Düsseldorf In the political debate about tightening the lockdown, the industry is urgently warning against the closure of production facilities. The systems could not be “switched off and on at will like a light bulb”, says Markus Jerger from the BVMW SME Association. A total lockdown would mean the end for many companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, and cause massive economic damage.
The association “The Family Entrepreneurs” made a similar statement on Tuesday. Its President Reinhold von Eben-Worlée said of the demands for a complete shutdown of the industry: “That borders on Harakiri: After all, we ensure the supply of the population with our materials and products.”
On Tuesday, at the next summit, the federal and state governments will discuss further steps to contain the corona pandemic. Politicians have already brought the closure of industrial plants into play as a possible consequence of the persistently high number of infections.
However, it is becoming apparent that the Prime Ministers are divided on this issue. For Lower Saxony’s head of state, Stefan Weil (SPD), a shutdown of the industry is not an option: “You have to realize that a complete economic standstill is associated with enormous damage,” said the SPD politician on Monday.
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This is not just about the economic impact on the companies themselves. The chemical industry, for example, predicts supply problems for the entire economy and for the health system if it had to close its factory gates.
Experts recall the experiences from the first lockdown in spring 2020. According to an investigation by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, the effects were long-lasting. Numerous companies suffered production collapses or were affected by delivery problems from suppliers.
“Working from home is simply not possible”
The study shows that production got off to a slow start after the first lockdown. As quickly as a production facility can be stopped, it is just as challenging to restart it. This is especially true for the deeply networked chemical plants, but also for car production.
Industrial companies also refer to their safety and hygiene concepts. We work in permanent shifts, the teams are strictly separated from one another. In industries such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the safety standards are so high that the risk of contracting the virus while in operation is lower than in front of the factory gates, said Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining, chemical and energy union, on Monday.
Vassiliadis also rejects calls for companies to work from home: In many industrial sectors, working from home is simply not possible. The administrations of the chemical and pharmaceutical companies already work mostly in the home office, as surveys among the companies show.
Germany’s largest chemical company, BASF, does not consider it necessary to work from home. “Our experience over the past few months has shown that employees are very responsible for the current distance and hygiene regulations at the site and work from home whenever possible,” says the DAX company.
More: Tougher lockdown is approaching: Politicians could still turn these adjusting screws
Berlin Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has urgently appealed to employers to allow home offices wherever possible. “This is not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD politician in an interview with the Handelsblatt.
Many companies acted responsibly. But there are also those who arbitrarily refused to work on the move. “That is irresponsible,” said Heil.
The request to work from home if possible is also directed at the employees – even if he understands that many would like to see their colleagues again. But it is a question of responsibility, and the employees are also deceived.
Berlin The CSU in the Bundestag is calling for educational reforms to make schools and students more fit for the digital world. “The subjects of programming and digital economy must be available throughout Germany,” says a draft resolution for the CSU regional group meeting on January 6th and 7th. In addition, every subject must also be taught digitally. The paper is available to the German Press Agency, and the “Welt am Sonntag” reported on it first.
A nationwide education platform should enable video conferences and digital learning management, it says. “The federal platform is an open offer to the federal states, which can be networked with federal infrastructures and is available for all educational areas.”
A national education summit by the federal and state governments on digitization is necessary. “It doesn’t make sense for every country to develop its own server and cloud solution. It is right and necessary for the federal government to support this, ”says the paper. “But it is also true that a lot arrives on site too slowly or in too little measure. We therefore want future federal funding to be linked to clear time limits for implementation. “
However, the promotion of digital education should not start at school. “We want to introduce children to the correct use of digital media as early as possible,” it says – already in daycare. To this end, the CSU wants to campaign for a funding program for daycare centers with a volume of one billion euros. “The aim is to fund the acquisition of cameras for the production of stop-motion pictures, tablets and apps, VR glasses and consoles that combine analog gaming and digital learning.”
More: “Homeschooling was a dramatic experience” – study shows that digitization is lagging behind
So I’m staying at home. Much has been written about how one has come to appreciate one’s own home in the past few weeks. People who have always been on the road before and have been stressed about it all the time have finally been able to discover how beautiful the view from their own kitchen window is.
Of course, there are always disadvantages to working from home. For example, that the quality of the Internet connection at home decreases considerably when everyone else is also working from home and looking out the kitchen window. You finally come to the longed-for deceleration.
