Learn how workers wanting location independence combined with EU employment laws have started to reshape the European workplace

The winds of change are sweeping through Europe and the changes are not about food or fashion trends. Instead, the winds of change are blowing on a new workplace concept called location independence.

One can argue that COVID-19 has been the most influential factor in moving professionals out of the workplace and into their homes for working remotely. However, the momentum for remote working arrangements has been building for many years. European Union (EU) laws have pushed the private sector to accommodate the “new normal” of remote working.

The “new normal” called working remotely has presented numerous challenges for both employers and employees. Remote work regulations influenced the decisions employers made, and employment laws in Europe have impacted how employees handle a remote working arrangement.

drew-beamer-xU5Mqq0Chck-unsplashLooking into a Crystal Ball: What the Next Decade Should Bring

Many publications have addressed location-smart or location independence policies. Much of the predictions have come from accessing the statistics presented in the Remote Work in Europe, 2030 Report that addresses remote work in Europe over the next decade.

  • More than 25 percent of workers in major European cities will have the option to fully work remotely
  • Around half of all remote workers will have more than one job
  • Every European country will have Remote-First villages developing within the next five years
  • European law will give workers the same rights and access to benefits that traditional workers enjoy.
  • Community spaces that feature co-working arrangements will include childcare services

The Legal Concept of Remote Working in Europe

Referring to the legal interpretations of the EU helps us determine the legal concept of remote working and location independence.

  • Allowances for employees to choose their preferred remote workplace
  • An order from employers to assign work to employees from a different location
  • Define a specific type of teleworking to produce location independence

The legal concept of remote working in Europe also involves addressing safety, privacy and technology concerns.

luca-bravo-9l_326FISzk-unsplashHow Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Remote Working?

If EU laws formed the foundation for the monumental shift to location independence for the workplace, the COVID-19 pandemic has made working remotely a professional reality. A study by McKinsey & Company concluded that even if the pandemic subsides, about one-third of all work in the EU will continue to be done remotely.

A little more than 50 percent of UK workers said they enjoyed an improved balance between work and life while remotely working from home. However, a growing number of employers have shared concerns about lower employee productivity due to the many distractions that are a part of the typical workday at home.

COVID-19 has triggered numerous changes, but perhaps the most profound change has been the acceleration of the remote working movement.

EU Laws and Regulations That Could Impact Remote Working

It is not just workers that are asking for location independence. Lawmakers across the EU have pushed initiatives that give workers the right to complete remote work in Europe. 

For example, German lawmakers are close to reaching an agreement that would create a law giving workers the legal right to opt for remote working arrangements at least part of every workweek. According to a poll by a German newspaper, more than 40 percent of workers in the country want lawmakers to draft remote work regulations.

The push to give German workers the right to work outside the traditional workplace began in 2019. However, the Coronavirus outbreak gave the German Parliament a sense of urgency to push pro-remote work initiatives.

Some Mixed Feelings

The German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, said in a recent interview that the new law would give their workers the option of working from home whenever it made sense. 

Although the popularity of remote working in Europe has gained significant momentum, some employers have reservations. Some employers worry about losing some control of the workflow, while others contemplate the effect of location independence on worker productivity.

Employment Laws in Europe

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) are working together to create an EU law that defines the minimum requirement for remote working in Europe. The proposed law ensures employers cannot retaliate against workers that want to exercise their “right to disconnect.” This means allowing employees to get away from technology to complete other work-related tasks and handle personal responsibilities.

The initiative recently passed the EU Parliament with 472 votes for, 126 votes against and 83 abstentions from voting on the new law.

joshua-ness-9iqqFZ7OuwY-unsplashAddressing the Challenges of Remote Work Regulations

The heart of the debate concerning remote working in Europe is all about employee performance. Employers will have to address new challenges that arise outside of the workplace. Although EU lawmakers have addressed some of the issues surrounding employee performance in the remote workplace, it is up to employers to overcome the challenges by focusing on five goals.

  • Improve employee engagement
  • Prevent employee burnout
  • Holding each employee accountable for performance
  • Giving workers easy access to company information
  • Strengthening digital security features

How to Follow the New Legal Guidelines for Location Independence

The gradual shift to a more remote-like working arrangement will unfold with a few bumps in the road. COVID-19 has put remote working in Europe on a faster track for acceptance by both employers and employees. Nonetheless, there are still legal hurdles that need clearing before the EU transitions into a seamless balance between traditional work environments and remote working arrangements.

If done right, developing a remote workforce can generate numerous benefits such as attracting the best talent and reducing overhead expenses. However, the greatest benefit might be an improvement in employee morale. If a growing number of workers want to achieve a better work-life balance, then establishing remote working policies looks to be the business wave of the future.

How does your organization plan to foster location independence? The answer is to address every legal issue by using the following channels:

  • HR policies
  • Onboarding packets
  • Employee handbooks
  • During the hiring process
  • Procedural manuals
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