Teleworking

15 Август 2022

Shutterstock image of man teleworking on laptop

Telework is a work arrangement in which work is performed outside a default place of work, normally the employer’s premises, by means of information and communication technologies (ICT).Read more

Telework is a work arrangement in which work is performed outside a default place of work, normally the employer’s premises, by means of information and communication technologies (ICT). The characteristic features of telework are the use of computers and telecommunications to change the usual location of work, the frequency with which the worker is working outside the employer’s premises and the number of places where workers work remotely (mobility).

Considering mobility, ICT-based mobile work can be defined as the use of information and communications technologies, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and/or desktop computers, for work that is performed outside the employer’s premises and largely ‘location independent’. Mobile work could be considered a variation of telework. When using the term ICT-based mobile work, the emphasis is put on the fact that workers work in a range of locations and use ICT to connect to shared company computer systems. 

Different levels of telework/ICT-based mobile (TICTM) work intensity or frequency and range of places at which individuals work may have different consequences for working conditions.

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EU context

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ICT has revolutionised work and life in the 21st century. Advances in ICT have opened the door to new ways of working. Teleworking and ICT-based mobile work have become subsumed into a package of flexible working arrangements aimed at modernising the organisation of work.Read more

ICT has revolutionised work and life in the 21st century. Advances in ICT have opened the door to new ways of working. Teleworking and ICT-based mobile work have become subsumed into a package of flexible working arrangements aimed at modernising the organisation of work. Policymakers in many EU countries are debating the rapid change in the way we work and the knock-on implications on other aspects of our daily lives, like work organisation, work–life balance, health and well-being.

The European framework agreement on telework, signed by the EU-level social partners in 2002, defines telework and sets up a general framework at European level for the working conditions of teleworkers. It aims at reconciling the needs for flexibility and security shared by employers and workers. Since then, technological developments have contributed to expanding this work arrangement and paving the way for a higher level of mobility of workers to work remotely. 

In June 2020, the EU-level social partners signed a framework agreement on digitalisation, which outlines relevant provisions on the 'modalities of connecting and disconnecting', to be implemented at national level in accordance with the procedures and practices specific to management and labour in the Member States. 

In January 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to propose a law that enables those who work digitally to disconnect outside their working hours. It should also establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods. 

Since early 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers and employees have defaulted to teleworking, which may potentially alter the way we work into the future. This shift provides opportunities for businesses and helps workers to keep their employment, but also presents challenges around health and work–life balance linked to the blurring of boundaries, long working hours and constant availability. 

Eurofound’s work on teleworking links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on a Europe fit for the digital age. 

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European Industrial Relations Dictionary

Research

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Eurofound carries out research on telework and ICT-based mobile work in its activity on working conditions and sustainable work, including in its research on new forms of employmenRead more

Eurofound carries out research on telework and ICT-based mobile work in its activity on working conditions and sustainable work, including in its research on new forms of employment. Topics covered include work–life balance, working time, working conditions and the right to disconnect, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the way we work.

Impact on employment and working conditions

Eurofound analysis on telework and ICT-based mobile work has looked at how flexibility of working time and worker autonomy impacts on employment and working conditions in the digital age, focusing on how it affects work–life balance, health, performance and job prospects. It draws on data from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) and other research.

Joint research by Eurofound and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has examined the impact of telework and ICT-based mobile work at various locations (home, office or another location) on work–life balance, also drawing on EWCS data. ICT-based mobile work is also one of several new forms of employment on the rise in the EU being studied by Eurofound. 

Teleworking and COVID-19

Eurofound’s unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides a snapshot of the impact of the changes that occurred during the pandemic on people’s lives, with the aim of helping policymakers shape the response to the crisis. Conducted in five rounds during 2020, 2021 and 2022, it allows for comparison of the challenges that arose during the different stages of living through the pandemic. A range of questions focus on people’s work situation, their level of teleworking during COVID-19, experiences of working from home and the impact on work–life balance. 

Right to disconnect

The challenges go beyond work–life balance: the blurring of boundaries, constant connectivity and long working hours can represent a problem for the mental and physical well-being of workers. With the exponential growth of teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic, measures related to the right to disconnect have become more relevant than ever. Based on case study research, in 2021 Eurofound explored the implementation and impact of the right to disconnect at workplace level.

The full impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, but COVID-19 could permanently change teleworking and ICT-based mobile work in the EU and beyond. 

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Key outputs over the years

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Key messages

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  • Teleworking took off in all EU countries with over a third of those in employment starting to work remotely at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many with limited or no previous experience of working in this way. 
  • The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) distinguishes between workers who work ‘usually’ from home and those who do so ‘sometimes’. The surge in telework in 2020 was driven by an increase of people working usually from home. Prior to the pandemic, working sometimes from home was more common in most countries and in 2020 remained at similar levels as in 2019. In 2020, working usually from home became the more typical arrangement.
  • Most EU workers expressed a preference to work from home several times per week in the long term.  
  • Home-based teleworkers are twice as likely to exceed the 48-hour working time limit as workers onsite and are significantly more likely to work in their free time. 
  • The rise in telework has highlighted the blurring of lines between work and private life. It will be critical for governments and social partners to introduce ‘right to disconnect’ or related initiatives in order to prevent large segments of workers becoming at risk of physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Following the shift to telework during the pandemic, the hybrid working arrangements that were the most typical before the pandemic will become again the most prevalent form of telework.
  • The return to the workplace has continued across the EU as public health restrictions were lifted and only 12% of respondents still worked exclusively from home in spring 2022. However, there is a clear preference for teleworking with over 60% of both women and men expressing their preference to work from home at least several times per month, implying that the return has not been entirely voluntary.  
  • Social partners and policymakers should seek to include provisions to address to the challenges around working time, health and safety, or access to and use of equipment in any legal frameworks or agreements. 
     
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Publications & data

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The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic. 

  • Publications (84)
  • Data
  • Ongoing work (4)

Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations. 

Data

A selection of related data on this topic are linked below. 

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.