A rational and practical analysis of teleworking

Much has been written these days, about remote work or telecommuting. For some, the panacea of ​​family conciliation. For others, as in the case of a union, a new abuse by the company, especially because of the long hours that go on without end.

What no one can argue, neither defenders nor detractors, is that the health crisis has accelerated this practice. Until now, an alternative that coexisted among us in the limbo of the most avant-garde companies and politicians who did not dare to give the final push. A pernicious virus has made us telework and put our satisfaction, productivity and feelings to the test.


In order not to get into repetitions of the many good opinion articles that have been written on the matter, I would like to give a new approach to this issue and I have launched myself into the field of analysis. On the one hand, I will try to contemplate remote work, as another business process, that is, as scientific as possible. Next, I will present the solution we are carrying out, what we know as the “teleworking check-list”. And finally, I will conduct a factual confrontation, asking those who have teleworked during this period of pandemic.

(1) Analysis of remote work

On many occasions we have had to face organizational processes that entail the definition of jobs. If we want an employee to perform well, we should plan both the organizational, the legal, the health and the human resources aspects.

The organizational approach

We have teleworked out of necessity. We have lived a situation that, on a global scale, we will remember forever. With greater drama for those who have lost loved ones, to whom we do not want to stop acknowledging our grief and consideration. But, if this urgency did not exist, we would have to ask ourselves, as a first step, the real reason, why, that would make the distance modality convenient.

Determined the need, we should study factors such as mobility, roaming, savings in fixed costs (especially rentals), flexibility in the schedule, savings in travel time (and therefore inherent expenses), the dangers of flow and information processing, etc.

The HR approach

One of the main reasons for teleworking is to be able to get talent for our organization. We have not yet retracted space-time to achieve hyper-speed, but information technologies (IT) allow us to be hyper-productive and save numerous costs. The context has changed radically, so having to carry all your belongings and travel with your family to the place where you have a new job opportunity is no longer peremptory. Once the language barriers are overcome, companies can count on the best professionals without having to change the gym or the children´s school.

The type of work is essential to be able to exercise at a distance. Until I learn to anesthetize myself, of course I will not follow the instructions of my dentist by videoconference, but, if the characteristics of the position and the skills required of it are adequate, it is an option to seriously consider.

Let´s not kid ourselves either. A computer, an internet connection, and a quiet place at home are not enough. Remote work requires important habits and attitudes such as discipline and self-control, the establishment of work and rest routines and even disconnection.

The other side of the coin, the company, must undo the corset of presentism and work more for objectives. Remove the obsession for physical control and develop a culture based on trust towards the worker.

There is what is being called Emotional Retribution, a new name given to the well-known theory about valence (one of those that always "fell" in the business administration exam on the complex subject of leadership). According to this term, "we can be paid" in different ways, and one of the most popular is the possibility of family reconciliation, downsizing and other equivalents.

But be careful with what is not seen ... Teleworking carries important consequences such as the feeling of isolation, excessive celebrity in the face of small social events every day (even the most irrelevant), the guilt complex for being comfortable at home, anxiety about feedback about our job performance, etc.

The latter is very important, since it affects what is called "professional career" and our own promotion or recognition. If more than a third of emotional competencies are relational, how can they be affected by the lack of human contact, interaction, and teamwork? Even more. Let´s change the sign. If the organization we work for is experiencing low hours, rather than worrying about our promotion, the distance can generate additional stress due to the fear of our job loss.

There are many ways to counteract these effects: mixed distance work and gradual implementation, attending work meetings, training and skills oriented towards objectives and results (of all, including the boss, or rather, the boss first ) and, above all, for the establishment of strong communication and transparency of the company.

And beware! Communicating is not continually conducting videoconferences and taking some of the worst customs from face-to-face work to teleworking. Reunionitis is bad both in the office and when it occurs at a distance.

The approach to safety, health and ergonomics

Through our checklist we will be able to review all those aspects that, due to the stampede with which we have gotten into the house, we have neglected: adequate lighting, ventilation, computer screen, chair and table we use, isolation acoustics, interruptions, schedules, the workplace in general and a host of ergonomic aspects that we will have to plan and adapt.

We could place these aspects of health within the legal approach in that the company must consider the physiological and anthropometric characteristics of the worker and consider safety and health, education and training, emergency situations and occupational accidents.

The legal approach

There is a dispersion on the regulation of remote work that should be subject to regulation or, what is better for me, an agreement between the parties. With the Workers´ Statute, the Labor Reform or various European directives, we can peck here and there to find meaty pieces of telework.

There is no doubt that the worker, whose activity is carried out remotely, has exactly the same rights as the one who performs it in person. Nor are there too many doubts about the ideal of the common agreement and its expression in a contract that includes the way in which the work is going to be carried out, its duration, the means and resources available, the time control modality and clarifying the obligations and duties of all.

We are obliged to find the right balance, if possible starting from voluntariness, in which unpaid overtime can be limited, with the legal registration of the day, digital connection marathons and cultural leverage in favor of those who are worse off they are harmed, of course, they are still women.

The optimization of the facilities, the equipment, the Wi-Fi connections, the use of those assets that are private such as company assets and even the possibility of generating or sharing expenses should be regulated. We must continue to put little crosses in our work check-list with other needs such as training and improving skills.

