European Federation of Journalists

World Decent Work Day: Better conditions for journalists working from home

On the occasion of the World Decent Work Day on 7 October, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has launched a report Journalists working from home? a labour rights perspective for a hybrid future authored by Marc Gruber, showing the impact of the pandemic on the working conditions of journalists and the trend of the hybrid working model is becoming the norm.

The report shows that while the working from home policies implemented by media companies are far from perfect, most journalists would still want to work from home but in a hybrid working model which allows them to work some days at home. Most importantly, such a policy should be voluntary and reversible.

During the pandemic, over 50% of the respondents said that the working from home policy was being implemented on a compulsory basis without a proper framework. This results in overtime work, increased workload and burnout. A staff journalist from Austria expressed that “You’re more or less always on duty – you get used to working in the morning, at noon and at night. Work and off-work time start to mix”. 

Despite the increased workload, 65% of respondents said that journalists did not get additional financial support while working from home to pay for costs such as using private equipment, energy bills, etc. Only 20% said they receive extra payment for expenses incurred while working from home.

While national legal framework on health and safety or general labour conditions exist in most countries, most media companies do not have a specific policy regulating telework. It is even rarer to have provisions in the collective agreements at the company level to regulate telework. Although the European Social Partners’ Framework agreements on telework (2002) exist, journalists’ unions and associations still found it difficult to negotiate telework provisions in the collective agreement with media employers. Many unions and associations issued guidelines to their journalists on telework conditions. 

In Turkey, the journalists’ union (TGS) has managed to reach out to their members and include provisions on telework in new collective agreements. The TGS has launched a campaign issuing guidelines on telework to its members and successfully negotiated with 7 new media outlets to have collective agreements and telework provision.

In the end, the report concluded that all the stakeholders (legislator, employers, unions/associations and individuals) will have to adapt and try to find a new balance, taking into account general principles such as equal rights and non-discrimination, respect for basic labour rights standards, communication and dialogue. Concerning more specifically trade unions, they will have to listen even more to the expectations of their members, and maybe they will also have to develop new forms of organising.

Download the report

Key principles of telework/home office:

  • Voluntary nature: telework/home office must be voluntary for both workers and employers and subject to an agreement

  • Reversibility: a person who teleworks for a certain time must be able to return to work in person, and vice-versa.

  • Non-discrimination: no distinction should be made between office workers and teleworkers. The employer must provide work equipment and cover the expenses that the worker incurs when working from home. Employers are responsible for investing in technology and training, as well as for health and safety measures. 

  • Equal rights: trade unions/associations must be able to contact and organise all workers, independently from their actual workplace.

  • Right to disconnect: the right to digital disconnection must be guaranteed either by law or by “soft” regulations such as collective agreements.

Tips for journalists

  • Know your rights. Don’t assume that home office or telework is not regulated. Contact your union/association and exchange information with your colleagues if needed.

  • In the absence of a regulatory framework or collective agreements, define an agreement about home office/telework with your employer, in your working contract. Contact your union if you need help. 

  • Set a schedule and set your limits. Your home is not your office. Don’t spend all day at the desk. Go outside, take breaks and plan them if needed. 

  • Set a defined workspace. Be aware of the ergonomic issues. 

  • Reach out to your colleagues or talk to your manager if you feel isolated. 

  • You have the right to disconnect!

Tips for unions/associations

  • Build a national legal framework that clearly defines telework and home office

  • Strengthen collective agreements to ensure that telework legislation is applied equally to all staff and freelancers

  • Guarantee the right to disconnect if it is not enforced – help journalists to establish clear boundaries between working hours and private life to provide a non-intrusive remote working environment, limit working hours

  • Anticipate challenges linked to telework and offer assistance:  equal rights, working time, work-life balance, data protection, cyber security etc. 

  • Guarantee the right to organise electronically and develop specific agreements on this matter with employers

  • Develop digital tools for better communication with members and for trade union organising

  • Develop “template agreements” dealing specifically with telework/home office

  • Reach out to members

Tips for employers

  • A well-managed telework policy can increase productivity and trust

  • Take responsibility for your employees also when they are not in the newsroom or at the usual workplace: health and safety, privacy, work life balance. 

  • Provide equipment – internet access, computers and other personal electronic devices, software. If not: it is also your responsibility to cover extra related costs.

  • Be clear and precise about communication with the employees, as well as with deadlines and work schedules.

  • Trust your employees: a good journalist is a good journalist anywhere, you don’t need to monitor them in their daily routine. 

  • Be open to dialogue and negotiations about new forms of working relations.

Listen to a five-minute interview with the author of the report Marc Gruber.

This activity is part of a two-year project “Trust in Journalism” launched by the EFJ and is co-funded by the European Commission (DG EMPL).