Teleworking is becoming a new norm in a lot of countries because of the pandemic caused by the COVID-19. Indeed, as a way of prevention, many governments asked people to avoid going back to the office, as it could be a cluster during the crisis. The main solution was to offer the workers to do their job from home. But what does “teleworking” mean?
What is teleworking?
According to the European framework agreement, teleworking is “a form of organizing and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where we work, which could also be performed at the employer’s premises, is carried out away from those premises on regular basis”. Four categorizations can be made to describe how teleworking is used:
First, there is “full-time homeworking”, where the work is fully done at home and not at the office.
Second is “part-time homeworking” which consists in working at home at least a day a week.
Third category is “mobile teleworking”. It is usually performed in work that required business trips. This type of teleworkers finds themselves working in places such as hotels, the client’s office, etc.
Last category of teleworking includes all the places dedicated to work, but which aren’t the offices of the company people work in (for instance, co-working spaces).
In Europe, 5 to 6% of employed people used to work from home during this past decade. This percentage has increased to 12% since the COVID-19 crisis, with government advising people to perform either full or part-time homeworking.
Are there advantages?
So, if teleworking, mainly homeworking, is increasing in Europe, does this mean it only has advantages? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Still, we can count several advantages to teleworking. First of all, it allows employees to have a better work-life balance. As they are working from home, they can be there for their families and then go back to their work. Then, they also spend less time in the car, so they gain a lot of time for their work and their families. Improved work efficiency is also mentioned as advantage. Indeed, the teleworkers can organize their work as they want to, and they have more autonomy. They can also get less distracted. At work, coworkers could come and start talking to them, but at home, if they have a dedicated room, they are less distracted than at work.
What about the disadvantages?
Well, one of the biggest one is the communication. Several studies pointed out the fact that teleworkers feel that it is harder to manage their teams that way. Furthermore, some of them don’t have the adequate equipment and technologies to work from outside the office, or don’t have a stable internet. The result is that communication is less good between coworkers.
This situation can lead to another disadvantage of teleworking: social isolation. Not seeing their colleagues at work can be difficult for some workers. It has been proved that informal talks between colleagues are important to feel closer to them and to feel safe and comfortable in the company, which is good for the organization of the company but also for the well-being of the workers. But with teleworking, those moments don’t exist anymore. As said previously, other factors can contribute to this lack of communication with the colleagues. All of this can lead to social isolation of the teleworkers, with less efficiency at work.
On the other hand, there are also the “hyper-connected” situation. As said in the advantages, homeworkers gain time because they don’t have to drive to the office to work. They can use this extra time to already work. The bad thing is that they can have a hard time to disconnect themselves from work. Since they are working from home, the work-life boundaries can become blurred. That can lead to working extra time, more hours than they must, and to keeping on working while eating, for instance. This can also be explained by the fact that there can be more requests coming, between the mails, meeting invitations and other messaging system that the company can use.
It is also possible that the people working from outside of the office don’t have the right equipment. Indeed, some of them might not have a dedicated room to work, neither the right chair, desk, computer to work in the best condition. The work can be less efficient, and it is not good for the workers ‘health as well, as they can suffer back pain, for instance. It can happen too that some tasks cannot be done at home, because the only way to do it is to go at the office. In this case, working home is harder, even impossible for those people.
Also, for people having kids, not having a room to work can be hard for them because they could distract them too. Some of the workers have to take care of them while working too, which can affect the quality of the work.
Are there solutions?
The companies can offer several solutions regarding those disadvantages. Some of them already offer their workers to take back at home some of their equipment from the office, such as screen computer, chair, for instance, so that they can have the same comfort as they have at the office.
To avoid social isolation, it can be good to organize informal video meeting between colleagues, a time when they ask each other how they are feeling this week, or when they could also play a game together to strengthen the link between them.
Some limits have to be put at home to avoid being too connected. It can be the creation of a work schedule or leaving everything related to work in a room after worktime. That way, they also keep the work-life balance stable.
Teleworking, especially homeworking, has increased in Europe, mostly because of the COVID-19 crisis. For some workers, it was a new way of work, but others were already used to teleworking. Some advantages were pointed out, such as bigger work-life balance, better efficiency, and bigger autonomy. Unfortunately, teleworking has many disadvantages as well, including social isolation, hyper-connected employees, bad communication, wrong equipment, and technologies at out of the office, and work-life balance unstable. But solutions can be adopted by the companies and the employees to avoid those disadvantages. It is important for them to make the adaptations they need so that everyone can work in the best conditions.
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