As indicated in article 20.3 of the Workers´ Statute, when we use company resources, it is our obligation to take care of them, both material equipment and information, avoiding installing unauthorized programs and applications, taking special care with everything related to to the transmission of data and sensitive information and always ensuring its integrity.

Similarly, the company must provide adequate equipment, protection against viruses or hacks, technical assistance and replacement of damaged components.

This is perhaps the most diffuse aspect: control over the right to privacy. If the company must evaluate the risks of the position and ensure health and safety, it should, by some means, carry out an inspection, directly colliding with the right to privacy of our homes. If the company must ensure performance, where would the limit of control by digital devices of the worker be without breaking into our sacred living space?

This dispersion increases if we get into the quicksand of workplace accidents and coverage for damages to third parties. If I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water and I slip causing a sprain, is it a work-related accident in itinere?

(2) The telework check-list

The review of the previous points gives vertigo. It is not surprising, since it is about replicating the rights and obligations, the means and the context of face-to-face work to that of distance. Something that has cost many pages of B.O.E. and many discussions between Social Agents.

Some would argue for a radical rethinking, which sooner or later we will be forced to carry out by the use of IT. The family conciliation or globalization, will remain small when the hologram of our boss appears sitting and scolds us because we have not presented the report on last month´s sales. The scare will be greater than if a Halloween ectoplasm visited us and as always, what often seems disruptive, is nothing more than lack of anticipation.

The solution we have adopted is the construction of a checklist that is as exhaustive as possible and that includes everything previously contemplated. Subject to a small taxonomy, we can gradually incorporate organizational, legal, people management elements, etc.

In the American films in which they have captured an alien ship, a transformer or a Godzilla, scientists in white coats are always swarming, with folders in hand, marking ticks in their respective boxes. At the expense of their trivialization, checklists are powerful and simple scalable tools that, in an absolutely conceptual way, help us to be able to solve aspects as dispersed as the one I am developing here. Then, the cumbersome text, that others put it in the style of the famous confrontation between Góngora and Quevedo.

(3) The confrontation with reality

Very good, but what is really happening to professionals who have teleworked? Well, let´s see. And for this, I have decided on the survey tool in a certain population. So, what was most accessible was the realization of a sample with the following criteria: professionals with a university degree who have suffered or enjoyed this modality, who have already been doing it or who have had to do it totally or partially . I already know that, even with n> 20, the scientific validity is not the most robust of the test, especially if what I have done is to pull the agenda and the 100 interviewees all have the bias (and patience) of being known and my friends.

In the end, I launched a small survey of 100 contacts, of whom 81 have answered (I will pull the rest of them by the ears) and, of these, 76 meet the conditions of having worked remotely. The results are surprising:

for Survey graphics

84% of those surveyed were satisfied with the conditions of their job. Some complaints referred to the suffered printer, but in general, this level of response would indicate that our homes are equipped to work in terms of material means and conditions.

As for the question of whether we are more or less productive, there are greater doubts, since 48% and the majority believe that we are and 43% think that in the same way. What we can affirm is that, according to those surveyed, teleworking does not worsen productivity (9%).

Yes, indeed yes. 68% of those surveyed have worked longer than normal. In addition, it is an everyday comment.

Until now, opinions had not opted for the, say, more negative aspects. However, when asked if remote work creates any feeling of guilt, concern, or anxiety about our performance, what prevails is 41% who stay the same as when they work in person. But the next group is the one that thinks that yes, there are psychological consequences that lie in wait for us in our comfortable home, with a close 36%.

A surprising result where they exist: the opinions that there are fewer interruptions or the same as in face-to-face work, would add up to 82%, while those who are most annoyed at home remain at 18%. Special mention must be made for all those (and especially those in a society where women continue to carry a greater burden), who have added comments to me that the sum of telework + children + without school, is science and fiction.
for A significant 80% of those surveyed believe that time is scheduled even better than at work. Well ... I think that goes with the person and where they are.

86% of those surveyed have not incurred any extra expenses. In my opinion, what really happens is that we are not aware of this and of the need to regulate the sharing of some costs with the company. Anyway, there are the opinions, with the permission of the toner or the cartridges of the printers.

Very simple, there are 84% of opinions that show that family conciliation is a reality.

66% of those surveyed indicate that they have not had technological difficulties, which constitutes a good percentage of those who have become experts in Teams, Zoom or Skype. But, there is also 25% that have suffered these barriers, although it is true that what we complain about is the reliability of the WIFI.

But we have left for last what is the most surprising (and most conclusive) result for me. We have been positively told that we have our homes conditioned, that we are equally productive, that we do not have too many interruptions, we can schedule our time well, we incur almost no extra expenses, we do not have technical difficulties and we reconcile our family life. And, as the most negative aspects, our days get longer and we have a certain anxiety about our professional career. Remote work appears to be satisfying, desirable, and feasible. Well, antagonistically, to the question of continuing under this modality, 48% of those surveyed have said absolutely not, compared to 18% that they would like to.

I cannot say if baby boomers predominate in the survey, but the true motivational roots incline us towards the face-to-face, tilting the balance towards the offices, the plant or the classrooms.

In conclusion, teleworking has already materialized beyond an option. We have assembled the device without looking at the instruction manual and now we have to write it down and, while politicians and social agents fight in the territory of opinion, we use checklists that contemplate the vast totality of the aspects that have to be regular. But let´s not feel in the most mystical ecstasy either, because not everyone wants to stay home. Perhaps our typical Valencian lunch compensates us for the proximity and human warmth.