Readers reveal: ‘Remote working in Spain has been a bittersweet experience’

Readers reveal: 'Remote working in Spain has been a bittersweet experience'
Photo: Loic VENANCE / AFP
Before the pandemic, remote working was a relatively uncommon practice in Spanish companies. We spoke to locals and foreigners in Spain about the issues they’ve come up against, what the main positives are, and whether they believe 'teletrabajo' will become a permanent option here in the future.

Most people in Spain have done some type of remote working over the past year and many have just completed their one-year remote working anniversary.

When Spain first locked down in March of 2020, many across the country were forced to work from home with very little warning.

Both companies and employees were not prepared for the sudden change and many issues and problems came up, as well as a whole host of positive benefits.

But one year on, how have things changed? Are people still working from home? Have many of the initial issues been sorted out and will people continue remote working in the future?

Before the pandemic, some readers reported that their companies were saying that they were getting ready so that remote working could become a possibility in the future, but when it came down to it, it turned out that they weren’t as ready as they thought they were.

“Remote working has been a bittersweet experience for me,” explains Sergio Molina, who has been working from home for a medical equipment company since the start of the pandemic and continues to do so.

“Although there have been lots of issues, overall for me it has been a positive experience, because it has allowed me to move from Barcelona to Córdoba and be with my partner, and I would have not been able to do this before”, he told The Local Spain.

Magdalena Bialek who works for Booking.com in Barcelona also had a similar experience working from home for the past year.

“At the beginning, it was really hard, mostly due to missing working with colleagues and constant technical issues as we didn’t have a proper system in place.

“Remote working wasn’t something my company did before. I really had to adjust to separating work and personal life as I was always in the same room,” Bialek explained.

“Now I’ve adjusted, I’m really enjoying working from home as well as the time I’m saving by not travelling to and from work. It gives me extra time in the day to do things I like,” she added.

Offices have been adapted over the years to create the best working conditions for employees and most homes have not been designed with this in mind. Many people in Spain, in particular, have cited lack of space and designated work areas to be one of the main issues they’ve faced.

“Many of us didn’t have desks or the correct chairs to sit in for hours a day and many of our homes were not suited to spending so much time in,” says Regina Tanker, who works in Andalusia.

“I am lucky that my company has adapted well and has now provided us with proper work chairs,” she says.

Balancing work and personal space when working remotely. Image: Junjira Konsang / Pixabay

What other problems have remote workers in Spain faced over the past year?

Several people working remotely for Spanish companies however have told The Local Spain their experiences of remote working have not been positive overall, despite the benefits of not having to commute.

They cite many avoidable issues, from not being provided with computers and having to use their own, to clients calling and e-mailing at all hours of the day and employees being expected to be ‘on the clock’ all the time.

It seems that while companies are reaping the benefits of remote working – a study by Spanish corporate social responsibility firm Alares found that 49 percent of companies reported an increase in productivity – it has sometimes been at the employee’s expense.

For example, most remote workers are not being paid anything for electricity or other bills and items that they would not normally have to pay for at work.

But is the increase in productivity down to the fact that employees feel less stressed at home and they’re not having to travel, or is it because they’re putting more hours in?

“At my company, many of us seem to be working a lot of extra hours,” Molina told The Local.

“Because we have our computers and phones with us all the time, clients can call us at any hour and we’re expected to answer. They also know that if someone sends an e-mail we will be there to answer it, even at 8pm at night”.

Many have seen the progress over the last year however, and believe that the majority of these issues can be overcome with better planning and systems in place for the future. 

The future of remote working Spain

So what do our readers think of the future of remote working in Spain? Many seem to think that there will be a more permanent shift and that this is something that is here to stay, although they don’t believe they will be working from home full time when the pandemic is over.

“I think in the future there might be a mix of working from home and going into the office, or indeed remote working. In fact, lots of my friends have told me that their companies have offered permanent remote positions,” says Molina.

“Our company has a clear plan on when the return to the office will happen and we’re constantly updated on it,” Bialek adds.

“When the pandemic is over, working back in the office will be on a voluntary basis. Those who do want to go back will not have to go back full-time and will be allowed to work from home a couple of days a week. This will be an ideal solution for me”.

Indeed, this is one of the main benefits of remote working that everyone agrees on – more time, whether that’s for hobbies, enjoying afternoons with family and friends, or being able to take the kids to school without having to pay extra for childcare.

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Member comments

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  1. Great article, and not much different than the sentiments for remote workers in the US. I have to admit though, I got excited by the title that this article alluded to remote workers, meaning from other countries working in Spain for foreign companies with no office presence in Spain. There are many of us in the US, myself included that have the flexibility to work remotely for our employers in foreign companies like in the US but due to visa restrictions we cannot work remotely in Spain. I understand that they want people paying into the tax system and that’s fine, I don’t believe anyone is trying to commit tax fraud but currently there is no provision for a visa de larga duracion to allow you to work for a remote company and pay into the system. It boggles my mind this thinking that they have not modified the visa process in today’s digital age as they are missing out on revenue for the government from hundreds or thousands of expats that have good incomes that can be creating job demand, spending, and paying income tax without taking Spanish jobs. Not to mention more home purchases or construction.

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