In the home office, you finally no longer have the problem that you have to be separated from your dear family members during working hours. So you can discuss with your boss whether you have to do a certain job – and at the same time with your own child whether they have to do a certain homework. Most of the time you do both.
The more time you spend in the home office, the less you understand why offices were built at some point. Whereby: I personally recently came up with another reason. In office buildings you don’t have to deal with the smell of decay that quickly. In my home office, yes.
I live in an old building – and in old buildings, you know, there are always unpleasant surprises. I felt the same when I heard a strange, sticky smell during a Zoom meeting. I had the feeling that the stench was coming from the wall. I thought of a rotting rat in a wall – or something. Or some animal, maybe a raccoon, that got lost in a cable duct.
Once you have noticed a bad smell, it is difficult to ignore it. Especially when you’re in lockdown. I considered the possibility that a sewer pipe was leaking. I called a plumber who told me to wait for wet stains to show up somewhere. There were none.
I considered buying scented trees. I have seen in psychological thrillers that murderers cover up the decay smells of the murdered. In the end I preferred to set up a smoker. The smoker had to work in piece.
Now, after two weeks, I smell it less. But I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve just got used to it – while the decay has already sucked into my clothes. Under these circumstances, I don’t even know whether I should wish for an end to the lockdown at all. When I leave the apartment people will think I’m an undead. I heard a cat is missing from neighbors in the house.
2020 should be the year of superlatives – in the positive. But everything turned out differently than predicted. Covid-19 got us this year taught a lot and many of ours Vulnerabilities uncovered. Now is not just that Time for a high national debt, for …. As well strong reforms.
The Corona pandemic dominated in large parts of our (economic) life this year. But there were many others as well exciting topics and formative personalities.
Who is the climber, what is the excitement, which is the start-up of the year? For the 12th time in a row, a jury has chosen the “People of the Year” – and the editorial team asked prominent authors to honor the award winners.
What a year. We started the new decade with high hopes and big goals. We are not talking about the personal New Year’s resolutions for New Year’s Eve, which we usually give up by mid-January at the latest, but rather about the expectations of the economic, technological and social development of our country. We were sure that 2020 would be the year of superlatives.
It turned out different than predicted in many ways and different from what we had imagined. The year was only a few weeks old when we heard of a rapidly spreading virus. A short time later, Covid-19 also reached Germany.
Almost no one had a pandemic of this size on their radar. Virologists and infection researchers had long warned that the consequences of climate change and our constant penetration into the habitats of wild animals increased the likelihood of zoonoses, i.e. viruses that spread from animals to humans. We largely ignored this danger.
Berlin The federal states gave the green light on Friday for a tax flat rate for working in the home office and other tax changes. If you work from home during the Corona crisis, this makes it easier for you to claim your expenses in your tax return.
You can set 5 euros per day in the home office, but a maximum of 600 euros per year. The special regulation applies to the years 2020 and 2021 – after that, it is hoped that the corona pandemic could be under control and most of them could return to their jobs.
The home office flat rate is one of the advertising costs, for which all taxpayers are credited with a flat rate of 1000 euros anyway. Only those who spend more than 1000 euros here will benefit from the Corona measure.
At the same time, the current regulation was extended, according to which employer subsidies for short-time working allowances remain tax-free. In addition, a tax regime for apartments that are rented out at particularly favorable prices has been changed.
So far, landlords could only claim advertising costs if the rent was at least 60 percent of the local comparative rent. This limit now drops to 50 percent. This is to prevent landlords from increasing rents for tax reasons.
In addition, volunteers are relieved. The tax-free flat rate for trainers, from which youth coaches in sports clubs benefit, increases from 2,400 euros to 3,000 euros per year. In addition, an expense allowance for voluntary activities of up to 840 euros per year will remain tax-free in future and not just – as currently – up to a limit of 720 euros.
More: New rules from 2021 – what taxpayers can look forward to
Employees who work in the home office should be relieved.
Berlin The grand coalition has agreed on relief for workers who have to work a lot from home in the corona pandemic. For them there should be a tax lump sum of five euros per day, a maximum of 600 euros per year, it was said in coalition circles.
In addition, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has submitted his draft law for the controversial Mobile Work Act to the departmental vote. The originally planned legal right to work from home for up to 24 days per year is no longer included in the new draft that is available to the Handelsblatt. Employees who want to work mobile from time to time should be given the right to discuss this with their employer.
