The world of work has been upended by COVID-19, and the effects are likely to be long-lasting. Before the pandemic, there were some 260 million home-based workers (not including domestic or care workers). The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that figure could have doubled, with as many as one in three workers remote working in NorthAmerica and Europe, and one in six in sub-Saharan Africa.
The rollout of vaccines, mainly in the developed world, has increased the possibilities of a return to the workplace, but many companies and workers have signalled a wish to retain a degree of home working, after seeing some of the benefits. For employers, these include minimising the risk of contagion and potentially spending less on expensive office space whilst staff no longer have to spend commuting to and from the workplace.
However, whilst some are enjoying baking breador taking a stroll during a conference call, and using the commuting time to indulge in new pursuits, others have been craving a return to a more structured work-life routine.
I tell myself daily that I am grateful to have a job with understanding supervisors and colleagues. But all of it is hard. If youre also a working mumlosing her mind daily, know that Im right there with you, says Paulina, a New York-based teleworker.
I have chaired meetings with a laptop and headphones on one side of a tiny, New York City kitchen while cooking lunch and having a screaming toddler wrapped around my ankles. While all of this is cute once or maybe twice, regular screams of children in the background can only be tolerated for so long. I should know, because I passed that line sometime in July.
Stories such as this explain why a recent study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that 41 per cent of people who worked from home considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25 per cent of those who worked on-site.
The most effective way to eliminate the risk of contagion in a work context is, for those who can do it, teleworking, says Joaquim Nunes, head of occupational health and safety at the ILO, But we still need to pay attention to the physical and mental well-being of workers.
As teleworking is likely to remain an important factor in many peoples jobs, Mr. Nunes says that work-related policies will have to be updated to reflect the new reality.
Theres a good chance that the rise of teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic will permanently change how we live and work. Many governments have realised this, and are taking a fresh look at the rights of employees working from home. For example, companies should ensure that workers do not feel isolated, whilst giving them the right to disconnect, rather than being online 24 hours a day.
In Chile, a law adopted early in March 2020 goes some way to addressing some of these concerns. The legislation recognizes the right of remote workers to disconnect for at least 12 continuous hours in a 24-hour period. In addition, employers cannot require workers to respond to communications on rest days or holidays.
World Bank/Henitsoa Rafalia
A father takes care of his young child while working from home in Madagascar.
Beyond the question of comfort and mental health, is one of physical safety. It is often said that most accidents happen at home, so, if this is where much of the working week is spent, should employers be responsible for making sure apartments arent death traps?
For now, there are no easy answers when it comes to ensuring a suitable home office environment, says Mr. Nunes. However, we can say that the same principles that apply to other workplaces apply to teleworkers, in that employers have a general duty of care, as reasonably practicable. Employers cant control the workplace when staff are working from home, but they can provide ergonomic equipment to workers, such as suitable chairs, and help them to assess their own risks and to learn about how to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Teleworking is also challenging for enforcement agencies, as usually inspectors do not have free access to the private spaces. One solution to ensure compliance with legislation could be virtual inspections, which are already taking place in Nordic countries on a voluntary basis. These involve labour inspectors video calling a worker at home, and being shown their work chair, desk, and lighting setup, explains Mr. Nunes. These inspections can serve as a way to monitor the home workplace and provide advice, but also raise understandable privacy concerns.
A convenience store requires staff to wear a mask, observe physical distance, and use a plastic sheet barrier as safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Muntinlupa City, Philippines.
Whilst the new teleworkers and their employers grappled with their new reality, a large part of the global workforce had no choice but to go to a physical place of work. The difficulties faced by health care workers were widely reported, but employees in several other industries had to brave the trip to the workplace - sometimes on crowded trains and buses -and, often, interact with other people, at considerable risk to their health.
In the US, these fears led to collective action by workers at Whole Foods, a grocery subsidiary of Amazon. On March 31, 2020, in response to seeing their colleagues testing positive with COVID-19, workers decided to call in sick, and demand sick leave, free coronavirus testing and hazard pay. This was followed in April by work stoppages at some of Americas biggest companies, including Walmart, Target and FedEx.
Whilst early advice on protection and prevention focused on measures such as hand washing, the wearing of masks and gloves, and physical distancing, the ILO quickly realised that more needed to be done to address work-related issues.
Vendors in a bakery in Constantine, Algeria, during the COVID-19 crisis.
In the workplace, you have to think about more than just the individual worker: the whole environment needs to be protected, explains Mr. Nunes. One example that many of us will have come across is in shops and supermarkets, where it is now common to see PVC separators between cashiers and customers. Work surfaces are also being cleaned much more frequently, but this raises other concerns that need to be addressed, such as the potential for skin complaints or respiratory problems caused by the chemicals in cleaning products.
