NEWS

Teleworking conference shows workers and employers hesitant

Teleworking is still in its early days in Greece, but official dialogue on the subject has at least begun. Following an initiative taken by the Information Society project through the Third Community Support Framework, the Greek Labor Ministry has begun a systematic effort to introduce teleworking. Just a few days ago, employers and unions met to draft proposals. Information Society has earmarked 43 million euros for the project. «The market is ripe for the implementation of measures on teleworking,» Stelios Christakos, the Information Society director, told Kathimerini. «Eurozone networks, the shrinking cost of new technologies and the ease of distributing digitized products all pave the way to new forms of work.» «The public debate will last a month,» said Labor Ministry official Meropi Komninou, «and proposals will be collected from interested parties. The best of them will serve as a guide to the future.» A study on the implementation of teleworking that was carried out in September 2004 showed Greece lagging behind the rest of Europe, with an uptake of 4.9 percent compared to an EU average of 13 percent. Hesitant While 85 percent of Greek entrepreneurs believe teleworking would provide benefits for their companies, 55 percent say they are still unwilling to adopt it. «Employers are hesitate to adopt teleworking even though their firms use the Internet. This is primarily due to their mistrust of new technologies with which they are not completely familiar,» commented Michalis Panayiotou, general manager of 01 Pliroforikis and a member of the team that did the survey. Labor Institute member Yiannis Kouzis told Kathimerini that the most recent collective national wage agreement signed by employers and the General Confederation of Greek Labor refers to the EU agreement on teleworking but without clarifying the context for its implementation. «It isn’t clear how it operates. The agreement does not include an annex with the corresponding European agreement and so we don’t know what it contains. But no special legislation is required as the collective agreement becomes law,» he said. Workers too are hesitant and, above all, uninformed; only 23.6 percent even know what teleworking is. Of them, 49.3 percent believe teleworking would have a fairly positive effect on their lives. In terms of the benefits teleworking would bring, 40 percent mentioned less time spent commuting to and from work, 21.4 percent valued the opportunity to better combine work and private life, 16 percent mentioned increased productivity, while 4.6 percent believe that teleworking will help reduce environmental pollution. Labor Ministry and Information Society officials say their prime objective is to boost employment in remote parts of Greece. «Our aim is to alert regional bodies and to get inhabitants of remote areas off the sidelines of the labor market,» said Christakos. «Greece is a country that has a great deal to gain from teleworking, since many workers could operate in a better environment, outside Athens,» said Panayiotou. Greek workers and entrepreneurs engaged in teleworking value it for offering them greater freedom in terms of time and place, higher productivity and more efficient product delivery times. Thanassis Vassileiou, a permanent resident of Patras, has had a professional connection with the World Pain Institute in California for the past six months. «My physical presence is not necessary in order to achieve greater productivity and good results. Having freedom in terms of time and place of work is very positive. There are no restrictions. If I’m in the mood I can organize my schedule for the following day at midnight if I feel like it,» he said. Lower operational costs, higher product quality, and better job opportunities for many workers are among the most positive aspects of teleworking, according to Nikos Bogonikolos, managing director of Zeus Consultants. «In our experience we have seen better delivery times and a general increase in the productivity of workers, which we attribute to the opportunity they have to work when they like, he said.