What is defined as teleworking and the factors that affect it

According to the study of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), teleworkability is defined as the “technical ability” to perform work remotely. Therefore, the possibility of teleworking for each profession is mainly determined by the type of tasks required and by whether these tasks can be performed remotely. However, the implementation of teleworking depends on both the working methods and the technology used in the performance of tasks.

The content of the work describes the “what” and the “how” of the work, and is divided into two axes:

The tasks of work:

•Intellectual tasks, in which employees process information or ideas.

•Social tasks, in which employees interact with third parties (customers, partners, etc.)

•Physical tasks, for which the physical presence of employees is required.

•Working methods related to forms of work organisation, and work tools, that is the technologies used to carry out tasks.

Intellectual tasks can easily be provided remotely, while social tasks can be performed remotely, but relatively reducing the quality of the services provided. A typical example is the profession of teacher, who can practice remotely with the help of technology, but with a lower quality of the course compared to face-to-face education. On the other hand, physical tasks cannot be performed remotely, as they require the physical presence of employees.

Other important factors for teleworking are ICT infrastructure, employee access to specialised software, and employees’ digital skills. Infrastructure is a challenge for several areas that are remote from large urban centers. On the other hand, the lack of digital skills of employees is a major obstacle to teleworking. As the digital transformation of businesses expands, further changes in the organization and delivery of work are inevitable. As shown by a series of recent surveys on the actual experience of teleworking in a very large number of employees and businesses, various concerns are recorded about the extent of application of teleworking. At the same time, a number of factors for the provision of remote work are positively evaluated, the main one being the protection of health, however, there is also scepticism about the loss of part of personal and family life due to employment at home.

How can the possibility of teleworking be measured?

The JRC calculates the possibility of teleworking for each profession based on two indicators it constructed, using data from two surveys by Eurofound and the Italian Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies:

The Technical Teleworkability Index is the most important indicator and determines whether a profession can be practiced remotely. The technical ability to telework is related to the physical tasks required in the professions. If a profession includes a significant percentage of physical tasks, then there is no possibility of teleworking, while if no physical tasks are required, then there is 100% possibility of teleworking. The importance of certain physical tasks per profession is taken into account, such as manual work, to what extent it is required to operate and move objects, to operate machinery or vehicles, etc.

The Social Interaction Index interprets the possibility of teleworking for a profession in combination with the indicator of technical possibility of teleworking.It relates to the social tasks required per profession and, as in the case of physical tasks, the greater the proportion of them, the more difficult it is for the profession to practice remotely. Elements such as the extent to which they are required to influence or coordinate third parties, direct work with the public, assistance and care of third parties, etc. are taken into account.

According to the JRC, of the total 120 professions (3-digit codes) that are distinguished by the international classification of ISCO professions, 24 (20%) have full possibility of teleworking, 40 (33%) have partial possibility, while 56 (47%) have no possibility of teleworking.

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