25 August 2021

From surveillance to trust: a new model for labor relations


In an international scenario fraught with insecurity and doubt regarding the immediate future, there are very few certainties in the field of human resources in general, and labor relations in particular

Unquestionably, one such uncertainty, which has arisen directly from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is the change in the corporate model of provision of services.

The normalization of concepts which, it has to be said, until now were considered to be somewhat peripheral or of scant use to the company, such as remote working or teleworking, have now become the rulefor an enormous number of companies worldwide. 

This new reality, which has grown to hitherto unimaginable limits as a result of the pandemic, which we all hope and wish will be temporary and transitory, is here to stay, and it can be emphatically stated that for many business sectors, the physical presence of staff, until now perceived as the rule, is no longer a viable option.

There are endless consequences to implementing this change in business model, however, we should mention at least a few issues that are fundamental at this moment in time.

Beginning with business interest, this new situation has involved a kind of dilution of traditional formulas for exercising managerial authority and organization of corporate employees. There is no shortage of cases in which employers express their real concern for a genuine loss of control of their business activity, because among other reasons, their staff can no longer be accessed simply by visiting their work station on the company premises.

In this respect, companies should obviously take care to ensure that this new situation does not impact directly and negatively on the company's productivity, and the efficacy and efficiency of their employees. In other words, putting it simply, these new ways of providing services by remote means or in a hybrid manner should under no circumstances be seen as an excuse to do away with the traditional values and principles that govern any proper employment relationship, such as good faith or due diligence. Indeed, it is necessary to reach the same standards of quality in the work performed as in pre-pandemic times, with the classic model of physical presence.

Labor relationsPhoto: Freepik

The nature or purpose of any corporate structure cannot be disregarded. From the traditional goal of seeking or increasing profits to the more modern theories of creating value (legitimate interest having placed own resources at risk). Each and every member of the company, from senior management to the most recent employee, must be responsible for pursuing this aim, and at the very least, ensuring the actual survival and viability of their company in the market. 

For this purpose, the role of technology is fundamental, and we find various examples, from companies at the forefront of technological development, to smaller companies which, until now, have largely ignored or have been reluctant to embrace this rapid and necessary technological progress. Phrases like "I've got a telco", "I've got a video" or "we're on a call” have, for many of us, come to be part of our day to day conversations.

This rapid implementation of technology clearly has a cost for businesses in economic terms, and in training and interest for employees, with the essential addition of a third element, namely the participation of governments and public authorities. They are significant players in this scenario, able to contribute by establishing powerful networks, training in educational institutions or assistance through programs involving subsidies or grants to companies and workers, in order to help them make this transition in a concrete, flexible and sustainable way.

For workers, this new way of providing services is an effective tool for ensuring that their legitimate right to reconciling personal, family and working life is properly deployed. In this way, with the option of avoiding travel to and from the workplace, the possibility of looking after family members and children in their care, and the reduced environmental impact, thanks to a diminished carbon footprint, among many other reasons, due to no longer using any form of transport, it can be safely assumed that the new model for provision of services is here to stay

As such, companies and workers need to adapt to their new scenario, and worthy of mention in this regard is what is known as the right to digital disconnection, inextricably linked to the use of remote media and new ways of working.

This transformation can be deemed complete once the remote working day is on terms that are at least equivalent to face to face working in all aspects and conditions. With this aim in mind, different laws are being developed with a view to ensuring that the use of technological tools, such as cell phones, computers or professional emails are confined strictly to the duration of the ordinary working day.

Compliance with the new law is simply a consequence of this new model, and therefore it is necessary not only for the company to respect these terms, such as the requisite rest periods for its staff, but also for the employees, who should avoid, interruptions, down time or any situation that could lead, as we have mentioned, to an unjustifiable loss of productivity.

The only way to achieve all these goals is through the commitment of one and all, and by breaking with the traditional ideals of labor relations, by staking their faith in the future, and by ensuring the essential transition from surveillance to trust.

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