- MEPs acknowledge benefits of teleworking but warn about health and privacy risks
- The right to disconnect must be legally recognised at EU level
- Ensure training for workers to bridge the digital divide
MEPS demand preventive measures against technostress and over-connection, to tackle mental health issues and boost the benefits of working from home.
In a resolution adopted on Tuesday with 501 votes in favour, 47 against and 85 abstentions, Parliament recognises the benefits of working from home, like increased flexibility and autonomy, but warns of the significant health risks stemming from over-connection, a blurring of the lines between work and private life, and higher work intensity or “technostress” – the stress linked to work-related technology use.
Teleworking’s health and privacy risks
MEPs warn about the risks to workers’ mental health and the threats to the right to privacy posed by technology-enabled control and surveillance through software and AI tools, remote real-time monitoring of progress and performance and time-tracking. They also point to other factors causing additional stress, including financial insecurity, fear of unemployment, limited access to healthcare, isolation, as well as changes to working hours and inadequate work organisation because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis.
Additionally, they highlight the impact the shift to teleworking may have on the mental health of those at risk of digital exclusion. They say that the digital divide in the EU needs to be addressed to ensure that all workers have a sufficient level of digital skills.
Preventive measures and a directive to ensure the right to disconnect
MEPs urge the EU and member states to tackle the issue through an EU Mental Health Strategy, a European Care Strategy and national action plans. They note that the lack of binding common standards and principles regarding psychosocial risks in the EU leads to de facto unequal legal protection for workers. Parliament asks the EU institutions and member states to further regulate digital work to protect mental health, in cooperation with employers and workers’ representatives. The Commission, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and member states should include mental health in their health crisis and pandemic emergency response and preparedness plans.
MEPs call for a directive on minimum standards and conditions to ensure all workers the effective right to disconnect, and to regulate the use of existing and new digital tools for work purposes.
Maria Walsh (EPP, IE), responsible for the report said during the debate: “The belief that the EU does not have a role or competency regarding these issues is an utter fabrication. The mental health of citizens should be at the core of our work, and we must work together to cope with mental health issues. Early intervention and early re-integration of our young population into the labour market is key. We also call for the update of EU legislation to reflect the new realities of digital working”.