A Right To Remote Work?
Remote work is the reason that most companies were able to survive during the pandemic. Whilst some of us may not enjoy working from home as it causes your work and home life to meld into one, some of us rather enjoy being able to roll out of bed, grab a coffee and get to work. So I started wondering whether this could be the way of the future and whether we will get a right to remote work passed into law.
In Europe, Finland, Luxembourg and Ireland lead the way in terms of remote work, with over 20 per cent of people in a job that gives them the option to work from home. Big tech Giants like Amazon, Facebook, Hubspot, Dropbox and more are already declaring that they will continue remote working indefinitely. It makes sense; why would a company choose to have an office in which they had to pay rent overheads etc when people are just as happy to work from home? According to Forbes, by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. But does this mean we will have a right to work from home? Or will it simply be down to the company?
Infographic by Toptal
I’ve spent more and more time over the past 18 months wondering why I cannot simply work from anywhere in the world – I had already been trialling that, but Covid and the pandemic have pushed my thinking further. If I can do the same job from home, why can’t I do the same job from anywhere? Possibly some snow-capped mountains or a sunny beach (as long as there is a good internet connection). I’m not alone either, a poll conducted at the start of 2021 by Slack found that almost a third of UK workers would be less likely to apply for a job if remote working wasn’t an option. That’s quite a stunning statistic; one third of the country are looking for remote work. So should we have the right to do it? Or will companies simply give good employees what they want.
Well, places like Portugal have already started to outline ideas on the future of work. A Green Paper produced by the government in Lisbon has suggested that in the future there should always be contingencies in place to offer remote or hybrid options for work. The Portuguese deputy secretary of state for labour, Miguel Cabrita, urged EU countries to move fast with plans to regulate remote working, telling EU leaders quick action will maximize opportunities and minimize risks. They want to move fast on this now, whilst people are still working from home before the world returns to something resembling its pre-covid state.
For me the real question is whether governments should make this a law, or whether companies will see the benefits themselves and offer remote working as a solution, rather than an obligation. The office, whilst fantastic for collaboration, can also be a place full of distraction – having employees work alone in their office at home might actually produce better work. Though there is certainly a debate to be had here – some work better in an office environment as they are psychologically in their place of work. This can be harder to achieve whilst working from home.
But workers have become very accustomed to working from home and may jump ship if employers try to push them to return to the office. Several friends of mine are currently embroiled in fierce battles with bosses over when they will return to the office and whether they will at all – there are threats of leaving to find better employment if they are forced back to the office.
If companies push too hard, they may find some of their best employees jumping ship to firms that offer a more flexible working environment. Ultimately this may be enough to encourage companies to offer remote or hybrid working as standard, rather than needing governments to step in. Only time will tell how big companies will react in the post-pandemic world, but I’d wager that remote work is here to stay.
By Josh Hamilton