The Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba uses impressive terms when it comes to the digital overload of many employees who are currently working from home. Saliba speaks of “digital obesity” or psychological problems that are on the rise. It’s about a phenomenon that many are familiar with in times of pandemics: e-mails that are processed after work, WhatsApp messages from colleagues that are answered quickly in the evening, a Slack message that cannot be delayed.
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The social democratic parliamentarian Saliba is rapporteur in the European parliament for the right not to be reached. This Thursday afternoon, the EU Parliament wants to vote on the Salibas report, according to which the right to switch off after work is to be anchored in the EU in future. The approval of the plenary is considered certain.
Commission should seek dialogue with social partners
The report calls for an EU regulation that will guarantee workers throughout the Community the right not to be available. In order to prepare such a regulation, the EU Commission must first seek a dialogue with the social partners.
According to Saliba, the move is by no means about establishing an all-encompassing right for workers not to be bothered by bosses after work. Rather, it is about solutions that are tailored to individual professional groups, said the MP. A regulation that has already become law in France could serve as a model. According to this, employees generally have the right to switch off company cell phones and e-mail accounts outside of regular working hours.
Saliba: The trend towards home offices will continue
Saliba isn’t the only one to discover that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way many people work. And in his opinion, it will stay that way when the coronavirus is defeated: “The shift to teleworking cannot be reversed.” At present, he says, more than one in three workers in the EU works from home.
There is now a term for the dangerous consequences of working from home: “Bluring” – the blurring of the boundaries between professional and private life. And those who can no longer switch off properly can quickly get health problems. According to the EU agency Eurofound, at the height of the first corona wave last April, women with children under the age of twelve in particular stated that they had problems maintaining a work-life balance.
MEP Saliba concludes: “We cannot leave millions of European workers alone who continue to work under the extremely difficult conditions of the pandemic, but are exhausted by the pressure of constant availability and extended working hours.”