Last year, the pandemic forced a million people to face a new experience: teleworking broke into the lives of many employees and put their adaptability to the test. The figure, highlighted in the latest survey of the active population of the National Institute of Statistics (INE), was added to the 950,000 people who already worked remotely in 2019, which in total meant that almost two million Spaniards teleworked. Almost a year after thousands of companies implemented remote work with some uncertainty, the conclusions about the effectiveness of this model are disparate and even contradictory. While some workers emphasize that they have more free time (75.7%, according to data from the Fiverr work platform), others say they would never repeat such an experience (30.6%). Specialists analyze it as two sides of the same coin: on the one hand, working from home reduces absenteeism, improves the environmental footprint and encourages conciliation; but on the other, it increases the feeling of isolation, sedentary lifestyle and stress.
The telework expert Manel Fernández Jaria, advisor to senior managers and professor of Economics and Business at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), is clear: “The first thing to understand is that teleworking is not the same as taking the office to House. And also, that remote work does not only consist of turning on a computer from home. There are important points to do well ”. What has been going wrong? What are the keys to understanding the future of this way of working?
Past: a crisis that shaped the first teleworking law
The little experience that was had on the matter was fought with “the best version that emerged among the workers during the pandemic”, considers Fernández Jaria. The effort was so great that 66% of Spanish companies increased their productivity during the third quarter of 2020, according to a study by the technology consultancy Capgemini. The UOC professor explains that this determination when teleworking can last a while, but not always. So it has been. After several months of working remotely, professionals began to state that they felt more tired (56% as a consequence of the permanent connection, according to the same report). The Government detected that the new circumstances were surrounded by legal loopholes, which gave rise to Royal Decree-Law 28/2020 on teleworking, which came into force last October.
Present: learning to telecommute (good)
With the first year after the outbreak of the pandemic, companies and workers continue to adapt to the reality of teleworking. So much so that 55% of SMEs admit to having turned to professionals to help them digitize, according to Fiverr. This survey shows an X-ray of how many employees are doing: one in three have gained weight, many eat unhealthily, play less sports and suffer more muscle and headaches. While many workers attribute it to teleworking, Fernández Jaria does not hesitate to point in one direction: “We don’t know how to telework.”
To be more productive, says the expert, you have to start complying with several basic measures. The first: select a suitable space, where one is comfortable. “The new living room-office or the corner where it has been established must be redesigned. And although it may seem that it is an inconsequential question, having that place will reinforce productivity ”, recommends Fernández Jaria. His theory is simple: that our mind knows that there is a certain space that separates the work activity from the domestic one. The second measure involves promoting order in the workplace, which will reduce potential stress and save time when you need to find something urgently.
The third measure is based on defining a work routine well. The new modality has allowed thousands of workers to organize their day to day with greater flexibility. But it is also a double-edged sword if you do not know how to apply it well: working hours until late at night, late meals, etc. The main key, says Fernández Jaria, is to plan the objectives of each day and discuss with the company the viability of the times. It is also necessary to agree with superiors what the routine will be and what will be the hours in which you must be connected. “Many times, the boss calls an employee and he is not there. And when our brain is not there, the last thing it will think is that it is busy with something else, “he explains. Ideally, it is the boss who gives guidelines for everyone to build their routine.
Future: a new way of working
The latest surveys determine that, when the pandemic is under control, teleworking will continue. 76% of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) will maintain this model after the crisis, according to Fiverr. The benefits are manifold: reduced rental costs and travel expenses, increased productivity… But where are the new trends heading?
Once the habits indicated by Fernández Jaria and the application of the law have been established, the next step is to promote health and wellness plans within companies.
Banco Sabadell made psychologists available to its employees to learn how to face the new scenarios. “At Banco Sabadell, together with the ASPY healthcare team, we have an action protocol to help our employees manage the emotional stress that this situation can cause due to the virus. The first step to follow is to carry out a questionnaire that will help assess the degree of stress of the worker and, then, based on the results, a phone call or video call will be made to initiate psychological care ”, he explains Joan Lluch, director of Occupational Risk Prevention at Banco Sabadell.
At this point, the specialists focus on the social relations between employees who, with the new way of working, run the risk of isolating themselves. Promoting the idea of a team, says Fernández Jaria, will be one of the occupations of those responsible. “It is also important that companies invest in prevention for emotional health. Anticipating the problem is the best solution ”, highlights the expert.
Another point to take into account will be the resources that companies will have to allocate to the cybersecurity of their employees. Not only with safe programs and environments, but also with courses on the subject. Digitization in general will be a matter of survival for many businesses, so training in this field and learning from new technologies and the models that are emerging will be a safe bet.