How to improve digital wellbeing at work

A new European charter on digital workplace wellbeing was launched this week which the UK would do well to follow.

woman working at home on the computer

 

This week saw the launch of a European Charter for Digital Workplace Wellbeing. The aim in part is to improve working conditions and protect remote workers from overworking, which, despite some of the negative media depictions, remains a real issue for home workers. Other challenges are linked to isolation, employment rights issues and lack of support generally.

The Charter has been signed by a group of 31 MEPs, including MEP Dragoș Pîslaru, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

Under the Charter, MEPs are calling to modernise Europe’s policy approach to workplace wellbeing by focusing on solutions across four themes: (1) life beyond work, (2) social connection, (3) privacy and trust, and (4) digital wellness.

It’s a positive move and flies in the face of all the negativity about remote working that we see in much of the UK press because it is based on solutions rather than forcing everyone back to the office, which is also problematic for many people, but which tends to get less of a look-in.

The emphasis is on a holistic approach based on harnessing the benefits of online working while mitigating the risks. The Charter was put together by the Future Work Alliance,  a collection of business influencers, workers’ rights activists and academics that focuses on the creation of a more fair, healthy and inclusive workforce.

Life Beyond Work

Under life beyond work, the Charter covers creating official guidelines and best practices for organisations to create and implement remote work strategies and processes. It says: “Any guidelines must include strategies for ensuring that remote workers are not overlooked for career advancement opportunities in relation to their in-office colleagues.” It also addresses the issue of discussions around the right to disconnect, says any right must be “fit for purpose in the remote work age; supporting workers’ individual needs and preferences around a flexible life-work relationship”. And it says the term ‘work-life balance’ should be changed to ‘life-work balance’ in all EU legal and political documentation to help shift the emphasis.

Social connection provisos include creating official guidelines and best practices for co-working providers to build and run effective ‘community workspaces’ and giving workers the legal right to request co-working membership financial support.

Privacy and trust relates to surveillance and there is a call for a ban or restrictions on digital surveillance while digital wellness includes promoting the establishment of evidence-based, relevant legal definitions such as what constitutes a “healthy relationship with technology in the workplace” and enabling cross-sector support of tools and practices that moderate technology usage to promote improved health and well-being.

Of course, online working is not the only form of flexible working, but there is a political battle raging over its future in the UK. Employers need to focus on practical steps that can make remote working easier for workers and overcome some of the challenges because the business benefits, from greater inclusion, attraction and retention to lower office overheads, are clear.



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