Netherlands

Encourage working and studying at home post-Covid-19, think-tank says

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The government must do more to encourage home working and cycling to prevent chaos on the roads when all coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the cabinet’s most important advisory group SER said on Thursday.

If coronavirus remains under control, most remaining restrictions will be scrapped on September 1, and that is likely to include the current requirement that everyone should work at home if possible.

However, this will put major pressure on public transport again, and many people are still reluctant to use buses and trains because of the coronavirus risk. Earlier this week car dealers said the sale of second hand vehicles have reached record levels.

SER’s coronavirus think-tank was set up on May 11 to try to find ways to spread commuting times more widely, to reduce the impact on the roads and public transport.

It has now drawn up a list of recommendations, and says how they are applied will very much demand on the sector someone is working in. It also recommends officials carry out a major research project into the ‘biggest home working experiment’ which has ever taken place.

‘We have to use this phase to find out how we experience home working,’ SER chairwoman Mariette Hamer said. ‘What are the disadvantages and what do we want to keep doing?’

Working from home

In the long term, companies should continue to facilitate working from home and spread working hours for staff who need to go to the office or other physical location.  As part of this daycare centres should operate longer opening hours to incorporate workers needs.

Universities and colleges should make more permanent use of online education and investing in stimulating quality SER says. Colleges and universities should also offer physical classes outside peak periods.

In addition, more should be done to stimulate the use of ‘two wheeled’ transport.

Report

SER is made up of union, employer and lay members and has a key role in assessing potential government policy. Its recommendations are based on a report by the government’s three other main think-tanks – CPB, SCP and PB – and published earlier this week.

They say capacity on public transport is likely to be cut by 40% to 50% to makes sure social distancing measures can be observed as much as possible.

However, they warned in a joint report that working and studying at home only could lead to ‘wider socio-economic differences in society’ and that quality of both work and education would suffer in the long run.

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