View of Torre Picasso, in the business district of Madrid, on the 9th.Miguel Pereira / Getty Images
It seemed that September 1 was going to be the big day. The day chosen by large companies for the massive return of their employees to the offices after almost a year and a half of teleworking. But no. The virulence of the fifth wave of coronavirus has forced them to be prudent and to keep the protocols that they had in place before the summer holidays more or less intact. Thus hindering the change in life that people like Raquel Fernández, a 47-year-old telemarketer from Barcelona, want to give. She is waiting for her company to decide if she can continue working remotely to move her residence to a quiet town “because the city kills me” and because she wants to extract more profitability from her salary. Currently only 10% of Spanish employees continue to telework, compared to 25% last year, according to Carlos Gutiérrez, secretary of Youth and New Realities of Work at CC OO.
Most wait impatiently for their employers’ guidance. Because, today, there are many companies to draw their roadmap for a return to normalcy. Although there are others that have already decided and next week they will begin to receive all of their templates.
The unions are detecting non-compliance by some organizations, from those that force their staff to return to absolute presence en masse (among them law firms, consultants, investment banks and construction companies), to those that refuse to bear the expenses teleworking or those that address reincorporation without the relevant health guarantees. This is stated by Cristina Estévez, secretary of Institutional Policy at UGT, who, like Gutiérrez, considers that these irregularities mainly affect companies without union representation.
Among the big companies, the step is being marked by the technological ones. And it comes from the United States. Firms such as Google or Amazon have delayed the return of their employees until January 2022. A date perhaps further away from those considered in Spain. In Mapfre, for example, they have preferred to wait until September 15 “to see how the fifth wave of the pandemic evolves and to design the plan to return to the office,” says a spokesman. The insurer operates with half of the workforce in person (with rotating shifts that cover 90% of the employees) and the other half remotely. A wait similar to that established by Banco Santander (with less than 60% of the face-to-face workforce) or the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), according to its head of human resources, Pablo Claver, or by Cellnex, which plans that in the middle of month its offices host 50% of the workforce, compared to the current 30%.
Siemens Gamesa also expects to open its offices to half of its workers and on a voluntary basis as of next day 13. However, José Luis Risco, head of people at the EY consultancy, who works with two bubble groups at its headquarters, does not rules out that the general return could be postponed until Christmas.
At BBVA there are changes coming next week. With a hybrid model already in place, 60% face-to-face and 40% teleworking, from day 1 it will go from being voluntary to compulsory. The team leaders will designate the days when the employees will have to go to the office, where the jobs will be hot and will be reserved through an application. Also in Red Eléctrica: next week all its employees, even those who were excluded until now, will do weekly rotating shifts, so that 50% of the workforce works on site every morning.
“We expected the situation to change in September, but it will change very little and the organizations will continue to revolve around the work model that we will implement when normality arrives. As long as we have small groups, we cannot close the new model ”, laments José Luis Risco.
According to a recent BCG study, 90% of companies intend to introduce some type of remote work once the pandemic is over. At the moment, there are few macro-companies that opt for the 100% flexible model, that is, that the employee can choose their place of activity. ING or Liberty Seguros are two of them. Siemens Gamesa is also going to bet on this modality through its Smart Working program, which will allow workers to telework five days a week and for workers to do so from their residence or from anywhere else, according to company sources, which is remodeling its offices to accommodate them to the new collaborative formats and without designated fixed positions.
Even technology companies like Google, Amazon or Telefónica, which tend to be among the most advanced in new ways of working, are not going to go that far. All three are committed to flexible systems that will combine three days of face-to-face work and two of teleworking, although they open the door for certain professionals who request it to be able to work only remotely and from any location temporarily or permanently.
Screens that measure air quality at the Meliá headquarters.
The three plus two model is the one that is prevailing in most large companies. EY, BCG, BMW, Axa or Vodafone have embraced it. The insurer and the telephone operator have even already established it in their collective agreement after negotiations with the unions, as has Telefónica. There are still very few companies and sectors that have accommodated their agreements to the Teleworking Law, which came into force on July 9: “Adaptation is in its infancy because companies are resisting negotiation and thus are saving costs. ”, According to Cristina Estévez. Not all. Mapfre has compensated the use of Wi-Fi, electricity, etc. with 45 euros per month; Siemens Gamesa with 55 euros, Axa with three euros a day and 200 euros for equipment for chairs or screens and Vodafone has provided a teleworking kit (ergonomic chair, wireless headphones, mouse, keyboard …).
But the big question, in Pablo Claver’s opinion, is how the new work model is going to be used: Will it be a maximum or a minimum of three face-to-face days? Will they be a mandatory guide or shifts to reduce office space? For the benefit of companies or their employees? And it is that the devil hides in the details. “If companies go to the fixed system they can capture savings by cutting offices, company cars, dining rooms and restaurant checks … On the other hand, if they opt for the flexible system, the benefit is for the employee”, he explains .
Telecommuting offers skyrocket
Teleworking is already a basic. This is how bluntly Alberto Gavilán, Adecco’s Talent Director, says that 30% of the job offers they manage are offered. “Many candidates demand it. And they discard offers when companies do not give the possibility. Teleworking has changed the rules of the game in terms of attracting talent ”. The volume of positions with this component has tripled compared to before the pandemic. Technology, information technology and start-ups envisage this en masse and it extends to sectors such as insurance, call centers, professional services and back office.