Necessity or opportunity, means to give continuity to the professional duties or obstacle in conciliation with family duties , symbol of flexibility and freedom in the organization of the working day or irruption of work in the time usually dedicated to private life .
Among the more than three million Spanish employees who, according to INE data, adopted telework between April and June due to the health emergency, there are the most varied situations.
But how much do workers and companies save or what added costs does this way of working entail for both parties and who should take care of them? If, first of all, one might think that teleworking is always synonymous with savings, experts warn that reality is more complex.
“We are seeing very different situations in companies, which has also had an impact on the way teleworking is coordinated and the associated expenses,” says Antonio Gallardo, economist at the bank comparator iAhorro.
Perhaps the availability of computer equipment is the clearest example in this regard. If in some large firms the staff or a considerable part of it has been able to take them home, in other cases it has not been possible and the employees have had to assume the use of their personal equipment, sometimes excluding others from their enjoyment members of their families.
For this reason, “in the first weeks the purchases of computers and peripherals such as screens, mice or webcam multiplied, which even became difficult to find in the first phase”, Gallardo emphasizes.
Likewise, the remote worker has had to prepare the specific place of the home from which he undertakes his tasks. In this sense, the director of the master’s degree in Human Resources at ICADE Business School, Pedro César Martínez Morán, highlights the importance, from a psychological point of view, “to be able to perfectly differentiate between the dining room table and the work table”. To it will be added “a chair and minimal equipment, which will include a computer, printer, mobile and a cloud in which to store digital documents, ” adds Morán.
However, this expert believes that it should be the employer who assumes these costs, a position in which Gallardo agrees. Morán also assures that “in Europe there are companies that are providing not only computers and printers for the worker to use from home, but also tables and chairs.”
Also, having to stay at home much longer than usual in the pre-pandemic era means higher costs for electricity, heating or air conditioning, internet data, and printer cartridges. “There are those who calculate that the costs of cleaning the house also increase or, at least, that part of the house that is used as a workplace “, highlights Morán.
This summer, for example, having used a standing fan has resulted in an average cost of 12.17 euros per month, if the rate is the same throughout the day, or 12.65 euros with time discrimination, they calculate from the buyer Electric Selectra. The ceiling fan has meant the monthly outlay of 20.85 euros or 21.69 euros, respectively.
The cost is higher in the case of air conditioning. A device with an energy efficiency classified A + implies an average monthly cost of 24.68 euros or 25.67 euros, while a portable tower will spend 31.28 euros or 32.54 euros.
Exactly calculating these expenses, however, seems complex, since they are not related to the employee’s tasks exclusively.
“You could compare the expenses of a normal month before the emergency with those of now, but even so it is complicated, because, for example, these weeks many workers have also had to be with their children at home, accompanying them in teaching at a distance ”, Gallardo details.
On the contrary, Morán says he is convinced that there are formulas that the parties can agree on. “The employer could give the employee a lump sum [fixed and independent of actual consumption] with which the expenses are supposed to be covered, especially for those who telework five days a week, since in their case the comparison with the expenses they had at home before the pandemic is easy to carry out reliably, through the receipts ”, explains Morán.
In the opinion of this expert, the compensation could go by sections of days worked per week or month: more days, more money. In this way, in each company that took advantage of teleworking, “a pilot project would be implemented, the expenses would be studied by comparing the invoices and a balanced agreement would be reached for both parties”.
Faced with increased costs, teleworking also brings savings. The most striking is the one that is done by not having to travel to the workplace daily , which means saving the cost of the monthly public transport pass – between 50 euros and 70 euros, in large cities – or about 70 euros for gasoline .
If the company did not provide the restaurant ticket, the employee also saves the cost of the meal. Although he defines them as “more anecdotal”, Morán points out that not having coffee every day with colleagues or not having to buy, wash and iron the clothes required to work in some positions, are also savings.
In turn, companies get rid of the disbursements related to the disappearance of corporate events or face-to-face training and their transformation into virtual ones, the interruption of the issuance of the restaurant ticket, or the lack of use of part of their logistics infrastructure such as offices , which translates into less spending on supplies.
More than saving, Morán believes that one should speak of “a transfer of costs, from a physical workplace to an almost virtual one”. It will be necessary to analyze whether this reconfiguration involves more or less expenses, case by case.
“At the moment, there is no evidence that this saving is real, also taking into account that most of the companies in Spain are SMEs and the expenses of this type of firms for travel, for example, are not enormous”, says Morán .
In any case, Gallardo suggests that, by availing themselves of teleworking, some companies may obtain some type of reduction in social insurance in the short term, “because with this modality there is a clear collective benefit due to the reduction of risks linked to a reduction of travel, which also results in less traffic congestion, less use of public transport, a reduction in pollution, and an improvement in efficiency ”.
The regulations that the Government is studying to regulate telework “will not be able to contain many details and foresee all the casuistry”, emphasizes Morán, “but it should offer a flexible legal framework so that, later, the collective agreements develop the details”.
It remains to be seen whether telecommuting is here to stay . On the one hand, 68% of Spanish workers claim to be equal or more productive working remotely , according to a Sodexo study. On the other hand, excluding companies whose nature does not allow remote work, 48.8% of the firms express the intention to continue facilitating it when they return to the office.
42.1% will do so according to the needs of the company and 17.4%, whenever the worker wants, says a report from Adecco.
If Morán is convinced that this modality “has a future, since it is based on the great development that information and communication technologies have experienced”, Gallardo believes that “in some companies, especially the larger ones, the mixed forms , with hours in the office and others – perhaps the last days of the week – of teleworking ”.
In any case, in his opinion, the majority model will continue to be face-to-face for a long time.