The EU is taking up the cause of work-from-home protections and rights.
More than 30 EU politicians signed a document on Monday that would ensure access to co-working spaces, prohibit tracking workers’ computers at home and protect them from having to send or respond to emails outside of working hours.
The non-binding document was developed and launched by the Future Workforce Alliance, a forum of politicians, business leaders and academics focused on policy changes in response to the digital transformation of work environments.
Their aim is to set official EU guidelines and best practices for companies with hybrid or remote workers and to create a legal definition of what constitutes a “healthy relationship with technology in the workplace” for employees on the job from home or in other remote locations.
“The remote work, hybrid models and flexible work-life relationships are an added value for our economy, business and workers,” said Dragos Pislaru, chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and a signatory of the charter.
“These should not come at the cost of our people with blurred lines between personal and professional life, increasing burnout rates and loneliness.”
The charter is building on the EU’s “right to disconnect” proposal, an earlier call to grant EU employees legal rights to switch off work-related tasks and electronic communication beyond office hours.
The policy, already enforced in several EU member states such as France, Spain and Belgium, is backed by a majority of the European Parliament and could become EU law towards the end of this year, said Ben Marks, co-founder of the Future Workforce Alliance.
The EU’s stepped-up focus on remote-worker rights comes as managers everywhere fret about productivity and losing touch with employees.
At the same time, workers are determined to hold on to flexibility – despite some feeling increasingly lonely at home.
There are also mounting concerns about deteriorating mental health among workers as businesses try to strike the right balance between work and life in the hybrid world.
“I honestly don’t believe that we need to overregulate, I just want to explore together with the private sector to what extent we can rely on self-regulation,” Mr Pislaru said.
“The private sector is quite proactive.” Some companies “have already started to come up with codes of conduct and internal regulations that actually are a source of inspiration” for EU legislators, he added.
Companies in Europe have been experimenting with the four-day work week, while the Netherlands became one of the first countries to establish work-from-home as a legal right.
Last week, a cross-party group of UK lawmakers, together with experts such as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, the Israeli-American psychologist and economist, backed a manifesto which calls for policymakers to include well-being measures in their decision-making process.