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
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.