Telework During COVID-19 Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread over the world, social distancing became vital to limit the further spread of this pandemic. Most of the governments adopted lock down strategy, and made it mandatory to minimize the physical presence at work. In this situation, teleworking gains much popularity and becomes the crucial part of ensuring business continuity worldwide.
Telework or Telecommuting is the work that is wholly or partially performed at a location other than the default place of work, and the use of electronic devices such as a computer, tablet or telephone to perform work.
Telework has become a standard practice around the world during the COVID-19. A joint study by ILO and WHO (2021) shows that in Europe, telework increased from 11% to 48% during the pandemic. Similarly, in the second quarter of 2020, more than 23 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean switched to telework. In addition to that, teleworking in Japan rises from 10% to 28%, while in Brazil the rise in telework is from 5% to 10% during the pandemic. However, the ability to telework or work from home depends enormously on workers occupation, their educational and income level. Mostly workers in financial activities, professional and businesses services, and information are able to telework. However, health care workers, workers with elementary occupations, crafts, or occupations like plant or machine operation cannot be able to work from home or telework.
In the developing countries like Pakistan, there is lesser ability to work from home or telework due to occupational composition and the nature of tasks within occupations as most of the vulnerable workers are engaged in a low-wage occupation. A study shows that only 10% of jobs in the developing countries can be transferable to telework or remote work and in Pakistan, only 13.47% of the jobs are telecommutable. Although there is a lack of data on teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan, however, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reports a 15% increase in internet usage during the COVID-19 lockdown.
There are some pros and cons of telework in term of social wellbeing as well as physical and mental health of the teleworker. Teleworking on the one hand, is effective to improve the quality of life, employee happiness, and job satisfaction as well as reducing work-family conflict and stress levels. However, on the other hand, without proper planning, organization, and health and safety support, teleworking can lead to isolation, burnout, depression, domestic violence, musculoskeletal, eyestrain, and other injuries.
Telework will continue to grow after the pandemic. By taking in to account the physical and mental health risk factors, and promoting safe and healthy work environment, teleworking has the potential to benefit both workers and society by improving work–life balance, reducing traffic and lowering air pollution.