The remote work practices in foreign countries and their applicability in Estonia

This study aimed to get an overview of the in-use practices promoting remote work in foreign countries and Estonia’s development opportunities. Four measures were explored: regulatory, awareness raising and information providing, infrastructure and networks, and financial support. An overview of the statistics, potential and impact of remote work was also given for background information. The study also addresses the current situation and future possibilities of remote work in Estonia. 

In 2022, 28% of workers in Estonia worked remotely, although the numbers vary by sector. There is still more room for remote work to grow in Estonia. However, while promoting remote work, it is essential to remember that working remotely is not possible in every sector and position. In addition, not every worker wants to work remotely. Due to this, the suggestion of promoting remote work is not universal.  

The right to disconnect is implemented in multiple European countries (e.g. France, Portugal and Ireland). This means the worker does not have to answer their employer’s calls, e-mails or messages during non-working hours. Although the ways of implementing this right are different in each country, the governing theme remains the same: every worker must be able to take a break from work during their rest period. There are also other possibilities. The concept of agile work is used in Italy. Agile work means working during which the work assignments are completed with flexible working hours and partially outside the employer’s rooms. This can also include the use of technological devices. Every worker has to agree to agile work with their employer personally, but legislation has created a corresponding framework for it. Since the beginning of 2020, the notion of flexible work is also added to the Working Time Act of Finland. This enables the worker to independently decide where and when they work for half their working time. 

However, legislative regulations are not the only way to promote remote work – multiple countries have decided to do so by raising awareness and providing information. In Minnesota and Virginia (USA) and the city of Calgary (Canada), the focus is on raising remote work-related awareness and reducing environmental damage. In Ireland, the nationwide remote work network, The National Hub Network, and the related digital platform Connected Hubs have been put into service. This network encompasses nearly 300 remote work centres. Some countries have created financial support or compensatory measures to endorse remote work. For example, a financial support measure in Australia enables workers to apply for compensation for costs related to working from home through the annual tax declaration. In Singapore, a flexible organisation of work is in use. This allows workers to work at a location suitable for them, during suitable hours and with a flexible workload. Employers, who implement flexible work arrangements, can apply for grants to cover related costs. Read more about the previously described measures and remote work situation in Estonia from the final report in Estonian. 

The study was conducted in 2022 and was funded by The Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia.