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2 to 4 days a week of remote work expected: 'We won't return to full in-person employment'

10% of Catalans officially work from home, and a law obliges companies to compensate it, although not all employers abide by

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13 November 2021 05:32 PM

by

Guifré Jordan|Barcelona

The post-pandemic job world is raising a big question: is remote work here to stay?

A law regulating remote work is already in force but will apply especially when Covid is no longer a major issue. According to this law, if people choose to work remotely, the conditions must be agreed on by both parties a document, and not imposed by the employer, which has to contribute to expenses and required equipment.

The first collective bargaining agreements including clauses adapted to the post-Covid-19 world, adapted to this legislation, have already been signed in Spain: the banking sector, through the AEB association, agreed with major trade unions in January that a maximum of a one-off €130 payment will be made per employee in order for them to buy a screen, a mouse and a keyboard.

It also includes the possibility of asking for a monthly payment of €55 to cover utilities, internet, or rent. This amount will only apply if employees work remotely 100% of the time, who will get €27.5 if they stay home for half of their working hours.

Indeed, it is important to know what 'working from home' means under this new legislation: no going to the office at least 30% of the workweek for at least three months. Anything lower than that will not grant workers the right to ask for compensation – yet, employees not being aware of this regulation or employers ignoring it can lead to not receiving anything despite eligibility.

It is hard to know how many people work from home at the moment: at the peak of the health crisis in spring 2020, it was widely accepted that 30% of employees were doing remote work, a figure that according to the Spanish statistics institute, INE, has dropped to 10% in Catalonia now – that is, twice as many as before the pandemic. Yet, at the same time, the Catalan statistics institute, Idescat, says that 58% of companies have now gone remote to some extent, and this figure peaked at 70% in the second quarter of 2020.

CTESC, the advisory body of the Catalan government on work-related issues, says businesses and workers are reaching agreements of all sorts: returning to the office, hybrid solutions, or working from home entirely. But in any case, companies won’t go completely back to the old normal either. 

This also varies per sector. A recent survey carried out by CBRE, a commercial real estate services company, says that financial and legal sectors will work from offices on average 4 days a week, while tech firms will only do so for two. Will that result in companies moving into smaller offices? 

The same report shows that only 20% of companies linked to the financial and legal sectors think that they will reduce the size of their offices, with 50% rejecting this premise while the rest are undecided. Those who think they will move to smaller places rise to 35% in the tech sector.

"Companies right now are demanding more open space, more open areas to socialize and to co-create," Xavier Güell, the director of the Barcelona office of CBRE, told Catalan News. He explained that the trend to give up private offices for the most senior workers and to encourage hot desks has been going on since the mid-2010s, but has skyrocketed due to the pandemic, which has also led to firms having more space per worker than before 2020.

He added that this, coupled with a higher amount of remote work, will lead to a 7% reduction in the office areas needed by companies according to a study made by his firm.

The president of CTESC, Toni Mora, also talking to Catalan News, denied that there was a very significant trend of companies moving to smaller sites, and agreed that shared spaces in offices and more room to work in groups is now the trend.

He also said that while working from home should not be the only way to put an end to the traffic around the Barcelona area during peak times, it would "ease" the problem.

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  • A man working from home (by Estefania Escolà)

  • A man working from home (by Estefania Escolà)

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