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Remote working can improve work-life balance, reduce commuting time and boost productivity, but it can also potentially result in longer working hours, higher work intensity and work-home interference, according to a new joint ILO-Eurofound report released today.
The report Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work brings together research carried out by both organiaations in 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, and covers a range of workers, from regular home-based teleworkers to workers performing occasional telework.
The report highlights a number of positive effects of remote working, such as greater working time autonomy leading to more flexibility and reduced commuting time, resulting in a better overall work-life balance and higher productivity. It also identifies several disadvantages such as a tendency to work longer hours and an overlap between paid work and personal life – which can lead to high levels of stress. The report draws clear distinctions between home-based teleworkers who seem to enjoy better work-life balance and ‘high-mobile’ workers who are more at risk of negative health and well-being outcomes.
“This report shows that the use of modern communication technologies facilitates a better overall work-life balance but, at the same time, also blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations,” said the ILO’s Jon Messenger, co-author of the report.
The report provides recommendations in order to address this disparity, such as promoting formal part-time teleworking to help teleworkers maintain ties with their co-workers and improve worker well-being, while restricting informal and supplemental remote working involving long working hours.
“It is particularly important to address the issue of supplemental work performed through modern communications technology, for example, additional working from home, which could be viewed as unpaid overtime, and also to ensure that minimum rest periods are respected, in order to avoid negative effects on workers’ health and well-being,” said Oscar Vargas from Eurofound.
Currently only the EU has an overall framework to adapt to digital change on telework, with the European Framework Agreement on Telework. However, most existing initiatives are related to formal, home-based telework, while problems seem to be more recurrent with informal, occasional remote working, says the report.