The Association of Taxpayers welcomed the plan to reduce the tax burden on employees working from home. “Employees who work at home and therefore rely on private resources must receive tax compensation,” said Reiner Holznagel, President of the Taxpayers’ Association, the Handelsblatt. “Tax law must recognize this as well as the flat-rate distance allowance.”
More on the subject:
The leaders of the Union and SPD have discussed the key points of the home office flat rate. Coalition circles said that the budget for the tax authorities was one billion euros. In order to comply with this, it is provided that taxpayers can claim a maximum of 600 euros per year.
The home office flat rate should also be offset against the employee flat rate of 1000 euros. This would treat the lump sum like other advertising expenses. Only those who come up with more than 1,000 euros in advertising costs would benefit.
Düsseldorf Home office only once a week – and that with seven days’ notice to the boss: That was pretty old-fashioned for some IT employees in the Edeka Group even before Corona.
When the pandemic broke out, the specialists therefore saw their opportunity for more flexibility: remote workplaces, fast Internet connections – the specialists in Hamburg had prepared almost everything in order to secure operations remotely.
But CEO Markus Mosa insisted on presence in the lockdown, at least for the headquarters on the New York Ring. An extensive shift model was introduced. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has sent more than half of the workforce to work from home on a weekly basis and regulates who should come to which room in the office building and when.
This back and forth, including the equipment, was retained throughout the summer. Much to the annoyance of some employees, who suspected that the supervisors intended to control it rather than a measure to protect them. And so the demand for a permanent home office in Hamburg simply does not want to fall silent.
A group spokesman explains the management’s approach on request as follows: “Important activities at headquarters that maintain the global and national supply chains require a presence in the office.” However, he also points out that “due to the current situation, hygiene and Distance rules have been tightened further and the presence of employees has once again been significantly reduced ”.
On-site presence because the boss says so, colleagues in the office are frustrated – the case of the retail group shows that even in times of the Corona there are still executives who struggle with home office issues.
It is true that the proportion of managers who don’t work from home has shrunk during the pandemic, as a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization among 500 executives shows.
After that, almost half of them reduced their reservations about working from home, because they have had positive experiences with the home office experiment. According to the survey, twelve percent continue to adhere to their negative home office stance – and apparently persistently.
On Europe’s largest employer evaluation platform Kununu, many employees are currently venting their frustration with home office grouches: “Home office is only available in corona lockdown – after that everyone should return to headquarters today rather than tomorrow,” says an employee of the consumer goods company Tchibo . In the traditional Hamburg company, the line manager decides who is allowed to work on the move – and who is not, as the company reports on request.
“Something like home office would be too modern for ZAG,” rumbles an employee of the personnel service provider, whose main office in Hanover still values presence. From there it says: The employees could work on site in a Corona-compliant manner – and thus do not lose the “social bond with colleagues”.
Seven in the office
Before Corona, the world of many bosses was clear: Most employees sat close by for queries and work orders. Teresa Hertwig also observes that so many superiors long for these beautiful old days.
The head of the management consultancy Getremote accompanies companies into the home office age and knows the advantages of remote work. Compatibility of family and work, saved commuting time, more efficient work: It is already evident that “the topic of home office is becoming more and more important in recruiting,” says Hertwig.
Nonetheless, the Getremote boss says: “The people who die from yesterday will not be able to convince the employees or Corona of the home office.”
A sentence that Annalisa Meier would probably immediately sign in one way or another. Meier, who actually has a different name, is a management consultant and is currently in quarantine at home. The reason: Several of your team members were infected with Covid-19, their own test was negative.
Meier had previously complained to her superiors several times that seven of them had to work in an office. But the bosses always waved them off. The contact with the customer from the home office was too tough, it said to explain.
Pressure instead of trust
But the young consultant’s impression is different: In the first lockdown, the workforce had done their work completely from home. Problems? “None,” recalls Meier. “Now that the number of infections has soared again, an employer should show more responsibility” – a comprehensible wish.
But: Despite the infection cases in its own ranks, the consulting company does not want to move away from its general requirement to be present. The only thing left for the employees to do is wear a face mask, disinfect, ventilate – and hope for the best.
As blatant as such cases read, in the long term, some employers may want to turn back the home office clock. A survey by the US tech company Servicenow of 900 executives worldwide showed that 45 percent of all superiors want to re-establish the old work processes after the pandemic.
In Germany it became clear in the spring that bosses did not actually send their employees to work from home wherever it would have been possible. For example, during the first lockdown, Kununu analyzed 33,000 corona-related ratings and found that around 20 percent of employees whose work would allow mobile working were still ordered to the office despite the pandemic.
