Joint ILO-Eurofound report on the effects of telework and ICT mobile work on the world of work
The report entitled, “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work’, jointly authored by International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound, Dublin) was published on 15 February. The report reviews developments in teleworking and ICT mobile working (T/ICTM) in the world of work and their impact on working conditions in ten EU Member States (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK), and in Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, and the United States.
The extent of T/ICTM across the different countries. The report delivers a synthesis of individual national reports and underlines the influence of the different countries’ levels of both technological advances as well as their prevailing economic and labor cultures and structures. From the countries reviewed, T/ICTM is most common in Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. T/ICTM incidence varies considerably by country, occupation, sector of activity, and the frequency with which employees engage in this type of work, ranging between 2% and 40% of employees. Across the EU28 group of countries, 17% of employees on average are engaged in T/ICTM and in most countries larger proportions of workers carry out this type of work occasionally rather than regularly. Unsurprisingly, T/ICTM is more common among professionals and managers but it is also significant among clerical support and sales workers. Gender-wise, males are more likely to perform T/ICTM than females, with the exception of regular home-based telework where females are in the majority.
The report also underlines several impediments to T/ICTM. Managerial resistance tends to be an overarching impediment, including in those companies with T/ICTM policies. All of the national reports conclude that many managers fear losing control over their colleagues’ work. This type of managerial resistance is most acute in India.
Outside of the EU states, country specific drivers play an important role, for example California’s new technology industry, and Japan’s specific T/ICTM policy instrument to combat an eroding labor force (due to low fertility rates, an ageing population, and low female employment rates). It is only recently that public debate in Brazil and India has centered on these forms of work.
The effects on working time. The report draws attention to ambivalent attitudes surrounding T/ICTM. Workers view T/ICTM work as a means of autonomous working and achieving better work-life balance, although it does facilitate how hours are worked, which is part and parcel of work-life balance it can also facilitate working longer hours, which can compromise these employees’ lifestyle ‘benefits’. This is also a common feature outside the EU; employees who work from home tend to work longer hours than their employer-site-based colleagues. In Europe more teleworkers work ‘long hours’ (more than 48 hours per week) than employer-site-based workers. Furthermore their extra hours are not paid. ‘Blurred’ lines’ between private life and work life are most often mentioned in Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Gender differences are significant and the report reveals that females would appear to better
benefit from the ways to reconcile work-family life. Even if overall T/ICTM workers are generally found to be satisfied with the compromises they secure, a segment nonetheless complained that their work and stress levels increased. This is why both of the report’s authors recommend that health and safety policies be adapted to ensure rest times are in fact being respected. Both bodies see the solution as residing in partial or occasional recourse to these types of employment whilst still maintaining a link with a workplace community. Both supplementary informal teleworking (working from home) and ‘very mobile’ working are situations that can expose workers to long working hours and stress.