From rare to daily
Before the sharp surge of telecommuting in 2020, teleworking was, however, an asset that only a lucky few could enjoy. 2019 registered very low rates of people working from home in Europe, with the Germany and Italy, for example, recording figures of 12.6 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Spain registered low rates as well, with only about 8.3 percent of its labor force working from home.
By March 2020, this situation changed very drastically with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Spain experienced a substantial increase in the population that worked from home due to a series of restrictions implemented by the Spanish government. In an attempt to curb the high number of infections in the country, these measures included a home lockdown that eliminated all non-essential activities outside the home. As a result of this, nearly two million Spaniards worked from home throughout 2020, which was twice the figure of approximately 951,800 that had been registered the previous year. With shares of 16.6 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively, the Community of Madrid and Catalonia recorded the highest share of teleworkers in 2021, when living with a pandemic had become a "new normal".
Remote work: not for every profession
Whether or not a person can work from home depends highly on their level of education and the nature of employment. In Spain, the latest studies point to greater odds of telecommuting for the vast majority of people that had completed higher education degrees. Over 60 percent of the more highly educated individuals could work from home in comparison with only 26 percent of those who were less educated. This is directly linked with a professional’s type of employment, since activities in the primary sector are predominantly conducted onsite. This means that managerial, scientific or office positions are, to a larger extent, more suitable to be performed from home, whereas machinery operators, restaurant staff, and the military have WFH rates close to zero.
Those fortunate enough to have the chance to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic reported a very high degree of satisfaction, with approximately 70 percent stating they were very or rather satisfied with telecommuting in 2020. As a matter of fact, about 62 percent of workers who telecommute would prefer to keep doing so every day once the pandemic is over. However, despite these extremely positive reviews, some also acknowledge a few downsides. More than three quarters of the Spanish teleworkers the lack of social interactions with colleagues, while about 61 percent struggled disconnecting from work, proving that, when it comes to working from home, all that glitters is not gold.