And so a conflict that has been smoldering for a long time escalates in a crisis. As with Edeka. The rigid attendance rules encourage those who accuse the management team of running the company with pressure rather than trust. “Anyone who has made it to the top in such a pronounced hierarchical system cannot do otherwise,” suspects an employee frustrated that the change at Edeka is a long time coming.
The group spokesman, on the other hand, refers to employee surveys, according to which the vast majority of employees are satisfied with their management behavior.
Clear edge against home office
It is difficult to change such a corporate culture that has been established for decades from within. “It’s not my decision” was heard again and again when supervisors in the middle management passed instructions from the executive floor to colleagues.
Encrusted structures, a lack of trust, but also unclear legal framework conditions: The reasons why bosses hesitate to frankly send their employees to the home office are diverse, says Sonja Sackmann, professor of economics and organizational sciences at the Bundeswehr University in Munich.
She advises superiors to avoid giving the impression of arbitrariness. Managers should “communicate openly why there are different regulations in different departments of a company, for example for data protection reasons”.
Or why some tasks are perfectly suitable for the home office without a great deal of coordination effort, but in complex and multi-layered projects there is a risk of “frictional losses”, as Sackmann calls it.
Textile patriarch and Trigema boss Wolfgang Grupp also want to avoid this. The 78-year-old entrepreneur has therefore given a clear line: There is no home office – not even for his 35 employees in the commercial area, whom he likes to keep around him.
“If I allow an employee to work from home, I can’t go back,” says Grupp, who is annoyed that he has to constantly change rooms to take part in video conferences: “That costs way too much time.” The medium-sized company from Burladingen fears loitering and loss of control in the home office. “Black sheep are getting the upper hand,” says Grupp with conviction. So he stayed tough.
Trigema Chief Wolfgang Group
Textile patriarch Grupp is convinced that “black sheep are getting the upper hand”.
In fact, managing from a distance poses major challenges for bosses. Fred Windel, Managing Director of the Osnabrück Windel Group, knows this too well. Around a quarter of the confectionery and gift manufacturer’s 550 workforce could work from home.
For the first lockdown, Windel has therefore introduced the home office box, which – from notebooks to work documents – contains everything that the respective employee needs to work from home. The boxes are used again now.
But: Home office is not a permanent solution. According to current planning, a maximum of ten days per year in private or professional needs should be possible. He thinks more is unrealistic for his group of companies, even if the draft law for a “right to work from home” provides for significantly more days. Windel: “An industrial company cannot be further developed from the home office.”
Nobody is a diaper who doesn’t trust their employees. “But I’m afraid that managers could forget their responsibility to their employees in the home office.” Poor working conditions, whether poor lighting or unsuitable furniture, but also loneliness or overload – everything is not noticed remotely. But that couldn’t be the future of work, says Windel. After all, superiors have a duty of care. In the office and in the home office.
More: The office worker as we know him is a thing of the past
In some industries, working conditions have deteriorated again due to Corona.
Düsseldorf Salary, job security, corporate culture, the option to work from home: employer reviews of employees on the Internet provide information about all of this. As Europe’s largest employer rating platform, Kununu has, like no other company, an overview of how satisfied Germany’s employees are with their job. According to its own information, the platform has four million reviews for over 950,000 employers.
For the Handelsblatt, Kununu found out which companies have particularly bad working conditions. The negative ranking only includes companies with more than 5000 employees that have received at least 50 reviews since April 1st.
The list thus also paints a picture of which companies made themselves particularly unpopular with their employees in terms of working conditions during the pandemic.
As with all reviews on the Internet, it is also true for employer reviews that, as a rule, it is mainly those voices that report the most frustration. Disappointed employees can quickly make blanket judgments against their own employer – especially if the employment relationship has been terminated badly.
Nevertheless, one thing stands out above all in the poor ratings of the employees, says Chesran Glidden, manager at Kununu: “The trade and care sectors tend to perform worse in terms of working conditions.” The pressure in these professions is often very great, Corona exacerbates dissatisfaction in these industries again.
“It is of course ungrateful for the employees there to be sent to the front in times of the pandemic,” explains the Kununu manager. However, it is not only in supermarkets and care facilities that employees are angry about the working conditions.
According to Kununu, these are the ten employers with the worst ratings in the working conditions category:
10th place: Asklepios Kliniken (working conditions: 2.5 out of 5 stars)