Coronavirus: Is working from home going to be a legacy of lockdown?

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By Ricardo Borges de Carvalho
Coronavirus: Is working from home going to be a legacy of lockdown?
Copyright  AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Nearly four-in-10 people in the EU began working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Eurofound survey has found

More than half of respondents from Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands said they had made the switch. 

Romania, with fewer than one-in-five people newly working from home, had the lowest proportion in the bloc. 

Experts say that COVID-19 is going to herald a shift away from the office and that organisations are going to have to adapt. 

"This old hierarchical model which we have been living for the past century, that really fits the industrial national age, but it's really not suitable for a global digital age which is by itself much more fluid, much more flexible, much more decentralised," said Joana Breidenbach, author of The Future of Work Needs Inner Work.

Dutch entrepreneur Dean Van Leeuwen agrees and says the culture today is less of command and control. 

"The culture is: we are adults, so we expect you to do a job," said Van Leeuwen, founder of TomorrowToday Global, a consultancy specialising in the future of work.

"People stop measuring the input, the time that you're spending in the office and we're going shift towards seeing, what is the value that you're actually delivering. 

"And I think is a really good thing."

This shift from office to home also demands that employees will have to be more self-motivated, change-ready, and resilient, but there's one skill, according to Breidenbach, that is fundamental if they want to thrive in this digital world.

"They also need to be much better communicators because in the minute that we work remotely and we don't have fixed structures and processes to tell us what to do every second of the day, we need to communicate in a transparent and very open way with each other to get work done effectively."

Working from home can pose a challenge to workers' rights but unions say employees have exactly the same rights as if they were at the office. 

Esther Lynch, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), warns employees must make a clear delineation between work and personal time.

"There needs to be firm boundaries and the worker needs to be able to be in control a lot more of those boundaries," she said. 

"There needs to be a lot more trust, so employers need to trust their workers more when they're delivering on the objectives. 

"They don't need to be counting every keystroke that they're doing. They don't need to be monitoring and watching them."

Unions also say the costs associated with working from home, like electricity, WIFI or any other material, is for employers to pay.