As we all know, many people worked for months from their second home during lockdown. This article is not intended to voice an opinion about this, although it must be said that the return to the city leaves many questions to be answered.

By Silvia Forés

Regardless of whether working from home is the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus, if these were normal circumstances, we might wonder if it was really necessary to go back to the office knowing that we can work wherever we like, a few miles from the big city, surrounded by mountains or by the sea.

Surely it has been shown, although rather hastily, that this is possible. Working from home has great advantages: a cleaner environment, less traffic and savings in office rental for companies.

Provided they meet targets, would workers who can decide where and when they work be happier?

Freelance
Working from home during lockdown has shown sceptical employers that it is possible in quite a few sectors and professions (Photo: Carlo Van Stek/Twenty20)

Working from home during lockdown was obviously not the ideal situation. It was the result of tragic health circumstances and was extremely stressful for many families having to work with virtually no digital disconnection while surrounded by children to be taken care of. It has, however, shown sceptical employers that it is possible, at least in quite a few sectors and professions.

A great deal has been said about working from home in recent months. But much more remains to be said because remote work has not exactly been lawmakers' main concern.

Working from home may sound like greater freedom and autonomy and many workers think it is – something they may have wanted for a long time is now closer than ever. However, a closer look at one aspect of employment relations reveals that it does not exactly refer to words such as autonomy and freedom – far from it.

The aspect in question refers to the provision of services that are managed and organised by an employer, i.e. a relationship of dependency in which workers are obliged to obey instructions from their employer, and the latter has the power to organise and manage the way in which workers do their job.

The world is undoubtedly changing and we must inevitably move towards more flexible models that will shake the definition of employment relations to the core

Bearing this in mind, I wonder whether an employer might feel that this relationship of dependency and instructions is undermined when employees work from home. In the worst-case scenario, an employer might even think, "If I have to give my employees everything they need to work and on top of this I feel I have less control over them, would it not be better to work with freelancers?," because if employees want to work wherever, whenever and however they like, then employers might also want to save money on social security contributions.

Bearing all this in mind, I wonder whether working from home will hasten something that is already being considered by many Human Relations departments: how to manage increasing numbers of external professionals, and what impact this will have on employees on the company payroll.

The world is undoubtedly changing and we must inevitably move towards more flexible models that will shake the definition of employment relations to the core. A key factor in the middle of all this, as usual, will be the business culture and companies' ability to evolve towards models based on trust and cast off the burden of rigid management.

Who knows! In the not-so-distant future, perhaps we won't need a sabbatical year to write a novel in the countryside because we'll be able to write it at night after finishing work in an inspiring landscape – digital disconnection permitting.

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