New Work: Long live remote working?!

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When it is well defined and skillfully combined with face-to-face work, the practice of remote working is particularly beneficial for employees. In fact, it seems to have won over the majority of Luxembourg employees.

The health crisis has enabled many Luxembourg workers to discover remote working. Although the practice is not expected to be adopted as much after the pandemic, it is likely to continue in many companies. Many employees, at least, seem to be in favour of it. According to the 'Quality of Work Index Luxembourg 2020' of the Chamber of Employees, almost 80% of regular remote workers would agree to continue working from home from time to time once the Covid-19 crisis is over.

More time, freedom and productivity

Employees appreciate the many advantages of teleworking. The first, and by no means the least, is the reduction of commuting times which, for Luxembourg workers, and especially for cross-border commuters, can be particularly long. "With remote working, we avoid the stress of traffic jams or possible delays in public transport. Employees therefore start their working day more relaxed and end it more serenely", explains David Büchel, an occupational psychologist at the Chamber of Employees (CSL). "It also means that time previously spent travelling can be used for other tasks or activities. At the same time, remote working generally allows for more flexible working hours and a better work-life balance.

David Büchel, occupational psychologist at the Chamber of Employees

In addition, employees appreciate the greater autonomy they have in organising their work. "The trust of the employer, the fact that the hierarchy is more horizontal than vertical, appeals to a large number of employees", says David Büchel. Employees also say they can concentrate better when they are at home. "The question of productivity in remote working is often raised. We can see that both employees and employers do not seem to have any problems with this, on the contrary", says David Büchel. Only one tenth of the respondents to the 'Quality of Work' survey think that this form of work is detrimental to their productivity.

Far from perfect

Remote working also has its downsides. As we have said, it gives more autonomy. "It requires individual skills that not everyone has. And this can be particularly complicated for young people who do not yet know all the workings of their company or for newly recruited people", confides the CSL work psychologist.

"The question of productivity in remote working is often raised. We can see that both employees and employers do not seem to have any problems with this, on the contrary."

David Büchel, work psychologist

Social isolation should not be neglected either, as it constitutes a risk for the mental health of workers. When remote working is used on a massive scale, the frequency and quality of exchanges between employees diminishes, and career opportunities may be lost to the employee. "In order to preserve social ties, it is important that the practice remains punctual – one or two days a week, for example – and that the office is not considered solely as a meeting place where people just bump into each other", comments David Büchel.

More difficult to disconnect

Attention should also be paid to the workload and working time, which seem to be greater when working from home. "According to the 'Quality of Work' survey, remote workers say they work an average of 43.5 hours per week, while non-remote workers work 42.9 hours. Our survey also reveals that 37% of those who work from home feel that they are expected to be reachable outside of working hours, compared to 29% of employees who visit their workplace. While in some cases it allows for a better balance between private and professional life, remote working can also make it more difficult to separate these two spaces, which then come into conflict and become permanently interconnected", warns Nathalie Moschetti, a lawyer with the CSL.

Nathalie Moschetti, lawyer

To avoid this problem of hyper-connection, the new convention on the legal regime of remote working of 20 October 2020, which came into force on 2 February 2021, indirectly mentions the need to regulate the availability of remote workers. "A bill on the right to disconnection was also tabled in the Chamber of Deputies on 28 September 2021. It goes further than the convention since it provides for the obligation to define and implement a specific regime ensuring the respect of the right to disconnect", adds Nathalie Moschetti.

The same treatment as on-site workers

The disadvantages include the risk that the employee may lose certain benefits in kind, such as payment for parking, access to a canteen or a sports hall on the company premises. "While the loss of these elements linked to presence in the company may be legitimate, the new agreement provides for equal treatment between remote workers and on-site workers", explains the CSL's legal expert. "For all other benefits in kind, compensation must therefore be provided. It is up to the staff delegation or the employee himself to agree on this with the employer."

The agreement also provides that when teleworking is regular – more than 10% of annual working time – the payment of teleworking expenses, to cover the costs of the internet connection or equipment, for example, can be negotiated.

In the end, it is up to each company and each employee to determine whether remote working is suitable for them. It is important to remember that remote working is not a right. It is a voluntary agreement between the two parties. At any time, the employee or the employer have the possibility to go back by mutual agreement. "When remote working is regular, the terms and conditions of the transition or return to the traditional work formula are to be agreed upon, in writing, by mutual consent between the employer and the employee at the time the latter starts to work from home", concludes Nathalie Moschetti.