The biggest test for Spanish companies comes right at the beginning of the course: organizing the return from vacation at a time that will also mean returning to the offices for many workers, after a year and a half of remote work. But in the face of the application of the teleworking law and the uncertainty that the evolution of the pandemic still generates, companies still have a lot to decide: from the choice of a completely face-to-face model or one hybrid to control measures in the workplace and the needs of conciliation of employees.
These aspects will mark the agenda of human resources departments in a return that will be more traumatic than in previous years. This is what Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute, believes. “The return will be hard because there are unknowns about the position of companies on teleworking.” Many people, he adds, are eager to return to the workplace, but others do not want to change their routine again.
Business positions in relation to teleworking
The solutions that companies are applying cover a wide spectrum. At one extreme are those that plan the full return of all their workers, such as the US investment bank Morgan Stanley, which told the press of its country the need for strict presence.
Others, on the other hand, are looking for hybrid models that combine the days from the office with others remotely. Many companies began to apply this system during de-escalation, in mid-2020, but from this course more will be added. According to Jordi Badal, professor of Finance at OBS Business School and head of Human Resources at the Agència Catalana de Notícies (ACN), this option enhances the advantages of each environment. “Those responsible for human teams do not want to give up the functional efficiencies gained from teleworking such as flexibility, but we continue to believe in the need for physical interaction for certain types of dynamics ”, he admits.
Telefónica is an example of this transition towards the hybrid model. The telecommunications company has proposed 10,000 workers with the option of performing their tasks remotely to do so twice a week. Vodafone is committed to a 60% teleworking format compared to 40% face-to-face and IBM technology allows 30% of the capacity in its offices. The decision of which workers come to the center, in the latter case, gives priority to those whose tasks require a high degree of presence. “We have a crisis committee that covers all departments, from Finance and Marketing to Legal, which meets twice a week to assess the situation,” explains Felipe Albes Claramonte, director of Human Resources of this company .
The report New ways of working. Reflections on the future, from the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reflects, however, that 65% of Spanish companies aspire to achieve hybrid models and that 62% of employees consider that their work can be done remotely.
The number of teleworkers, on the other hand, has been reduced. In the second quarter of 2021, 9.4% of employed persons (1,849,600) worked from home for more than half the week, compared to 11.2% who did so in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Latest Labor Force Survey (EPA), prepared by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). Experts attribute this change, in addition to the fall in the incidence of covid-19 that allows the restrictions to be relaxed, to the teleworking law, which can be a brake on this modality.
The law of telework
The law, which came into force in July – although the sanctions will not do so until October 1 – considers that it is telework when it is provided in a period of three months or more and a minimum of 30% of the day, which translates to approximately two days a week.
Mireia de las Heras, professor in the Department of People Management in Organizations at IESE Business School, believes that this percentage will generate problems. “The company is obliged to pay for a series of worker expenses and this can be a disincentive so that many do not agree to allow their employees to work remotely for more than 29%, that is, a day or a day and a half a day. week, far from the two or three days that would shape a real hybrid system ”.
The negotiation of the companies with the employees is one of the pending issues for the return of the vacations. In this regard, De las Heras believes that it is time for companies to show tolerance and understanding. “After the effort that workers have been making using inappropriate means from home, it is time for companies to listen to them,” he emphasizes.
Already in the office: the measures against covid-19
The basic protection measures to stop the coronavirus, such as masks, screens and ventilation in the offices are complemented by others whose objective is to avoid crowds. The most repeated among the experts are the flexibility in the entry and exit times, the assistance in alternative days to the work centers and the applications to confirm attendance and reserve a space. Several companies, among which are Telefónica and Toyota, have turned to Bookker, a Spanish application, which was born for the spaces of coworking, but that allows you to manage the reservations of meeting rooms and workstations.
De las Heras emphasizes that these changes will also bring long-term benefits, as many are here to stay. “The decrease in the number of workers in the spaces not only reduces the possibility of contracting the disease, but also noise and stress,” he details. “We are not only talking about hygiene with respect to the virus, but also about mental health,” he remarks.
Fede Martrat, managing partner of the consulting firm ActitudPro, believes that companies should not lower their guard when returning to the offices. “I observe in many workers that habits are loosening, especially in informal and spontaneous meetings and outings to eat. It is vital that human resources departments keep remembering them. “
Conciliation (with children and especially the elderly)
The pandemic has put on the table the debate of the emotional management in the work environment. “People’s expectations about what companies should do from the point of view of their mental health have risen, something to which little importance has been given until now,” says Blasco. For this expert, this is the opportunity to advance on that path.
De las Heras highlights that it is time to look towards conciliation now that minors are returning to schools. A challenge also for the return to the office of the parents that the organizations are tackling from the adaptation of the working hours to the school, the reduction of working hours and teleworking. But companies must take into account, says Martrat, that their workers can not only have children in their care, but also elderly people and dependents. “In our society there are more and more older and less small,” he details. “Many officials are still not aware of this. And telework favors those with older dependents more than those with children ”, he concludes.