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Home-office, teleworking and new agreements

In the face of the Covid 19 pandemic, society has had to take measures never before taken in order to care for people's health and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus in the socioeconomic context. The mandatory preventive isolation, which came into force at the national level since March 17, 2020 and has been extended until May 25, 2020, for now, as well as the restriction of many economic activities, has posed a challenge for many companies and workers, in order to protect jobs, have had to implement alternatives other than face-to-face work.

In this order of ideas, reference is constantly made and indistinctly to telework, which can be confused with home-office, terms that are different as well as their implications, so it is relevant to differentiate some of its aspects.

On the one hand, home-office is one that is carried out occasionally and temporarily at the worker's home or in a place other than the employer's home or address, for which reason it does not require further formality, and could even be derived from the decision of the employer modify the workplace under subordination.

Due to the unpredictability of the effects of the pandemic, home-office or at a distance has been the alternative used by companies to counter the effects of mandatory confinement and its use has been suggested by the Ministry of Labor through Circular 021 of 2020 This modality does not in itself require the application of technologies.

On the other hand, telework is defined as a form of organizing work, in which, through the use of information and communication technologies, the worker provides his services outside the company's workplace.

Teleworking has been promoted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) with the aim of achieving a balance in the professional and personal life of workers and improving their productivity. Under this postulate, the Colombian legislator established the main regulations on telework in Law 1221 of 2008, which were expanded by Decree 884 of 2012, compiled by Decree 1072 of 2015.

Teleworking involves an agreement between employer and worker, to organize the way of working with a permanent vocation, in which the main work tools will be information and communication technologies. In order to use telework, legal requirements must be met, contained in the aforementioned regulations. Likewise, its application requires, guaranteeing disconnection time and permanent non-availability of workers, clarity on the technological means to be used, responsibility for the custody and care of work items, if these are provided by the employer, as well as the computer security measures to take into account.

The implementation of teleworking is quite a challenge, since it involves a change of mentality in the way work is conceived in a country like ours, clinging to many traditions. Although it is true that Colombia has carried out various actions to promote telework, there are many assumptions that escape regulation, so the path to be followed to achieve this objective is long.

However, teleworking is a very attractive alternative for many companies, taking into account that with technological development new business perspectives and contacts are opened through tools such as email, social networks and of course, virtual conferences by through many and diverse technological platforms, which have been imposed today as a solution for the continuity of companies' activities and for labor interaction through virtual connectivity.

It is important to bear in mind that the implementation and practice of teleworking must be in harmony with the fundamental labor rights provided for by the Political Constitution in its article 53, among others, training, education, work opportunities and the necessary rest, supposes a challenge, but also an invitation to generate forms of work adjusted to the digital age and that can increase the productivity of workers.

Likewise, teleworking must be planned and executed within the framework of the spirit of economic coordination and social balance, which must prevail in these times when the pandemic has brought serious economic difficulties for companies, which can be successfully overcome by consensus and promoting telework as a new opportunity for work interaction.

Finally within the global and local panorama where normality will be home-office or teleworking, given the unpredictability of the effects of the pandemic and the continuity in the measures that the National Government may order, it is time to reach agreements between workers and employers, where on the one hand flexible hours are a genuine quality of life versus the objectives and goals set are consistent with the position and are reflected in agreements, according to the new labor realities.

Authors

Adriana-Escobar-CMS-Colombia
Adriana Escobar
Partner
Bogotá
David-Pedraza-CMS-Colombia
David Pedraza
Associate
Bogotá