Last reviewed 4 November 2021

With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to a surge in telework, and many continuing to work from home, a report published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) explores the associated safety and health risks.

Available at https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/telework-and-health-risks-context-covid-19-pandemic-evidence-field-and-policy-implications, it features in-depth interviews with workers and employers, and looks in particular at the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and psychosocial problems among teleworkers.

It examines the measures that are in place to prevent and manage these risks and asks what more can be done to protect the health of the growing number of teleworkers.

The report focuses on remote work enabled by information and communications technology (ICT) tools (telework).

A qualitative study involving desk and field research, it aims to investigate in greater depth and to collect evidence on the implications for workers to identify policy areas for which recommendations can be formulated.

Policy pointers

The following are among the report’s suggestions for employers.

  • Teleworking arrangements at company level should provide clear and transparent rules about the jobs and tasks that are “teleworkable”; procedures for requesting telework; equipment and costs; intensity and patterns of telework; disconnection and limits on availability beyond regular working hours.

  • As line managers play a pivotal role in shaping the working conditions of teleworkers, management should foster more trust-based relationships between line managers and employees, based on autonomy and supportive performance monitoring.

  • Line managers should play a major role in the enforcement of the right to disconnect by setting clear rules regarding availability times and communication practices or job requests beyond regular working hours.

  • Occupational safety and health policies should start with a risk assessment of the home workstation in collaboration with the employee and guidance to comply with ergonomic standards. Provision of ergonomic equipment (office furniture and digital devices) is a relevant aspect.