Post-pandemic teleworking, by Ester Oliveras

Everything indicates that we will soon return to see each other’s faces at work, the smile uncovered, in three dimensions and, if there is no teleworking, that the meetings will once again be daily. We are interested? Let’s see what has been cooked during the pandemic. In July 2021, the law regulating remote workas a result of the imperative need to order a practice that isand established in a forced manner and without prior preparation to millions of people. In that first moment, teleworking benefited both workers and companies and It was the only way that economic activity was not paralyzed. Once the pandemic is over, if such a claim can be made, it seems clear that teleworking is considered a benefit for working people, but there are doubts about the benefits it brings to companies.

A survey carried out by the Chamber of Spain to 400 small and medium-sized companies shows that the application of this law is having an uneven follow-up among them, and the variable that best explains these differences is the size of these companies which, in turn, is linked to the strength of their union representations. According to this survey, half of SMEs are not aware of the law and, those that do, have not seen any very significant advantage in terms of productivity or cost savings. The fact that teleworking has become an important variable in the negotiation of collective agreements is a sign that the same value does not exist on the part of the company than on the part of the workers.

On the one hand, we find the benefits for working people: savings on the cost of travelwhich is on the rise with the increase in fuel prices; time saving of displacements, which facilitates conciliation with other activities; and also the saving of other costs, such as the need for work clothes (we have all verified how the videoconference is more relaxed with the label), not to mention the savings on menus or mid-morning breakfasts. All this package of benefits concludes in that the average desire to telecommute is three days a weekand in the event that only two are granted, then let them be Monday and Friday.

On the other hand, companies must ensure people can work from home. This requires an investment in laptops. Among the immediate benefits would be savings on supplies and office cleaning. It’s a small savings. The potential benefit exists more to medium and long termwhen savings can be derived from a more rational use of office spaces, with savings in rents or in the maintenance of spaces, but the changes in the infrastructures are slower. Another potentially huge benefit is the access to non-local talent.

The structural aspects that surround us influence the social capital of companies, innovation and creativity

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According to the Chamber’s survey, companies affirm that, despite the fact that they have not seen their productivity reduced, they do not want to keep telecommuting, or want to keep it within limits. It sounds paradoxical that they do not want to give carte blanche to a practice that generates a lot of satisfaction in working people and that, apparently, does not entail great inconveniences for companies. The underlying reason is that the loss perceived by companies is of an intangible nature. Beyond productivity, we should ask ourselves: how do teams work? What about creativity and innovation? What about labor conflicts? That is, what about the company’s share capital?

One of the variables that influences the creation or destruction of social capital are, without a doubt, the structural aspects that surround us and that influence our day to day without realizing it: the distribution of offices, the use of stairs, the existence (or not ) of a space to eat… Some of us will remember the comedy series ‘Cámera Café’, which illustrated informal conversations around the coffee machine in the workplace. There are historical examples of successful structures, the building of the Bell Labs Laboratorieslocated in Murray Hill, New Jersey, was known to have a long and inescapable corridor that continually fostered fortuitous encounters between people of different profiles, who in another space would not have coincided. The result was half a century of innovation leadership and 9 Nobel Prizes. Serendipity is lost from home.

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