"Combining face-to-face work and teleworking is the best way to make the most of the benefits of remote working"

Carlos Gutiérrez Calderón is the Head of Youth and New Working Realities in Comisiones Obreras (CCOO, Spain). He participated in the negotiation table with the Spanish Government and the Spanish employers to draw up the recently approved regulation on teleworking in the country.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way journalists work. What are the opportunities and dangers of teleworking?

Teleworking presents many opportunities for workers. However, we believe that combining face-to-face work and teleworking is the best way to make the most of the benefits of remote working, as it has benefits for all parties. For the worker, for example, this means saving all of the unpaid time spent going to the workplace - which can be a lot. We avoid stress, anxiety, traffic, etc. Furthermore, telework can promote private and personal life balance if accompanied by other measures. There are also benefits for companies. Studies show that with a mixed model of teleworking and face-to-face work, we achieve more productivity. On the other hand, the number of work accidents is reduced.

I would even say that this model is good for the society as a whole because it reduces the impact on the environment and can help to solve the problem of increasingly deserted areas of Spain, because it allows teleworking outside the big cities.

However, there are also risks. Permanent teleworking can make you feel uprooted and increase social isolation, which is dangerous for mental health. There are also companies that have come out in favor of both types of work because teleworking alone can hamper innovation processes that are based on cooperation between workers.

Another risk is that teleworking becomes a means of obscuring the working relationship. In sectors where there are a lot of freelancers and false freelancers, such as the media, teleworking can increase their numbers. It is necessary to articulate systematic and comprehensive mechanisms and tools for all sectors that help fight against job insecurity and vulnerability. The forces that are pushing towards more false independents are very powerful and must be fought together.

Finally, at the trade union level, there is the challenge of organizing dispersed workers. All of these risks and threats have been discussed at the negotiating table and have been included in the agreement.

In many cases, the shift from physical newsrooms to teleworking has occurred in environments where this form of working lacked regulation. Why is it important to develop clear legal frameworks on teleworking and guarantees regarding rights?

We already had experience of collective bargaining for telework. We give a very important role to collective bargaining to transform general regulations into specific situations. That is why we believe it was appropriate to move from improvised teleworking during the pandemic to teleworking that guarantees workers' rights.

As a trade union, what elements do you consider to be crucial when it comes to legislating on telework?

We are working on a regulation that includes four basic principles. First, volunteering: teleworking must be voluntary for both workers and companies.

Secondly, the exercise of reversibility: a person who decides to telework for a certain time must be able to return to work in person.

The third principle is non-discrimination, that is to say that no distinction should be made between face-to-face workers and teleworkers. The employer must provide work equipment and cover the expenses that the worker incurs when working from home. Teleworking cannot be a way for companies to shirk their responsibilities. Another fundamental element is the right to disconnect since workers are faced with marathon working days. The right to digital disconnection must be guaranteed.

Finally, we see it as a good practice that teleworking is complementary to face-to-face work, that is to say that the two are combined. Permanent remote work involves risks and threats, such as being uprooted or isolated.

What cybersecurity issues can arise when working from home? How can they be resolved?

Cybersecurity protocols must be established because the company is responsible for this problem. Protocols should include employee participation. There's a lot to work on in this regard, although there are already protocols on how to use company hardware and software to ensure cybersecurity.

Another problem concerns sick leave and accidents at work: any accident at home, that is to say at the current workplace, is an accident at work.

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