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Teleworking

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.

Topic

Recent updates

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In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Tina Weber about new research on the right to disconnect, the evolution of the right to disconnect...

Podcast

Key messages

  • 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. 

Research

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. 

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

Key outputs

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The term ‘hybrid work’ was popularised with the upsurge of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies and employees started to discuss ways of organising work after the crisis. The...

25 May 2023
Publication
Research report
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The report explores plausible and imaginable scenarios examining how telework and hybrid work in the EU might have developed by 2035, and their implications for the world of work. How...

28 April 2023
Publication
Research report
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This report sets out to map and analyse legislation and collective bargaining on telework in the 27 Member States and Norway. It highlights the main cross-country differences and similarities regarding...

1 September 2022
Publication
Research report
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Digital technologies have made it possible for many workers to carry out their work at any time and anywhere, with consequent advantages and disadvantages. Eurofound data show that teleworkers are...

9 September 2021
Publication
Research report

EU context

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. 

European Industrial Relations Dictionary 

Eurofound expert(s)

Oscar Vargas Llave

Oscar Vargas Llave is a research manager in the Working Life unit at Eurofound and manages projects on changes in the world of work and the impact on working conditions and related...

Research manager,
Working life research unit
Publications results (26)

This report explores EU Member States’ legislation around the right to disconnect and assesses the impact of company policies in this area on employees’ hours of connection, working time, work–life balance, health and well-being, and overall workplace satisfaction.

30 November 2023

Using data from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 and building on a theoretical model that differentiates between job stressors and job resources, this report examines key psychosocial risks in the workplace and their impact on health.

23 November 2023

The term ‘hybrid work’ was popularised with the upsurge of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies and employees started to discuss ways of organising work after the crisis. The term has been increasingly used to refer to situations in which (teleworkable) work is carried out from two

25 May 2023

The report explores plausible and imaginable scenarios examining how telework and hybrid work in the EU might have developed by 2035, and their implications for the world of work. How prepared are managers and employees, employer organisations and trade unions, and policymakers for the greater

28 April 2023

This report presents Eurofound’s research on telework during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. It explores changes in the incidence of telework, working conditions experienced by employees working from home and changes to regulations addressing issues related to this working arrangement.

08 December 2022

The Living, working and COVID-19 survey, first launched by Eurofound in early 2020, aims to capture the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic on the work and lives of EU citizens. The fifth round of the Eurofound survey, which was implemented in spring 2022, also sheds light on a new uncertain reality

07 December 2022

The strict public health restrictions implemented by governments in 2020 to control the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed working life and continued to shape it over the two years that followed. Between March and November 2021, over 70,000 interviews were carried out in 36 countries by the European

29 November 2022

European labour markets have recovered strongly from COVID-19. By the end of 2021, little more than 18 months after the start of the pandemic, employment rates in the EU were almost at pre-crisis levels. This report summarises labour market developments in 2020 and 2021 using quarterly data from the

20 October 2022

This report sets out to map and analyse legislation and collective bargaining on telework in the 27 Member States and Norway. It highlights the main cross-country differences and similarities regarding telework legislation and recent changes to these regulations. It also examines the current situati

01 September 2022

The fifth round of Eurofound's e-survey, fielded from 25 March to 2 May 2022, sheds light on the social and economic situation of people across Europe two years after COVID-19 was first detected on the European continent. It also explores the reality of living in a new era of uncertainty caused by t

07 July 2022

Online resources results (40)

In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Tina Weber about new research on the right to disconnect, the evolution of the right to disconnect in Europe, the reasons why legislative and procedural actions are being called for, the impacts that effective

15 April 2024

Flexible work increases post-pandemic, but not for everyone

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, various forms of flexible work, such as teleworking and flexitime, were in place across EU Member States. However, the pandemic led to a surge in flexible working practices with many workers wanting to focus on their work–life balance and have more time for

In this episode of Eurofound Talks Oscar Vargas and Mary McCaughey use results from the Living, working and COVID-19 online surveys, the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey, and other analyses from Eurofound to investigate what the future holds for telework in Europe, whether the mass rollo

2 December 2022
Podcast
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COVID-19 in the workplace: Employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace

