Our home has become our office, changing family life, creating new spaces, new schedules, new habits, and teaching us about apps, videoconferencing, lighting and sound setup, presentations, as replacements for the work we used to do at company facilities.
Article by Julián A. de Diego published in La Nación on August 27, 2020
The Covid-19 Pandemic accelerated the process under mandatory lockdown, and it is difficult to go back. More than two thirds of the companies say that they will continue with remote work arrangements in combination with in-person office work, like in Central European countries and the US.
The new Act 27555 (published in the Official Gazette on August 14,2020) about remote work does not help much; on the contrary, it has been designed by the political wing at House of Representatives, clearly ignoring labor laws, without using a univocal legislative technique, and with really inexplicable contradictions. In the Senate, where amendments could have been made, the bill was finally passed exactly as proposed by the House of Representatives.
In a confusing scenario, this Act gives employees the right to disconnect beyond working hours and during breaks, apparently disregarding the overtime scheme. The same happens with the right to reversibility without cause and without a time frame: employees may ask their employer to return to work at the business establishment simply by giving notice, unless there are well-founded reasons that make it impossible to comply with this legal duty.
But Act No 27555 is questionable and subject to criticism, and at the same time, commendable. As a matter of fact, it is the first labor law in twenty years that lays down rules on information and communication technologies, -ICTs- and recognizes the validity of pre-existing employment legislation.
It is a commendable first step, which will surely be followed by other regulations, and collective bargaining agreements setting out specific rules for each company, group of companies or industrial sector.
Those who responded quickly came first: service companies or specific service divisions and tech companies, which have adapted really fast. They already had similar practices in place, and hardly felt the impact of the Pandemic. Some of them improved their services and productivity, and applied the techniques of continuous improvement, and cleared the path to the new normal.
By implementing remote work arrangements, companies have reduced their total cost by 25 – 40%, including direct and indirect expenses.
These are the ones who have already created a new working model that combines in-person and remote work practices, unrenting facilities, reducing fixed costs and expenses to gain significant competitive advantages.
Others have taken long to shake off the feeling of lethargy, but ultimately, we all know that remote work is here to stay, refuses to leave and takes over time and space as we could never have imagined.
By implementing remote work arrangements, companies have reduced their total cost by 25 – 40%, including direct and indirect expenses. Work stations are redisigned, and a new office layout is created, office spaces, operating expenses, facilities and equipment are reduced, and productivity improves. Common areas are created, instead of customized desks.
Employees get similar and tangible advantages; in fact, they do not telecommute or incur travel expenses, run fewer risks, improve and maximize free time, enjoy family life; they self-monitor, self-control, and self-manage, and work from different physical locations for practical reasons. Self-esteem, self-determination, and responsibility grow.
Remote workers can work from home (home office), on the road, as nomadic operators, and alternate with office locations, co-working spaces, coffee shops, public parks, in the car, clubs, or recreational or commercial centers.
Remote workers are considered silver-collar and green-collar, because they use information technology and are 100% eco-friendly. Telework tends to democratize the interactions among team members, supervisors and company managers.
Telematics has also come to stay at public agencies such as the Treasury, Customs, Tax Authority (AFIP) and Social Security Administration (ANSeS), where all operations are done online. Maximizing the use of these devices requires adaptation and continuous improvement, but also helps with debureaucratization processes, fewer in-person interaction and go-paperless solutions. The transition from mandatory quarantine to the return to the new normal should have standards that promote the creation of genuine and quality employment, instead of hindering it.
Legislation should have a broad, comprehensive scope, and consider the benefits of remote work arrangements for employees, employers, unions, society as a whole and the State. In any case, the old traditional legislation that is often anachronistic is beginning to overlap with the legislation of new technologies, robotics, nanobotics, and artificial intelligence, which have become a proven fact around the world. It is our choice: connect with the future or isolate ourselves by clinging to the past.
What lawmakers have failed to understand is that protection is a synonym for the full exercise of the right to hire and do business, engage in any lawful industry that adds value and promotes jobs; work in all its forms calls for the protection of the laws. This is what our National Constitution establishes. The slogan of the future is and will be to highlight the intrinsic value of anything that creates diversity and multiple job opportunities at all levels.