Most people in Spain have done some type of remote working over the past two years, and although many have returned to their offices at some point between coronavirus waves, the Omicron variant has ensured that millions have gone back to working from home.
When Spain first locked down in March of 2020, many people across the country experienced for the first time what it meant to work remotely.
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 two years on, how have things changed? 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 two years.
“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.
What other problems have remote workers in Spain faced over the past two years?
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.
The remote work law the Spanish government passed in September 2020 has become a bit of stumbling block for many companies that have argued they can’t take on the extra costs of materials or extra flexibility for all their employees.
By contrast, other businesses have reaped the financial benefits of not having to rent an office and a study by Spanish corporate social responsibility firm Alares found that 49 percent of companies reported an increase in productivity.
Unfortunately, this 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 two years 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 may 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.
However, the mass return of workers to their offices back in September and October 2021 whe infection rates were lower suggest that once the prevalence of the Omicron variant isn’t as widespread as it is now, employers will again expect their staff to return to their workplaces, at least part of the time.