Although it already existed, the new coronavirus pandemic has given greater prominence to teleworking, which has increased significantly.
But, what is teleworking? It is basically a flexible form of employment that favors working without the physical presence of workers. Generally, the use of Information and Telecommunication Technologies (ICT) is linked to teleworking.
What are the backgrounds of this form of employment? The emergence of teleworking dates back to the 1970s (always linked to the development of ICTs). However, there was no archetypal reference until recently in Cuba. One of the reasons was the emergent development of the technologies supporting it. By the end of last year, the term teleworking and remote working hit its prime as it was proven the need to substantially promote and expand both. The government okayed both as alternatives to face the fuel shortage announced publicly in September 2019.
At the time, a macro revision of the existing potentials of the country was carried out. Workplaces were urged to implement, strategically, teleworking. It was an option that —I must observe— was right there, but no one had taken into account before. And it did not require a special law or amend any legislation, at least for now.
From a purely legal angle, the current Labor Code provides the necessary framework. Item e) article 24, while referring to contracts, it points out: contracts must define “a workplace agreed by both parties.” That is to say the physical space is not strictly specified: employer and employee may agree on the election of the place to work.
On the other hand, the Decree-Law 370, “on the informatization of society in Cuba,” drew attention to the term when it rules at item c) article 59, the ministries of Communication and Labor and Social Security implement actions aimed at promoting teleworking.
During the most difficult days of the pandemic, a high number of workers began teleworking. According to some data released late in March by Marta Elena Feitó, Cuban minister of Labor and Social Security, nearly 5,000 people were teleworking by the end of January. Two weeks after the first Covid-19 case in Cuba, the number exceeded 112,000. In June, the official number of all forms of remote working was 627,855.
And we must take note of everything we learned about how to organize teleworking in Cuba because it cannot be seen as something exceptional. New forms to use our workforce must be regularized, taking into account all the fields that may be potentially affected, especially traditional ones.
A quick review shows that there are endless jobs that can be, to a large extent, stick to teleworking: computer programming, edition, research, project development, design, architecture, accountancy, legal consultancy, teaching, regular reporting, journalism…
The latter brings tons of positive examples. In recent months, media proved their potential to produce different communication products of different genres. The professionals’ creativity, the ICTs benefits, the trust of executives, among other reasons, corroborate that teleworking is not a forced change; on the contrary, it gives rise to more efficiency and quality in the results.
Even though it is believed teleworking affects most professional fields, the sectors with highest incidence are education, science, foreign trade, justice, and communications. If we analyze territories, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Guantánamo, and Havana boast greater incidence in remote working.
But statistics do not show facts as they actually are. The continuity of remote working in the labor ecosystem is certainly a challenge. Many of those in decision-making positions are still reluctant —explicitly or tacitly— before a routine that alternates, combines and complements in-person/virtual working. Several executives await the recovery of the country to return to previous status quo, which means in-person work and strict adherence to office hours.
Teleworking is, in fact, a cultural change that demands essentially changing mindsets. Teleworking is not synonym of discipline crackdown. On the contrary, it reduces expenses to and from work and you make better use of time. Simultaneously, it has a direct impact on the demand for public transportation. Besides, teleworking eradicates absenteeism and people getting to work late.
Some elements are to be fixed step by step. In general, there are lots of benefits for society, family, and individuals in teleworking. Let’s take advantage of them all!
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff