Remote Working and the Future of Working Remotely

Dr Kirsten Gatt, Lawyer |

10 August 2021

BDO-Malta-Teleworking

Remote work, also known as telework, refers to any type of work that is not performed in a traditional office setting but rather in any other place, including the employee’s homes, or a co-working space.

 

Several employers have been reluctant to provide environments for remote working in the past, and only started to offer such possibilities when they were faced with no other alternative. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and the governmental restrictions which followed, have led to the mass-adoption of remote working to enable organizations to keep operating.

 

For organizations which had already adopted remote working measures, this switch to remote working wasn’t seen to be extreme, and these organizations were mainly unphased with such changes. However, for most organizations, this switch meant that they had to adopt new ways of working and invest in technologies which are deemed necessary for remote working, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud computing and video conferencing tools.

 

While some employers see this new way of working as only a temporary shift, others have embraced that this will result in a long-term change and have started to embrace flexible modes of work for employees.

 

The change in mentality regarding remote working can be evidenced by the Remote Working Policy which has been published for the public service on the 1st of October 2021. This policy provides guidelines on how to ensure professional standards in service provision, data protection, employee wellbeing and use of technological equipment, as well as to safeguard laws, policies, and sectoral agreements currently in force. An 18-month transition period will take place to help aid the shift from the existing teleworking system towards the new remote working policy.

 

Despite the several advantages associated with remote working, including workforce equality,  environmental sustainability, and economic development, concerns are still being raised regarding the negative effects which may arise from the introduction of remote working, including the increased risk of depression, anxiety and burnout. This mental health struggles result from an increase in digital resources being used for work purposes resulting in an ‘always on’ culture, which has had a severe impact on the work-life balance of employees.

 

To combat such consequences, the introduction of the right to disconnect after working hours is currently being discussed on an EU level. The right to disconnect allows workers to not engage in work-related activities during out-of-office hours, therefore workers will have a right to ignore phone calls, emails, or other work-related communications outside of office hour, thus creating a clear division between work and personal time.

 

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