While it has become one of the pillars of the fight against Covid 19, telework generates a new form of pressure on mental health. In any case, this is what the deputies of the European Parliament plead. It even has a name, “techno-stress”.
With the pandemic, teleworking has become essential in many companies. So much so that at present, it is difficult to go back. Indeed, the latter has certain advantages that employees have acquired a taste for. What did not please the most whimsical boss of the moment, Elon Musk, who recently imposed on his employees to work at least 40 hours a week in the office, under penalty of considering them as resigning.
With the pandemic, teleworking has become essential in many companies. So much so that at present, it is difficult to go back. Indeed, the latter has certain advantages that employees have acquired a taste for. What did not please the most whimsical boss of the moment, Elon Musk, who recently imposed on his employees to work at least 40 hours a week in the office, under penalty of considering them as resigning. Without giving reason to the boss of Tesla, the European Parliament this week adopted a resolution sounding the alarm on the dangers of teleworking. A new term even designates this phenomenon, “techno-stress”, or “the stress linked to the use of technologies in the context of work”. Passed by 501 votes in favor and 47 against, this resolution adopted by Parliament certainly the benefits of working from home, such as “increased flexibility and autonomy”, but warns of “the significant increase in health risks”. Risks related to over-connection, blurring of boundaries between work and private life, and higher work intensity. MEPs identify two main problems. The first is the lack of privacy. Because apart from the dangerous mix between private and professional life, it is also and above all the increased surveillance of workers via software and artificial intelligence tools that generates stress. Employees are thus remotely controlled on their performance and the monitoring of their activity. The second, which is little talked about, is the digital exclusion of the most precarious social categories and of those who did not grow up with the internet. They find themselves even more isolated, and MEPs are therefore calling for Europe to bridge this digital divide to avoid excluding a whole section of the population from the world of work. Finally, the pandemic and the economic crisis which ensues – and further accentuated with the war in Ukraine – further fuels this stress. The European Parliament highlights here financial insecurity, fear of unemployment, limited access to care, isolation as well as changes in working hours and a disrupted organization. So what are the solutions? If the Parliament dismisses the idea of pushing companies to an exclusive return to the face-to-face, it opts instead for a “mental health strategy”. Some MEPs have already come together to form platforms for the promotion of mental health, such as the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the European Parliament, a group that advocates for a coordinated response on the determinants of mental health, or the Alliance of MEPs for Mental Health, a platform that promotes EU policies in the field of mental illness. But to go much further, they call on member states to take on the problem themselves by regulating telework in order to protect the mental health of employees. MEPs want the European Commission, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and Member States to include mental health in their preparedness and response plans emergency to health crises and pandemics. In Belgium, the Federal Public Service for Social Security has created a generalist platform dedicated to mental health at work, jemesensbienautravail.be, where advice is given on, for example, the management of working time or the right to disconnect. Regarding this, in times of pandemic, the circular of December 20, 2021 came to further regulate telework. The latter indicates that you can only be contacted outside normal working hours for exceptional and unforeseen reasons; or that you cannot suffer any prejudice if you do not answer the telephone or read work-related messages outside of your normal working hours.Aurore Dessaigne