The COVID-19 public health crisis has had an unprecedented impact on the labor market in Spain, making it essential to implement extraordinary measures to offset the effects that this crisis has had on employment. Two main, extraordinary measures have been put in place in the area of human resources and labor relations: temporary collective layoff procedures (ERTE) and remote working. Although these measures already existed in Spanish legislation, they had never been used on such a massive scale and for such a long period of time.
Focusing on remote working, in September 2020 Royal Decree-Law 28/2020, of September 22, 2020, on remote working was published, which originated from, following its passage through Parliament, Remote Working Law 10/2021, of July 9, 2021.
Said law contains a complete set of rules on remote working, of which the following three main characteristics should be highlighted:
- Definition of the scope of application of the law, which is restricted to working relationships that are regularly performed remotely, regularly meaning when a minimum of 30% of the working hours are worked remotely within a reference period of three months.
- Need to execute a remote working agreement under the premises of its voluntary and irreversible nature, which must include a minimum, comprehensive content (inventory of the means, equipment and tools; timetable, percentage and distribution between on-site work and remote work; workplace; place of work; how the reversibility scenario works; monitoring of activity by employer; procedure to be followed in the event of technical difficulties; data protection; security of the information and duration of the remote working arrangement).
- Need to offset any expenses the employee may incur as a result of providing his/her service remotely and the method of calculating the remuneration that must be paid by the company and the timing and method of such payment, which must be set out in the remote working agreement.
In this context, once the COVID-19 health crisis is over once and for all, businesses will have to face the challenge of how to approach the new ways of working as a result of remote working arrangements. With this will come the need to implement a remote working policy that complies with legislation in force in areas such as guaranteeing the correct provision of services, recording working hours, striking a work/life balance, occupational risk prevention, and the right to digital disconnection, with the corresponding investment in technology that this entails.
In this regard, we can group together four large business models that could be implemented in the future:
- A model in which remote work prevails with on-site work only being necessary for specific reasons.
- A hybrid model with remote working two or three days a week and an on-site presence associated with collaboration processes.
- A model in which on-site work prevails with remote work one day a week.
- A traditional model of full-time on-site work.
Some studies have indicated that once the COVID-19 health crisis is over, 65% of businesses in Spain will choose a hybrid model in which employees will work remotely between two and three days a week.
However, this is not a universal solution and each business will have to weigh up aspects such as cultural change, leadership style, flexibility, trust in teams and retaining talent, against aspects such as interaction with work colleagues, teamwork and employee training, in order to determine the approach that needs to be taken with working methods vis-à-vis a future labor market without COVID-19.