Conclusions and Recommendations
The Covid-19 pandemic was an extraordinary catalyst and accelerator of the tendency of “mobile office” that appeared already years ago, which is becoming the new normal. The media sector will have to take into account the irreversibility of what has happened since the pandemic: full-time office work is likely to disappear, and the future work will be “hybrid”, with a mix of days spent at the newsroom and others spent at home or elsewhere as teleworkers.
This means that all the stakeholders (legislator, employers, unions/associations and individuals) will have to adapt and try to find a new balance, taking into account general principles such as equal rights and non-discrimination, respect of basic labour rights standards, communication and dialogue. Concerning more specifically trade unions, they will have to listen even more to the expectations of their members, and maybe they will also have to develop new forms of organising.
Looking at recent developments, and listening to what journalists and their unions/associations have to say, a certain number of key principles of telework / home office can be:
- Voluntary nature: telework / home office must be voluntary for both workers and employers and subject to an agreement
- Reversibility: a person who teleworks for a certain time must be able to return to work in person, and vice-versa.
- Non-discrimination: no distinction should be made between office workers and teleworkers. The employer must provide work equipment and cover the expenses that the worker incurs when working from home. Employers are responsible for investing in technology and training, as well as for health and safety measures.
- Equal rights: trade unions/associations must be able to contact and organise all workers, independently from their actual workplace.
- Right to disconnect: the right to digital disconnection must be guaranteed either by law or by “soft” regulations such as collective agreements.
In addition to these general principles, the following recommendations can also be identified:
- Know your rights. Don’t assume that home office or telework is not regulated. Contact your union/association and exchange information with your colleagues if needed.
- In the absence of a regulatory framework or collective agreements, define an agreement about home office / telework with your employer, in your working contract. Contact your union if you need help.
- Set a schedule and set your limits. Your home is not your office. Don’t spend all day at the desk. Go outside, take breaks and plan them if needed.
- Set a defined workspace. Be aware of the ergonomic issues.
- Reach out to your colleagues or talk to your manager if you feel isolated.
- You have the right to disconnect!
- Build a national legal framework that clearly defines telework and home office
- Strengthen collective agreements to ensure that telework legislation is applied equally to all staff and freelancers
- Guarantee the right to disconnect if it is not enforced - help journalists to establish clear boundaries between working hours and private life to provide a non-intrusive remote working environment, limit working hours
- Anticipate challenges linked to telework and offer assistance: equal rights, working time, work life balance, data protection, cyber security etc.
- Guarantee the right to organise electronically and develop specific agreements on this matter with employers
- Develop digital tools for a better communication with members and for trade union organising
- Develop “template agreements” dealing specifically with telework/home office
- Reach out to members
- Well-managed telework policy can increase productivity and trust
- Take responsibility for your employees also when they are not in the newsroom or at the usual workplace: health and safety, privacy, work life balance.
- Provide equipment - internet access, computers and other personal electronic devices, software. If not: it is also your responsibility to cover extra related costs.
- Be clear and precise about communication with the employees, as well as with deadlines and work schedules.
- Trust your employees: a good journalist is a good journalist anywhere, you don’t need to monitor them in their daily routine.
- Be open to dialogue and negotiations about new forms of working relations.