Whilst areas such as healthcare and retail have been grappling with these issues for several months, other parts of the economy could soon be opening up. In several countries, plans are being made to allow gatherings of large numbers of people to take place, in venues such as concert halls and cinemas, and, heading into summer in the northern hemisphere, the range of permitted tourist activities looks set to expand.
However, for this to take place, and for economies to safely open, governments and employers, in collaboration with workers, will need to make sure that workers in these, and all other industries, are safe at their workplaces, and confident they will not be exposed to unnecessary risks, particularly those related to COVID-19.
The rest is here:
- COVID-19 Travel Advisory | Department of Health - June 4th, 2021
- COVID-19: Latest Data - NYC Health - June 4th, 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine - June 4th, 2021
- Want To Mix 2 Different COVID-19 Vaccines? Canada Is Fine With That - NPR - June 4th, 2021
- COVID-19 hospitalization rates in adolescents went up during March and April - The Verge - June 4th, 2021
- COVID-19 Daily Update 6-4-2021 - West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources - June 4th, 2021
- Gov. Reynolds releases statement on COVID-19 public service announcement | Office of the Governor of Iowa - Governor Kim Reynolds - June 4th, 2021
- U.S. authorizes Regeneron's COVID-19 antibody therapy for injection - Reuters - June 4th, 2021
- Biggest challenge to reach herd immunity is vaccinating those who had COVID-19, APH says - KXAN.com - June 4th, 2021
- Department of Health Announces Free COVID-19 Testing Site in Luzerne and Cumberland Counties - Pennsylvania Pressroom - June 4th, 2021
- Louisiana State Parks Offer Free Admission to People Vaccinated Against COVID-19 as the State Works to Bring Back Louisiana Summer | Office of... - June 4th, 2021
- Coronavirus tally: Global cases of COVID-19 top 172 million and more than 2 billion vaccine doses have been administered - MarketWatch - June 4th, 2021
- Study: Patients Receiving Dialysis at Higher Risk of COVID-19 Infection - Pharmacy Times - June 4th, 2021
- The Origin of COVID-19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic - War on the Rocks - June 4th, 2021
- Immokalee family loses 4th loved one to COVID-19, have special wish - Wink News - June 4th, 2021
- North Dakota saw continuing decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations in the last week - INFORUM - June 4th, 2021
- When a Surgeon Became a Covid-19 Patient: I Had Never Faced the Reality of Death - The New York Times - June 4th, 2021
- Small business COVID-19 relief brought over $1B to Tysons area - Tysons Reporter - June 4th, 2021
- How Fear and Covid-19 Tore Apart One New Delhi Neighborhood - The New York Times - June 4th, 2021
- Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 46 cases and no deaths reported Thursday - Anchorage Daily News - June 4th, 2021
- FLASH REPORT #160 - COVID-19 Response and Recovery | News - City of San Jose, CA - May 20th, 2021
- COVID-19 Tests Highlight Need for Strengthened FDA Oversight and Diagnostics Legislation - The Pew Charitable Trusts - May 20th, 2021
- Preventing and mitigating COVID-19 at work - World Health Organization - May 20th, 2021
- Statement of the COVID-19 subcommittee of the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) on safety signals related to the Johnson &... - May 20th, 2021
- They Returned To India To Be Near Their Fathers, But Lost Them Both To COVID-19 - NPR - May 20th, 2021
- Medicare and Telehealth: Coverage and Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Options for the Future - Kaiser Family Foundation - May 20th, 2021
- COVID-19 in Nursing Homes: Most Homes Had Multiple Outbreaks and Weeks of Sustained Transmission from May 2020 through January 2021 - Government... - May 20th, 2021
- Orange County Distributing Weather Radios at COVID-19 Vaccination Sites - Orange County Government, Florida - May 20th, 2021
- Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 97 cases and 1 death reported Wednesday - Anchorage Daily News - May 20th, 2021
- Baker-Polito Administration to Lift COVID Restrictions May 29, State to Meet Vaccination Goal by Beginning of June - Mass.gov - May 20th, 2021
- Change is Coming in California: Top 10 Revisions to COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules for Employers - JD Supra - May 20th, 2021
- UPDATED: Blues dealing with discrepancies in COVID-19 testing - St. Louis Game Time - May 20th, 2021
- Europe to Open Borders to Tourists Vaccinated Against Covid-19 - The Wall Street Journal - May 20th, 2021
- New CDC guidance on timing of COVID-19 shots and other vaccines, a game changer - WKOW - May 20th, 2021
- Where COVID-19 has and hasn't spread since states reopened: Analysis - ABC News - May 20th, 2021
