Milena Jakšić Papac, President of the FIC Human Resources Committee (Karanović & Partners o.a.d.)
Legacy of the Pandemic in the Field of Labour Relations
We are witnessing the emergence of a hybrid model of work that combines the efficiency of remote work and the advantage of social interactions through working directly with others, while at the same time we’re fighting outdated regulations that envisage the personal delivering of documents in the digital age.
More than a year has passed since the pandemic shifted us towards working from home and drastically changed our daily work routines. Home-based offices, virtual business meetings and reduced social contacts have been challenging for many in the previous period, but have also provided a unique opportunity to rethink ways of doing business and managing human resources. In accordance with global trends, many FIC member companies have enabled their employees to work from home, while they are currently considering the modalities of work that they will opt for after the pandemic ends or reduces in scope.
Transitioning to work from home has meant employers needing to concentrate this form of work within the framework of regulations that are insufficiently adjusted and which, in their existing form, are not yet ready to support new concepts of work and the need for flexibility in the organisation of labour. Also coming to the fore has been a clearly expressed concern for employees, with consistent application of the “people come first” principle. And despite the numerous advantages for many that are undoubtedly brought by working from home, employees simultaneously face the negative psychological impact of being isolated from colleagues and – under the conditions of the pandemic – from extended family and friends, thus exposing them to a higher risk of burnout. With the adoption of the Guide to Safe and Healthy Work from Home, the Directorate for Safety and Health at Work directly highlighted the obligation of employers to take care of the mental health of employees, leaving it up to them to come up with creative ways of supporting employees and nurturing their connections with teams. At that time, many employers introduced more frequent video meetings of teams, invested in training and mentoring for handling stress, promoted a culture of communicating with colleagues unrelated to work tasks, and devised tools that enable employees to interact socially and provide suitable psychological support.
The advantages of remote working are recognised, but so are its disadvantages. As such, we find ourselves in a position from which we are witnessing the emergence of a hybrid model of work that combines the efficiency of remote work and the advantage of social interactions through working directly with others. Just as the implied default rule prior to the pandemic was to go to work from 9 to 5, we are facing a new implied default – of a combination of working from the office and remotely.
Although the Guide to Safe and Healthy Work from Home provides both employees and employers with basic guidelines and recommendations, there is a lack of clear legal regulations governing the area of safety and health at work from home
However, in order for that default mode to function, we also need the support of labour regulations, which currently lack modern approaches to the managing of human resources and the administration of labour law documentation. The practise to date has shown that work from home, as well as a combined working model, requires certain clarifications to the Labour Law, primarily when it comes to recognising different forms of this kind of work, as well as the clear regulating of the obligations of employers. Although the Guide to Safe and Healthy Work from Home provides both employees and employers with basic guidelines and recommendations, there is a lack of clear legal regulations governing the area of safety and health at work from home. In order for work from home to fully achieve its purpose, it is necessary to free employers from unnecessary demands regarding the personal delivery of documentation, particularly given that we have already stepped into the digital age.