Teleworkers twice as likely to exceed 48-hour working time limit
Home-based teleworkers are twice as likely to exceed the 48-hour working time limit established by the EU Working Time Directive as workers onsite, and are significantly more likely to work in their free time. The shift to telework during the pandemic, and increased demand for more hybrid working arrangements in the future, is putting the spotlight on whether existing labour legislation is fit for purpose in post-pandemic Europe, according to Eurofound’s new report Right to disconnect: Exploring company practices.
Digital technologies have made it possible for many workers to carry out their work anytime and anywhere, with consequent advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages, for remote workers and teleworkers in particular, include the risk to health and well-being linked to long working hours. To address this issue, there have been calls for the ‘right to disconnect’ from work-related digital communications outside of working time. The new report from Eurofound on the issue includes case studies that chart the implementation and impact of the right to disconnect at workplace level.
The experience of the first four Member States that have introduced rules and agreements on the right to disconnect prior to 2021 has demonstrated the pivotal role of the social partners in ensuring these rules are translated into reality on the ground. Furthermore, the autonomous framework agreement on digitalisation signed by cross-industry social partners in 2020 detailed important provisions on connecting and disconnecting, to be implemented in accordance with the procedures and practices specific to management and labour at national level. Eurofound’s research also shows that in countries with weaker industrial relations legislation can provide a fallback option to ensure minimum standards are met. At company level, the introduction of the right to disconnect has revealed that a ‘soft’ approach through awareness raising, training and the management of out of hours connection is more common than a ‘hard disconnection’, which severs access to company communication during specific times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the right to disconnect both a workplace and political issue. In addition to considerations around working time, new agreements and texts addressing the right to disconnect will need to consider the issues that lead to the ‘perceived’ need for constant connection, such as workload, lack of training and work processes that feed overconnection. High-level buy-in and regular reinforcement of the message on the importance of the right to disconnect will be critical for its success.
Speaking on the publication of the report Tina Weber, Eurofound Research Manager, spoke about the potential positives of formalising the right to disconnect, ‘Although evidence of the impact of the right to disconnect on various aspects of working conditions and employee wellbeing is still lacking, social partners’ experiences at company level suggest that positive changes in company culture are taking place following the introduction of the right to disconnect – this is an area that will be researched extensively in the coming months in the context of the return to workplaces and rollout of hybrid working arrangements.’
Download the report: