Even if using smartphones, laptops and other technologies to work from home may bring some advantages like avoiding rush hour traffic, for example, it diminishes personal space and contact with colleagues says a new report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
“Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work,” is based on interviews with workers and experts in 10 European Union member states, Brazil, Argentina, the United States, India and Japan.
“Today’s office work and, more broadly, knowledge work, is supported by the internet, and can be carried out from practically any location and at any time. This new spatial independence has transformed the role of technology in the work environment, offering both new opportunities and new challenges,” reads the report.
Among teleworking positive effects are the greater autonomy on working time and better work-day organization, also reduced commuting time, higher productivity and a better overall work-life balance. For companies this is good as the improvement in the work-life balance can lead to increased motivation, reduced turnover and enhanced efficiency.
More so, from a gender perspective, women doing telework tend to work shorter hours than men, and seem to achieve slightly better work-life balance effects.
“Evaluations of a [teleworking] pilot project for the company SERPRO, the Brazilian federal data processing company, showed that introducing working-from-home (home- based telework) policies resulted in net benefits for the company, due to a combination of improved productivity, reduced costs and improved quality of life for employees.”
Nonetheless, teleworking “blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations,” told the UN News Centre Jon Messenger, co-author of the report.
For example, in Argentina, a study by the CENIT Foundation (Centro de Estudios para la Transformación) found that 30% of respondents reported that they work longer hours when they telework than office-based workers.
Also the report found the incidence of teleworking is related both to technological development in each country and the existing economic structures and cultures of work. For example, it tends to be higher in countries like Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US.
According to the 2009 annual report of the University of Costa Rica’s Information and Knowledge Programme (PROSIC), “telework is a growing phenomenon in both Latin America and the Caribbean, though the pace of that growth varies widely.”
Countries such as Argentina and Chile are at the forefront both in promoting its use and developing regulations. Also, in countries like Brazil, air pollution and traffic congestion in major urban areas is driving the debate on teleworking as it is seen as a means of reducing these problems.
The report concludes policymakers should aim to accentuate the positive effects of teleworking and reduce the negative ones. For example, addressing the issue of supplemental teleworking which could be viewed as unpaid overtime and ensure minimum rest periods are respected.
“To fully harness the potential of [teleworking] and improve the working conditions of the workers involved, training and awareness initiatives are needed for both employees and managers on the effective use of ICT for working remotely, as well as the potential risks, and how to effectively manage the flexibility provided by this arrangement.”