Opportunities and risks of hybrid work models.

SW – 06/2021

The working world has undergone profound changes in recent years. According to estimates made by Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions), one in five European workers will be teleworking occasionally or regularly after the pandemic, as part of a hybrid model. The preferences of many workers also point in this direction. When data was collected for Eurofound's “Living, working and COVID-19” report in July 2020, 78 per cent of respondents said they would like to work from home at least occasionally, even if there were no more COVID-19 restrictions.

In view of the massive increase in teleworking, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council stressed the need to address the potential as well as the risks of teleworking and the conclusions on this subject were adopted on 15 June 2021.

Teleworking opportunities and risks

Teleworking offers a number of benefits for workers, e.g. it improves their work-life balance, gives them more autonomy and reduces the time spent commuting to work. For employers, it can promote productivity and efficiency, lead to building and office cost savings and promote a results-oriented work organisation. However, teleworking can also entail significant risks: excessive controlling through monitoring of the use of IT equipment, blurring the boundaries between work and private lives, greater work intensity, social and professional isolation, lack of physical activity, psychosocial and musculoskeletal disorders, to name just a few examples that might affect a worker’s safety and health when working from home.

Action plans and strategies

Therefore, the European Council calls on Member States to address the opportunities and risks of teleworking and to consider developing national action plans and strategies or to include this issue in existing or future strategies. Policies regulating teleworking or the issuing of guidelines, e.g. covering the organising and monitoring of the work time, the risks related to gender equality or aid to help cover the teleworking costs, should also be examined. However, initiatives for strengthening labour inspectorates and health and safety at work should also be considered in view of the risks associated with teleworking.

Exchanging good practices

The exchanging of good practices could contribute to a balanced use of teleworking, especially hybrid teleworking models, and support the introduction of such practices by employers. The European Commission is invited to support this exchanging as well as to promote research into the impact teleworking will have on post-pandemic recovery. It should also examine the extent to which existing social and labour law in the EU ensures decent working conditions for teleworkers and addresses their specific situation.

Right to disconnect

With regard to a right to disconnect, the European Council takes the social partners to task and calls on them to raise awareness and advocate the importance of appropriate regulation at company and industrial levels and to comply with existing work time regulations in order to enable teleworkers to be effectively non-accessible. The social partners are invited to contribute to the well-being and health and safety of teleworkers, especially with regard to the right to disconnect as well as to decent working conditions and jobs.