Labor and Employment Law Strategic Global Topics

Reimagining work globally: key working considerations, including confidentiality and privacy


In early 2020, very few people would have or could have ima­gined the new life­styles brought about by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.  Gov­ern­ments, organ­iz­a­tions, fam­il­ies, friends and com­munit­ies around the world have a new paradigm when it comes to pub­lic health, work­place safety and per­son­al inter­ac­tion.

One such area is the focus on remote work­ing.  With so many employ­ees around the world util­iz­ing remote work­ing, either vol­un­tar­ily or due to pub­lic health meas­ures, employ­ers now have more options when it comes to work­force plan­ning.  The chal­lenge for HR teams is to provide the right inform­a­tion, espe­cially for glob­al organ­iz­a­tions, about the risks and bene­fits of enabling remote work­ing as we move through to the “Bey­ond” phase of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic in 2021.

Indeed, COVID-19 has become a for­mid­able trans­form­a­tion accel­er­at­or.  For some organ­iz­a­tions, remote work is being viewed as a tem­por­ary accom­mod­a­tion to help us “live with the vir­us”.  The expect­a­tion for these organ­iz­a­tions is that one day we will go back to the way we were.  For oth­er organ­iz­a­tions, they are not “going back”!  Deep trans­form­a­tions are under­way to reima­gine work and change the future of the way we work.

The design of an effect­ive remote work pro­gram requires a bal­ance of dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­a­tions, includ­ing health and safety, tax, labor and employ­ment law, pri­vacy and con­fid­en­ti­al­ity con­sid­er­a­tions, as well as cost.

In the con­text of advising and assist­ing our cli­ents regard­ing remote work­ing, our Glob­al Labor and Employ­ment Law teams around the world have found a num­ber of wider issues that affect how employ­ers man­age their work­force.  First, there is the cost of equip­ping pre­vi­ously office-based teams with the tech­no­logy to work remotely yet sav­ing the cost of poten­tially redu­cing the real estate foot­print.  Second, the import­ance of main­tain­ing the organization’s cul­ture, des­pite phys­ic­al dis­tance, has been the source of much think­ing, such as this art­icle from EY’s People Advis­ory Ser­vices col­leagues.  Third, there is a dis­par­ate impact of remote work­ing depend­ing on the sec­tor in which the organ­iz­a­tion oper­ates.  Some­times remote work­ing can­not be con­tem­plated due to the nature of the work and the employ­er must focus on cre­at­ing a safe work­place, fact­ory or office.   Finally, the com­pet­it­ive glob­al mar­ket for tal­ent has become even steep­er as the import­ance of a person’s phys­ic­al loc­a­tion becomes less sig­ni­fic­ant.

Des­pite the pre­val­ence of remote work­ing, there are a num­ber of reas­ons why employ­ers are plan­ning for a phys­ic­al return to the work­place.  Some of the reas­ons why organ­iz­a­tions are eager to go back to the office include increas­ing employ­ee con­tact with man­age­ment and the need to stra­tegic­ally plan and reg­u­larly con­duct per­form­ance reviews, for which employ­ers may prefer to have their employ­ees in the office, fact­ory or site.  Of course, cor­por­ate cul­ture plays a key role in these decisions, as well.  Some organ­iz­a­tions are will­ing to make drastic changes, while oth­ers are not.  Regard­less of the mind­set or cul­ture of an organ­iz­a­tion, what is clear is that after nine months of our imme­di­ate pivot to remote work­ing, organ­iz­a­tions are mov­ing to devel­op robust policies for con­tinu­ous remote work glob­ally or return to office pro­grams.

In this news­let­ter, we can­vass the key con­sid­er­a­tions for reima­ging work across 42 jur­is­dic­tions around the world.

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