From the Viewsroom

Some working rules on WFH

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on August 11, 2020 Published on August 11, 2020

The ILO’s guidelines on remote-work can make post-Covid office environments inclusive and telework egalitarian

Even though most economies are still reeling under the impact of Covid-19, talks of resuming regular work in offices and factories are getting louder, especially considering the gargantuan economic losses being incurred during the lockdowns. Still, it is going to be difficult for offices to resume work in full capacity, and unions and governments estimate that for much of the working population, work-from-home and location-agnostic work will continue to be the norm going forward. In the US, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that nearly 20 per cent workers were already functioning out of their homes in the pre-Covid period and during the pandemic, the number shot up to staggering levels, hitting over 90 per cent in some sectors. In India, 90-95 per cent workers in the IT sector, especially those employed with large IT firms, are already working from home, as industry veterans such as Kris Gopalakrishnan\ have observed. They estimate that more than one million IT workers will continue to do telework in the post-Covid scenario as well.

This means telework is here to stay. It also means it is important for workers, employers, unions and regulators to have a clear understanding of how the telework ecosystem should function so that employees are not exploited and work targets are met and a level-playing field is created for all stakeholders. Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: A Practical Guide, a handbook recently released by the International Labour Organization (ILO), can offer some functional solutions here.

The ILO guide wants workers to prepare for a “new and better normal” by preparing a teleworking and return-to-work policy based on the feedback received from workers during the initial phases of the Covid-19-induced telework modules. This would include what worked well and what can be improved. It must also include the potential need for investment in digital technologies that can make running work remotely easier on a long-term basis. It is important to include workers’ representatives in all such decision-making processes. The new system should protect vulnerable groups within the workforce. This lot includes those with health issues, older workers, workers who live with invalids, women, especially pregnant and new mothers. Employers must review various roles and update the organisation’s teleworking policy based on the feedback and create individual teleworking plans of workers. More importantly, companies must make sure the new policies respect workers’ collective bargaining agreements.

The ILO guide can be accessed here.

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Published on August 11, 2020
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