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Teleworking taking centre stage due to coronavirus outbreak

Teleworking taking centre stage due to coronavirus outbreak Photo: Wikipedia

The novel coronavirus epidemic has prompted many companies as well as public administration organisations in Slovenia to switch to telework to protect their staff and continue with operations. Experts believe that the crisis will accelerate the development of digital services, despite some being unprepared for the transition.

The Labour Inspectorate data shows a spike in remote work activities – this year so far, the inspectorate received telework notifications by some 2,530 employers, compared to 2,062 such documents issued in the entire last year.

According to Marko Šmid, the head of business development at the technology company SRC, Slovenian companies and the public administration are often ill-equipped for the telework transition needed in such extreme circumstances.

The reasons for this are many, but those that are key lie in employees’ lacking digital skills, technical equipment and support as well as digital security, Šmid told the STA.

Online tools and technology are easier to provide than the necessary skills, he said, adding that telework was an vital concept to some extent for practically all companies in these times, but many were not able to meet the digital standards required for such operations.

Companies have turned out to be swifter in adapting to a new reality than the public administration, Kristina Valenčič, the director of the digital solutions development department of the Public Administration Ministry told the STA.

Whereas in companies and organisations the focus is on results and not some much on the work process, the public administration work is more nine to five, being present at the workplace is obligatory, consistency is rewarded and the actual results have less of a value, she said.

The epidemic has revealed considerable room for improvement in the public administration including in becoming more adaptable as well as shown that Slovenians mostly use in-person services instead of e-systems since they are more used to and satisfied with the former.

On the other hand, companies were prompted in the past to start using digital public services, said Šmid.

The head of the Slovenian Digital Coalition and deputy head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Igor Zorko, also believes that Slovenian businesses have been adapting rapidly to the extreme circumstances amid the coronavirus spread.

He pointed out that some companies would have to make additional adjustments according to new legislation changes and crisis measures, adding that service-based companies would excel at that the most.

According to Zorko, Slovenian companies are mostly on par with businesses in other EU countries when it comes to enabling work from home, even though the relevant data do not reflect that since telework options were not needed to such an extent in the past.

The EU Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) results show that Slovenia is lagging behind other member states in terms of productivity reached by using digital technology, but it also boasts above-average digital public services.

Meanwhile, digital security is mostly ensured by telecoms operators, said Zorko, adding that companies have the possibility of their own private, secure networks as well, but the capacities of those should be expanded during such times of crisis.

Since working from home is on the rise, many believe that businesses will recognise the advantages of the concept and continue promoting this trend even after the crisis is over.

The crisis will have a long-term impact on the attitude towards teleworking, said Šmid. “The future will be even more digital, decentralised and wireless. Some would find it hard to return to offices.”

Zorko meanwhile thinks that the situation will enable Slovenia to “skip a few steps” in the development of digital services.

The current crisis should prompt advancements in the field as well, said Valenčič, adding that Slovenia should “set up a smart state ecosystem that would enable speeding up the digital transformation”.

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