A recent study presented by the Malta Employers Association (MEA) has discovered that quite a few Maltese companies are experimenting with the idea of permanently introducing remote working, a phenomenon which has seen a sharp increase in popularity since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A survey published by the EU agency ‘Eurofound’ however has revealed that a third of the persons for whom telework is an option offered by their employers, still prefer to work from the office.

According to this study however, in Malta there are 73 percent of persons whose work is partially teleworkable and a further 33 per cent of persons whose work is fully teleworkable who never work from home or away from their office.

Malta therefore registers very high figures in the number of persons who do not embrace the telework option and ranks 6th in the category of persons who have the option to work from outside the office, yet still don’t, closely following similar situations in Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania. Figures in Malta are also very similar to those found in Spain and Cyprus but the local rate is still somewhat higher.

The average of persons across the EU who may fulfil their job remotely yet still don’t is relatively high, with 57 percent for those who might perform part of their job remotely and 23 percent of those who might work totally remotely opting not to do so.

As said before, the pandemic was the major driving force behind experimentation with remote working. When the pandemic numbers reached alarming heights in summer 2020, 33 percent of the workforce worked from home. This figure however dropped to 16 percent when the pandemic numbers and measures were eased in spring 2021 and dropped further to 10 percent in spring this year.

In parallel fashion, those working exclusively from their workplace were 59 percent in 2020, dropping to 58 percent in 2021 and increasing sharply to 63 percent in 2022. There was also an increase in the number of persons who work both remotely and from their workplace, with 8 percent in 2020 to 26 percent in 2021 and 2022 still opting to work from the office.

The MEA however is still showing optimism about these figure as it states that local companies are experimenting with possibilities offered by remote working and therefore the figures might increase well over the coming years. There is one significant difference between Malta and other member states as the trend abroad is to promote teleworking in order to save on office rent costs. This does not seem to be the case in Malta. The increase in figures is to be attributed more to the fact that the possibility of working remotely might attract more candidates for jobs. There are however quite a few persons who still prefer to work at the company offices.

Efficiency issues were also tackled in the study commissioned by the MEA. 60 percent of the companies claimed that the efficiency of their employees remained on the same levels after the introduction of remote working, another 33 percent claimed that efficiency decreased while another 6 percent even claimed that efficiency was boosted.

These results certainly push towards the introduction of more remote working possibilities yet they are not clear enough to prove that it is the clear solution to work organisation. This is the reason why most companies consider the remote working possibility as an experiment, aimed at reaching the perfect balance between cost effectiveness, efficiency and the ability to attract new employees and retain those already employed.

There are advantages and disadvantages in every type of work situation, and for this reason, general hybrid systems where employees work both remotely and in the office as needed seems to be the situation which works best. There will however be an increase in remote working in the coming years which will require a stronger element of trust between employers and employees. Obviously the need will arise for better systems which support remote working and the supervision thereof.

High paid white collar jobs are those which have attracted most expansion in teleworking situations according to a Eurofound paper published in 2020.

Despite the optimism expressed by the MEA in regard to the growth of remote working in Malta, the European trend is likely to be on the decrease especially countries or sectors which do not allow for a quick switch. The majority of Maltese persons however have expressed their preference to work from home or remotely either permanently or even for periods each month. Women seem to be more inclined to make the switch towards this type of work arrangement. This is in contrast with the return to the workplace of the vast majority of person after the easing of the pandemic, however some 60 percent of the persons interviewed still remain in favour of remote working.

On the 19 October 2022, 21 Academy will be delivering an online webinar dealing with the legal implications of remote managing your employees, including those employees which might be working from their home country rather than the country of the place of work. More information on this webinar is available through this link.