In 2018, roughly 5% of working-age people in the EU regularly worked from home. Despite significant advances in teleworking technology, that share has remained constant at around 5% over the last decade. It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of how COVID-19 has changed working practices across the EU, but clearly many more people are now teleworking (and struggling with the ‘mute mic’ button).
Of course, a lot of jobs (maybe even most jobs) cannot be done remotely. McKinsey & Company suggests that, in the UK, it is not possible to work remotely in roughly 60% of occupations (such as sales assistants). They estimate that only around 20% of workers in the UK are currently working remotely.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Paul, who points out that the technology for working for home has existed for years, yet the majority of people hadn’t taken advantage of it until the pandemic hit. Why is that?
To get a response, we spoke to Magda Sowierszenko, Head of Communications at Remote-how, a platform “powered by and for leaders of distributed teams”. What would she say?
Paul is right, the technology is there and it has been for a few years already. Sure, we’re getting faster internet, but it was possible a few years back.
Now, why hasn’t it been as popular as we would like it to be? I think that has to do with how we approach change management in general. We are used to doing things in a certain way, so we are very used to working from an office. Also, looking at how old are average managers and leadership in the organisations, they might be familiar with technology but for sure they are less comfortable with technology than the younger generation (i.e. most of the employees).
There is good news, because Gen X/Z/Y are slowly taking over workplaces and are able to influence the mindset of people who are not so keen on remote working. Now that COVID-19 has happened and forced all of us to work from home, I think it’s a great opportunity to challenge our mindsets and show that remote work is possible.
For another perspective, we put the same comment to Tomáš Zdechovský, a Christian Democratic MEP from Czechia and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. What would he say?
Yes, Paul, you are absolutely right. I was very surprised when I started my political career that nobody wanted to use this technology.
I am a former businessman and crisis manager, and I’ve had a lot of experience with video conferencing. Normally, companies don’t send people from place to place for in-person meetings, especially if you have fifty or so colleagues. Normally, you work through video…
I think, in future, that remote working can help us to tackle climate change and encourage us to better integrate new technologies into our workplaces.
Will we continue working from home after lockdown? What are the barriers to working remotely, and why hadn’t more people taken advantage of teleworking technologies before the crisis? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!