Study: Working from home could become the new normal in Germany
Before the coronavirus pandemic, working from home was virtually an alien concept in Germany. Now, almost everybody’s at it - which begs the question: is the change likely to become permanent? According to a new survey, plenty of companies in Germany are considering it.
Working from home rose during coronavirus crisis
According to Anja Gerlmaier of the Institute for Work, Skills and Training at the University of Duisberg, only eight percent of people in regular employment in Germany worked from home before the coronavirus crisis - a much lower proportion than in most other European countries.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, however, working from home has become much more widespread, as those of us lucky enough to be able to carry out our jobs remotely retreated to the home office. According to Gerlmeier, the proportion of people working from home has risen to 35 percent.
Gerlmeier said that the shift had demonstrated to employers - who often had reservations about home working - that it is indeed possible, and that in future it would be difficult for employers to justify making their staff return to the office. Back in April, Employment Minister Hubertus Heil even began drafting a law to make working from home a legal right.
Many German companies to expand home work opportunities
But how are companies responding to all this change? It seems that employers in Germany have actually warmed up to the idea of the home office. According to a new study by the Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute for Labour Economics and Organisation (IAO) and the German Personnel Management Association, working from home looks set to become the new normal in a number of German businesses.
The researchers surveyed 500 companies across Germany to get an idea of their outlook. Almost half said that they have already decided to expand home work opportunities after the coronavirus crisis. An equally large proportion said they were still undecided, but almost no one said that they would go back to having less working from home.
Most companies have had positive experiences
The vast majority of companies said that they had had good experiences. Indeed, more than 90 percent said that their employees working from home actually presented zero disadvantages. According to Gerlmeier, working from home can actually increase productivity, if employees regulate how they work.
Echoing Gerlmeier’s words, almost 90 percent of the companies surveyed said that, because of this, they realised that in future they would no longer be able to simply reject an employee’s request to work from home.
However, the study also found that there are some issues with home working that still require solutions. The most frequently cited problem was the so-called demarcation phenomena - the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure that is so common when working from home.
Many of the companies in the survey said that they were yet to find a solution for this problem. Others reported issues with technology and the internet that hampered productivity.