One in three who can telecommute clocks in at the office instead

According to an EU-wide survey, one in three people in Malta who can work from home go to the office instead.

Results published by the EU agency Eurofound show that in Malta, 73 percent of those whose job is partially teleworkable and 33 percent of those whose job is fully teleworkable never telework.

These numbers are among the highest in the EU, with Malta being surpassed only by Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania.

Spain and Cyprus recorded similar but slightly lower numbers than Malta.

On average, 57% of people in the EU whose work is partially teleworkable and 23% whose work is fully teleworkable never telework.

According to the report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), it is more common in eastern and southern member states to work full time on the job – even if the jobs are teleworkable – than in other countries.

Data provided to the Times of Malta shows that in the first year of the pandemic – the summer of 2020 – one in three was working only from home.

This fell to 16 percent in spring 2021 and to 10 percent last spring.

On the other hand, the proportion of those who only worked from their workplace increased slightly from 59 percent in 2020 and 58 percent in 2021 to 63 percent in 2022.

There has been a significant increase in hybrid workers – from eight percent in 2020 to over a quarter (26 percent) in 2021 and 2022.

“Teleworking is expected to increase” – MEA

However, the director-general of the Malta Employers’ Confederation, Joseph Farrugia, believes several local businesses are going through an experimental phase, with teleworking likely to increase.

Farrugia noted that while companies in other countries are adopting teleworking to save on office space costs, this is very rare in Malta.

“However, the trend is that teleworking is increasing as more employees ask for it, and it is becoming a vehicle for companies to attract employees. There are also cases of employees who prefer not to telework,” he told the Times of Malta.

Efficiency aspects also played an important role.

A survey conducted by MEA found that despite the dramatic increase in teleworking during company closures, 60 percent of companies said employees were equally productive while teleworking.

Thirty-three reported a loss of efficiency and only seven percent said employees were more efficient when working remotely.

This underscores the fact that teleworking is not an automatic solution to work organisation, Farrugia said.

“However, many companies are going through an experimental phase to find the right balance between working on-site or working remotely,” he said.

“Of course, both have pros and cons, and generally hybrid systems work best, but you can expect a shift towards more remote working in the years to come.

“This will involve a change in work attitudes that will require a stronger element of trust between employers and workers, better systems to support remote work, and also training managers and workers to adapt to new forms of surveillance.”

According to a 2020 Eurofound paper, the proliferation of teleworking since the COVID outbreak has been heavily biased towards high-paid white-collar workers.

New data from 2022 suggests that the higher rate of teleworking has not been sustained, particularly in countries where the industrial structure and other factors do not allow rapid permanent conversion, research manager Eszter Sandor told the Times of Malta.

More research is needed, however, and only time will tell if the telecommuting rate will continue to fall as the pandemic slowly ends, and if so, in which countries, sectors and occupations it will remain higher.

Over 60 percent prefer to work from home

This fifth round of E-Survey Life, Work and COVID-19: Living in a New Era of Uncertainty It is now becoming apparent that despite the gradual return to work of the majority of workers, the preference to work at least partially from home remains very strong.

Over 60 percent of women and men would prefer to work from home at least several times a month barring pandemic-related restrictions, with women’s preference for teleworking being slightly higher.

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