Before the pandemic, working from home was rather the exception: For many employees, it is now difficult to imagine returning to the five-day office week. Employees who are initially rather skeptical also appreciate the advantages. Some companies even want their employees to work exclusively from home.
For most people, the working world of tomorrow was pure utopia by spring 2020. Until it suddenly became a reality: within a few days, the corona pandemic at the beginning of the crisis pushed millions of employees into the home office.
Many have now got used to working from home. Employees and companies alike have come to appreciate the benefits. In many places, even after the pandemic, there is unlikely to be a way back to a five-day office week that has been typical for decades. A number of companies have already promised their employees more flexible working models for the future – some go even further and want to permanently establish the home office as the new normal.
This can be seen particularly in the IT industry. For example, Europe’s largest software company, SAP, which gave its employees the option of up to four home office days per week before the pandemic, is trying to increase flexibility even further. “For most SAP employees, it doesn’t matter where they work from. If the job doesn’t necessarily require being present in a certain location, the employees have all the freedom to choose their location,” says Cawa Younosi. who, as head of HR in Germany, is responsible for around 25,000 employees.
The IT company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) goes a little further. At the US company, whose German branch in Böblingen employs around 2000 people, the home office is generally declared the new standard place of work for most employees. If the job allows, employees should in future always work from home if they don’t necessarily have to be present in the office. According to the HPE, you must agree to this change in advance.
For many people, work at home is easier to divide up
As part of the concept, the offices are also to be optically redesigned – to become places of “encounters and exchanges,” as it is called. “So you go there primarily to take part in discussions, team meetings, workshops, trainings or celebrations with colleagues, customers and partners,” says an HPE spokesman. One knows from employee surveys that location-independent work is not only highly valued by a large majority, but also leads to higher productivity.
SAP HR manager Younosi sees it similarly and also argues with increased expectations of young talents on the job market. “While many companies before the pandemic may have had concerns as to whether it could work if someone regularly works from a completely different location than the office, the matter is now clear: yes, it works for many professions.” After the positive experiences in the pandemic, a company in which home office is generally possible, but “no more arguments when he says to a talented employee: If you want to work for us, you have to go from Berlin to For example, moving to Schwäbisch Hall, because that’s where our company is located “.
The workforce has a strong desire for more flexible models. According to a survey by the consulting company EY, four out of five employees who have previously worked regularly in the office want to spend at least part of their working hours in the home office in the future. 38 percent only want to go to the office three to four times a week, 36 percent only once or twice.
Hannah Schade from the Leibniz Institute for Labor Research at the Technical University of Dortmund also attributes this to the increased job satisfaction of most employees working from home. This is largely due to the fact that people can organize their work better at home than in the office. In addition, a company sends signals of trust and appreciation through frank home office offers. “You feel much more serious when you know: My employer trusts me and does not suspect me that I may not be working enough if I am not being monitored in the office.”
There is also a lot going on in the automotive industry
The home office is not only gaining ground in the IT world these days. There is also a lot going on in the auto industry, which is sometimes decried as yesterday when it comes to working time models. At the Stuttgart sports car manufacturer Porsche, for example, employees will be able to work mobile for up to twelve days a month if they are not currently working in areas such as production. Before the pandemic, only two home office days were allowed per month. Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen is also considering expanding the home office options. A spokeswoman explains that VW is aiming for a combined model of presence and mobile working. Human Resources Director Gunnar Kilian recently said that the new world of work is characterized by “far more freedom of movement and self-determination” than before.
This is seen in a similar way in other industries. Deutsche Bahn announced that the aim is to make mobile work possible “where the existing work requirements allow”. According to a spokeswoman, mobile working is to be “permanently established as the standard” at the technology group Siemens – with the aim of ensuring that all employees worldwide can always work mobile two to three days a week on average. And always “when it makes sense and is feasible”.
At the Bosch Group, too, there should be more hybrid work models – i.e. a mixture of office work and mobile working. “The focus is on the result, not the presence,” says Labor Director and member of the management board Filiz Albrecht. A spokesman added that despite all the advantages of working from home, internal surveys had also shown that there was currently a lack of proximity and direct exchange between colleagues “live and in color”.
A culture of presence in the home office not overcome
Trade unions and employee representatives do not see the hype surrounding the home office uncritically, especially since working from home can more easily lead to unpaid overtime. New home office models could also lead to increased savings in company space, which could make it difficult for many employees to return to the office if necessary. VW works council chief Daniela Cavallo recently said, for example, that Volkswagen connects the question “where we will work in the future with a possible reduction in office space and cost savings”.
On top of that, it is also difficult to ensure the health protection of employees in the home office. The topic was already important in the old world of work – and should remain so in the new one. Because who works when and for how long can often no longer be checked when working on the move. Schade, a scientist, sees a danger here, especially since the “strongly anchored” presence culture in the home office age has by no means been overcome. ”
Even if the way things change: The employer is still happy when he knows that his employees are at their place. And many employees continue to be happy when they can prove that they are present and productive, “says Schade. In the future, employees could demonstrate their omnipresence by” answering an email immediately – even in the evening, even on the weekend “Ultimately, recovery falls by the wayside, says Schade.” In the best case, there are clear, binding agreements with the employer as to when you have the right not to be available. “