are employers responsible for the compliance to OHS standards in the remote place of work?
- Insurance: do employers have to cover for accidents occurring while working remotely? What are the locations and hours covered?
Address inequalities: promote remote work for under-privileged groups and underserved populations
Invest in the right infrastructures: invest in infrastructure to close the connectivity-divide between urban and rural areas
Adapt the tax system: engage in tax negotiations with other countries to avoid a double tax burden for remote workers and adapt the tax system and what can be deduced from earning to account for the new work-related costs remote workers have to pay (rent, heating, electricity, food etc.)
Support re- and upskilling:support and contribute to companies’ endeavour to re/upskill the workforce by introducing tax incentives or direct subsidies
And we urge employers to:
Address inequalities: break out the different tasks that need to be accomplished within a job and to redesign as many of them in such ways that enable employees to work from the location of their choosing. Moreover, design new jobs and new opportunities that embed the remote work model
Invest in the right infrastructures: invest in ICT infrastructure to enable workers to efficiently work remotely and rethink the office space to embrace the hybrid model and put a focus on collaborative areas.
Re- and upskill: determine the digital skill gap of their workforce and upskill
Adapt Leadership: promote a management based on empathy, agility and creativity