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Main OSH risks and teleworking during the global pandemic

New research by EU-OSHA in collaboration with experts from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Eurofound and a number of occupational safety and health (OSH) experts, has revealed the full scope of implications related to teleworking during the pandemic. The research, which covers work organisation, job quality, work-life balance, ergonomics and more, was the focus of a webinar taking place on 25 March. 

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The aim of this webinar was to explore the OSH-related risks connected to teleworking and the relevant prevention policies that could be applied to teleworking scenarios in order to make the practice safe and healthy for all workers.

The seminar began with a presentation from the Joint Research Centre. They highlighted that teleworking involves all dimensions of the labour process – including what, when, where and how production takes place. This means that employers should not look at telework as just affecting the place of work – it has implications for work organisation, power relations, coordination, control/autonomy, routine and the tools used. 

Next, researchers from NOTUS addressed the psychosocial risks connected to teleworking. They drew attention to the impact of teleworking on factors such as information and communication overload, time pressure, isolation, work-life conflicts, and the need to be constantly available – all of which can be considered as psychosocial risk factors.

Stefania Capecchi, Associate Professor of Social Statistics at the University of Naples Federico II presented the key data points related to teleworking from EU-OSHA’s third European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-3) and stressed the fact that the pandemic has made teleworking a long-term possibility, especially in larger companies.

The main OSH risks and how to prevent them was the focus of a presentation by research consultancy Ecorys, addressing some of the general risks involved in telework, such as temperature, lighting, noise, and the danger of tripping over cables, in addition to more specific risks related to ergonomic or psychosocial issues. They stressed the value of  good communication and risk assessments in helping to identify and mitigate these risks.

The Belgian external service for prevention and protection at work, IDEWE, discussed whether it’s more beneficial to work from home, or in a socially-distanced environment. The discussion highlighted factors such as telework’s impact on mental health, physical health and ergonomics.

The seminar concluded with a presentation from Eurofound, who considered the importance of the right to disconnect while teleworking. At least one in every five European employees will be teleworking regularly even after the pandemic, and this way of working presents new challenges in terms of working conditions and workers’ health.

Considering that it is very likely that teleworking is here to stay, this seminar provided a useful insight into how to make the practice safe, healthy and sustainable for workers.

Read the seminar report.