Throughout 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific occupational health and safety rules were reintroduced due to increases in infection rates. Mandatory face masks, physical distancing and hygiene measures were enforced, and the recommendation to telework was largely re-instated in

Female teleworker taking notes during video conference on her laptop

Workers want to telework but long working hours, isolation and inadequate equipment must be tackled

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a surge in telework, with dramatic increases in the number of employees working from home (teleworking) in many European countries. What for many employees started out as a mandatory move seems to have transformed into a preference among the majority for part-time or

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Twin transition and pandemic challenge Eurofound to increase expertise, strengthen partnerships, expand reach, says new Director

Eurofound welcomed Ivailo Kalfin to his new role as Executive Director on 1 June. After one month in the job, he reflects on the challenges facing the EU, how they will impact on the work of Eurofound and his priorities for shaping the Agency over the next five years.

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Mixed impacts of COVID-19 on social dialogue and collective bargaining in 2020

​​​​​​​A first analysis of developments in working life in 2020 shows that the COVID-19 pandemic had a considerable impact on social dialogue and collective bargaining in the EU, Norway and the UK, albeit to varying degrees. While in some countries, standard procedures were by and large maintained

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Changing priorities: The impact of COVID-19 on national policy agendas

A first analysis of working life policies and developments in 2020 shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has in some cases speeded up and in other cases slowed down several policy developments in the EU, Norway and the UK, albeit to varying degrees, and dependent on national contexts. Increased


Blogs results (20)
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Europe Day is a celebration of unity, solidarity and harmony. While we may not have had much to celebrate this past year, one thing we can be proud of is how Europe has come together in the face of large-scale challenges and threats, showing that solidarity is the key to resilience and resolve.

8 May 2023
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The dawn of 2022 brought muted optimism to a Europe beginning to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the progress of vaccination programmes worldwide brought hope. Government and EU support during the pandemic had kept unemployment at bay, averting the widescale collapse of businesses. In step wi

19 December 2022
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Telework has become a permanent feature of working life in Europe. While we’ve seen the benefits of more flexible ways of working – particularly during the pandemic – the problems that arise from an increasingly connected life are also becoming clearer. Unfortunately, legislation alone may not be

13 July 2022
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The answer is yes – potentially. Assessing the environmental benefits of telework is a complex task, because any move to work from home involves a series of changes in individuals’ daily lives and activities, as well as company-level decisions, that may positively or negatively influence the level

23 June 2022
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When it comes to Europe’s COVID-19 recovery and its aspiration to build back a more resilient society, the so-called green and digital transitions have dominated EU policy discussions. And as Eurofound made preparations for the 2022 Foundation Forum – a unique occasion for high-level debate on the

11 March 2022
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COVID-19 has shown that some things can hit us out of the blue. The pandemic sent a shockwave through businesses all over the world and has brought massive changes to work organisation, internal communication and day-to-day operations for many companies. Doubtless, the depth of the pandemic’s impact

21 June 2021
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The massive and rapid adoption of telework in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 lockdowns exposed gaps in the legislation governing telework arrangements across the EU Member States. In some cases, there was no regulation in place; in others, it was too restrictive. Governments scrambled to put

31 May 2021
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On 9 May, the Conference on the Future of Europe will get underway. Floated well before the COVID-19 outbreak, its timing in the wake of the seismic shifts precipitated by the pandemic, and its implementation alongside the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, means that the outcomes could

4 May 2021
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The pandemic has had differential impacts on women. Raised consciousness about them must be applied to advance gender equality in recovery measures. All crises have a strongly gendered impact and none more so than the current pandemic, across a range of indicators. While the virus itself seems to ta

28 April 2021

Upcoming publications results (2)

This policy brief investigates how organisations are adapting their work organisation and practices to hybrid work. Based on case studies and on data from the European Working Conditions Survey 2024, the policy brief examines how hybrid work is being managed in organisations and profiles t

April 2025

This report investigates regional employment dynamics in Europe before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the subsequent recovery from the crisis. Almost 90% of regions across the EU had exceeded their pre-pandemic employment levels by 2022. However, significant regional disparities in emp

August 2024
Data results (20)

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