When governments all over the world announced lockdowns and restrictions on movement, many media companies told journalists to “go home” and simply carry on with their work there. This forced and improvised move from physical newsrooms to home-based offices highlighted several potential problems for media workers that must be addressed urgently by governments and unions.
The challenges of teleworking for media workers range from lacking proper equipment, a decent internet connection or proper data security systems, to bigger difficulties to balance the private and professional life, longer working hours and problems to maintain quality reporting.
Global unions such as UniGlobal has highlighted the right to disconnect, which refers to the right of workers to disconnect from their work and to not receive or answer any work-related emails, calls, or messages outside of normal working hours, as one of the most common problems for teleworkers nowadays. This situation is even more serious for media workers, who struggle to balance their personal lives with their mission of keeping up to date and publishing constantly changing information.
Making the best of teleworking
If adequately regulated and applied through collective agreements, teleworking can offer opportunities and benefits to media workers, such as saving the unpaid time spent travelling to the newsroom, avoiding a source of stress, anxiety and traffic. Furthermore, it reduces the ecological footprint and provides greater flexibility for media workers.
However, the IFJ considers that combining remote and physical work is the way to make the best of telework. Permanent teleworking can create a sense of being uprooted and enhance social isolation, which are dangerous for mental health. It could also hamper journalists’ cooperative work, an essential element of news production and investigative journalism.
For this reason, the IFJ considers it essential to develop a plan to restore physical newsrooms and avoid their permanent closure , which would harm the collaborative process of creating quality journalism.
Another basic and unnegotiable principle is that teleworking must also be voluntary and that media workers must be able to change their mind, meaning that they can reverse or adapt their teleworking schedule depending on their circumstances.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “You can not ask people to do teleworking without proper rules, certainly not in the long run. Today is an opportunity to remind all our affiliates of the importance of engaging in national and workplace discussions to develop clear and rights-protecting regulations to ensure that the specific situation faced by our profession is not forgotten and that decent working conditions are achieved for all”.