- COVID-19 Coronavirus Information | Danville, VA - Official ... - May 16th, 2021
- 76-year-old with COVID-19 wakes up moments before cremation in India: reports - WBOY.com - May 16th, 2021
- MAY 16: 6,000 Iowans have died from COVID-19, less than 150 new cases - kwwl.com - May 16th, 2021
- Investigate the origins of COVID-19 - Science Magazine - May 16th, 2021
- 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines available in City of Kyle mass vaccination event - KXAN.com - May 16th, 2021
- COVID-19 leaves Minnesota's Weights and Measures office strapped for cash | The Globe - The Globe - May 16th, 2021
- Can my employer ask if I have received the COVID-19 vaccine? What you need to know - WBOY.com - May 16th, 2021
- Virginia lifts mask mandate, will end COVID-19 restrictions on May 28 - Inside NoVA - May 16th, 2021
- This is the biggest contagion spot for COVID-19 in airports - KHON2 - May 16th, 2021
- Foreign expedition abandons Everest attempt citing COVID-19 risks - Reuters - May 16th, 2021
- Letter from the Editor: COVID-19 vaccine status of teacher was core to story - OregonLive - May 16th, 2021
- Schools Are Helping With COVID-19 Contact Tracing : Shots - Health News - NPR - May 16th, 2021
- Blues' David Perron placed on COVID-19 protocol list days before playoffs - The Athletic - May 16th, 2021
- Chest Burning Sensation and COVID-19: An Emergency Symptom - Healthline - May 16th, 2021
- 'Black Fungus' Infection Adds To India's COVID-19 Burden : Goats and Soda - NPR - May 16th, 2021
- KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: COVID-19 Vaccine Access, Information, and Experiences Among Hispanic Adults in the US | KFF - Kaiser Family Foundation - May 16th, 2021
- COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines Updated to Factor in Vaccination - AustinTexas.gov - May 4th, 2021
- Inside Indias COVID-19 Surge - The New Yorker - May 4th, 2021
- Don't skip your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, health experts warn - The Texas Tribune - May 4th, 2021
- Supply vs Demand: Which States are Reaching their COVID-19 Vaccine Tipping Points? - Kaiser Family Foundation - May 4th, 2021
- May 4: COVID-19 hospitalizations surge in Ohio, 204 reported in last 24 hours - News 5 Cleveland - May 4th, 2021
- COVID-19 in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson sets goal to have 50% of Arkansans receive at least one shot in next 90 days - KARK - May 4th, 2021
- New COVID-19 infections in France slow down further - Reuters - May 4th, 2021
- What we know about DeSantis executive order suspending local COVID-19 restrictions - Tampa Bay Times - May 4th, 2021
- Factbox: Reaction to suspension of IPL due to COVID-19 crisis - Reuters India - May 4th, 2021
- Europes Troubled Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Turns the Corner - The Wall Street Journal - May 4th, 2021
- New Efforts to Manage Indias Second Wave of COVID-19 Infections - JD Supra - May 4th, 2021
- Do COVID-19 tests exaggerate the number of positive cases? - Grand Forks Herald - May 4th, 2021
- Study: First Wave COVID-19 Infection Rates in Health Care Workers Reflected General Population - Pharmacy Times - May 4th, 2021
- Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 1 death and 271 new cases reported over weekend - Anchorage Daily News - May 4th, 2021
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 229 total new cases; Death toll at 1,973; Active cases at 1,445 - KELOLAND.com - May 4th, 2021
- How COVID-19 magnified the 'extreme disparities' in housing between Black, white residents - Courier Journal - May 4th, 2021
- India's recovery to be hit by COVID-19 surge; fiscal metrics to remain weak-S&P - Reuters India - May 4th, 2021
- N.Korea says COVID-19 vaccines are 'no panacea,' warns of lengthy battle - Reuters - May 4th, 2021
- Beshear stresses convenience of getting COVID-19 vaccine - Associated Press - May 4th, 2021
- Why treating Covid-19 with drugs is harder than you think - BBC News - May 4th, 2021
- May is Mental Health Awareness Month; impacts of COVID-19 on mental health (BOCC) - Larimer County - May 4th, 2021
- Next Generation of Covid-19 Vaccines Could Be Pill or Spray - The Wall Street Journal - May 4th, 2021
- Bentz urges Gov. Brown to lift renewed COVID-19 restrictions - KTVZ - May 4th, 2021
- Heres What Indias Journalists Told Me About The Covid-19 Surge There - Forbes - May 3rd, 2021
- Russia lags behind others in its COVID-19 vaccination drive - ABC News - May 3rd, 2021
- May 2 update on COVID-19 in MN: State nearing 2 million residents with completed vaccinations - Minnesota Public Radio News - May 3rd, 2021
- Russia is falling behind on its COVID-19 vaccination drive - MarketWatch - May 3rd, 2021
- EXPLAINER: COVID-19, far-right are top themes in Madrid vote - Associated Press - May 3rd, 2021
- Taiwan's first batch of COVID-19 aid leaves for India - Reuters India - May 3rd, 2021