Home office becomes normal
Then nobody does anything anymore, feared skeptics. Now it shows that working from home works better than some bosses thought. For this reason, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) plans to present a law by autumn that gives everyone a right to a home office. If you want, you should also be able to work outside the office after the pandemic – either entirely or for one or two days a week. Heil wants to use “positive experiences” from the crisis. Even if it is clear to him that not everyone can use this offer. “You can't bake the rolls as a baker from home,” he says.
From the point of view of the SPD, however, in future more attention must be paid to how work is done from the apartment. “Actually, all employers should check, for example, at home whether the chair is suitable at all,” says SPD leader Saskia Esken. Now there is a kind of emergency, but in the medium term there must be more rules. Also in terms of technology. Because what if the WiFi hooks up? Green Group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt demands that Heil's proposal must be supplemented with a “legal right to fast internet”.
One thing is clear: Home office is not the only good thing. Those who don't work exclusively in the office are happier, more productive and more concentrated. This is the finding of a study by the AOK Scientific Institute from the year 2019. At the same time, many are more exhausted because they work more on average – and not less. And because the home loses its function as a retreat. So home office is not true for everyone. That's why there shouldn't be any coercion, says Heil. Companies could order home offices to cut costs. He wants to prevent such considerations. It also means that employees can always be reached at home.
Result instead of presence counts
Why did so many people not work in the home office until the Corona crisis, even though they could have? Their presence is very important to their bosses, according to a survey by the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research. Neither in France, nor in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom or the Scandinavian countries is the desire for control in this form as high as here.
The German work culture is based enormously on the visible presence. Those who sit at the desk for as long as possible are considered to be hardworking and productive. Important information is often exchanged in the hallway or at the coffee machine, ideas in conferences and at lunch. People who are less often in the office or company are less noticed.
With such a way of thinking, employees feel that they are judged on whether they spend a lot of time at work and less on the quality of their work – regardless of the time. Science has known for a long time that performance decreases over time. Even hard-working people can be less productive if they have been in the office for twelve hours instead of six. According to the economic expert Jutta Rump from Ludwigshafen, this will change. Mobile work will become firmly established after the Corona crisis. “A return to the old world of presence culture is rather unlikely, we will work more and more in mixed forms,” says the expert for personnel management and organizational development.
However, she points out that the success of home offices – for companies as well as for employees – depends on various factors. “Executives are a key factor,” she says. “Since home office is associated with trust, superiors must continuously create a climate of trust.” Because presence is no longer so easy to control, leadership should be based on motivation, work content and results in the future, says Rump. Karl Brenke from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has a similar view. “Companies should move from controlling attendance to controlling performance,” he told Tagesspiegel some time ago. Many work steps are dispensable or can be done in significantly less time by reducing bureaucracy.
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Fewer and shorter conferences
Nobody has the nerve for unnecessary meetings. In addition, there is virtually no personal exchange. If the picture hooks, it rustles, the group discussion about zoom becomes an imposition. Therefore, they should end pretty quickly. It is lucky. Maybe conferences will stay shorter in the long run. Up to now it has often been like this: At some point the view wanders to the window or smartphone. The thoughts are elsewhere, since the discussion has been going in circles for half an hour. Led by the same speakers.
The average office worker spends more than 16 hours per month in meetings, according to a study by Sharp. CEOs spend 72 percent of their working hours, the Harvard Business School has determined. Many conferences are inefficient, not well prepared, without clear goals. In the worst case, everyone goes back to the desk with no result and is annoyed at what has to be done now.
The fact that conferences are extremely time-consuming is also mentioned by companies that want to create shorter working days. The Swedish app developer Filimundus introduced a six-hour day and at the same time canceled interruptions and not really important meetings. After all, employees should have as much of the day as possible to devote themselves to their tasks. Lasse Rheingans, head of a Bielefeld digital agency, pleads for the five-hour day with full wage compensation. His idea: If the working day is shorter right from the start, but with tighter conferences, without coffee breaks and without a fuss on the smartphone, the employees can do the same work. They would also do a better job.
Try more, make mistakes
German managers have long been preaching a new culture of mistakes: making quick decisions, making mistakes, admitting them and learning from them. Especially in large, listed corporations, mistakes are still something reprehensible that everyone should avoid as far as possible. The basic attitude in Silicon Valley, however, is that employees have to make mistakes in order to be successful. If you want to be innovative, you need to be constructive. People should experiment, be brave. At some point there is something ingenious about it.
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At the moment, improvisation, rethinking, trying out has to be done everywhere. Birgit Wahmes is managing director of the management consultancy offstandard and sees enormous opportunities for a different management style in the crisis. “This is just a booster for a new culture. The way of working is becoming more digital, more agile, ”she says. At best, you trust each other more, get to know each other better personally. “But if you don't change your mind as a manager and continue to make strict announcements from above, you won't make it,” she warns.
Being sick means staying at home
Your head is buzzing, your nose is dripping, but you still struggle to work. According to a survey by the German Trade Union Confederation, two thirds of all employees were in the office or on the construction site last year, even though they were sick. Often out of a clear conscience towards colleagues. Or out of fear that you don't believe them. The world of work mistrusted the disease for a long time and did not take it seriously. It's hard to imagine today.
For the return of employees to their place of work, uniform rules apply everywhere to protect each other from the virus as well as possible. The Federal Cabinet has adopted binding standards for this. The principle applies to employees: never get sick to work! Anyone who feels uncomfortable or has a slight fever should leave the workplace or stay at home until the suspicion has been cleared up by the doctor. A colleague who sneezes and coughs all day? Who knows if that will ever happen again.