Telework and health risks – looking forward

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published the report elaborated by Notus on telework and health risks: Telework and health risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence from the field and policy implications

The unprecedented extension of telework as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak has raised questions about the impact of this form of work organisation in the long term. While telework is likely to become more prominent for companies and employees, work organisation and health risks need further attention.

The report reviews the occupational safety and health (OSH) issues associated with telework, and the measures and regulations in place to prevent and manage them. In-depth interviews with workers and employers in three selected countries (Spain, France and Italy) highlight the positive and negative impacts of teleworking during the pandemic. 

The report concludes with with recommendations to make the adoption of telework successful while protecting workers’ safety and health: 

  • In many EU countries changes in legislation, collective bargaining and debates show increased awareness of the potential risks of telework on the well-being and health of employees. The regulation of the right to disconnect, the prevention of psychosocial risks and the enforcement of OSH standards are relevant aspects. Yet, there are great differences across countries and there is no evidence of a common approach towards safe and healthy telework. A review of the 2002 EU Framework Agreement on Telework by the social partners would be a significant step forward.
  • The successful adoption of teleworking arrangements by companies requires increased efforts to adapt management and work organisation practices and improve OSH policies. The report provides several recommendations in this area, among others: how to regulate telework at the company level; the key role played by line managers in fostering trust-based relationships based on autonomy and supportive performance monitoring; risk assessment of the home workstation and development of comprehensive OSH prevention policies involving employees in the identification and prevention of psychosocial and physical health risks.
  • Finally, social dialogue and collective bargaining at company level should play a more relevant role in regulating telework arrangements. They provide a more transparent and participatory regulatory framework, fostering proactive prevention of psychosocial risks and enforcing compliance with OSH standards

The report was elaborated by Maria Caprile, Juan Arasanz and Pablo Sanz (Notus) in collaboration with Feliciano Iudicone (FGB) and Frédéric Turlan (IR Share) for the field work and Märt Masso (Praxis) for the peer-review.