16.07.2021 | Blog 7 |

The end of the home office obligation – is the future of work hybrid?

Working from home: the remote work obligation has now been over due to falling Corona infection figures. However, that doesn’t mean the issue is now completely off the table. Where do we go from here? According to a study by the Hans Böckler Foundation, the majority of employees surveyed would like to continue working from home despite initial problems (WSI, 2021). 

In the following article, we take a look at how remote work has evolved from a rarity to a common work model and what the future workday might look like after the pandemic.

 

Remote work in numbers – once a rarity, nowadays a common working model

Even before the Corona era, working from home was possible for some employees, but rather a rarity. The research report of the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs shows that about 12% of the employees participating in the study used the option of remote work before the start of the pandemic (BMAS, 2020). 

However, with the outbreak of the pandemic, the respective contact restrictions and the remote work obligation, the percentage increased significantly. In April 2020, 27% of employed persons in Germany used the option of working exclusively from home (WSI, 2021). Major differences emerged in terms of industry affiliation and education: employees with a high school diploma or a university degree were much more likely to use the option of working from home than those without a comparable degree (BMAS, 2020). The industry played a significant role here, as certain industries were simply not suitable for remote work  or still are not today. 

In January 2021, with the nationwide decision to make remote work mandatory, the number rose to the previous year’s level of 24% (WSI, 2021).

 

How remote work has changed the way we live and work?: The advantages and disadvantages

The shift to remote work came as a great surprise to many. The way of life and work of many had to be changed and adapted within a very short time. On the employer side, this meant on the one hand a short-term restructuring and organization of the digital infrastructure and the rapid procurement of mobile devices for employees. On the employee side, the restructuring primarily outlined areas such as the compatibility of work and family or the establishment of one or even several workplaces within the living space.

But although this change also brought many difficulties, the Hans Böckler Foundation survey crystallizes a surprisingly positive attitude towards retaining remote work. Indeed, about half of all respondents are in favor of continuing to work from home in January 2021. Around 37% would like to work from home, albeit at a slightly reduced rate than before. Only 15% no longer want to work from home at all and would like to return to the office. But what arguments justify the pros and cons of remote work use? The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs lists a large number of arguments in this regard:

The arguments cited for the positive assessment are first and foremost expressed in the gained flexibility, which goes hand in hand with a better work-life balance. This argument is additionally strengthened by the reduced travel time, which allows either more time for work or more time for the family. In addition, the more flexible arrangement of working hours is a major gain.

Negative experiences include arguments such as the lack of contact with work colleagues, the mixing of work and private life, and the derailment of working hours. Even though these experiences were stated by about 30-50% of the respondents in the studies, the positive experiences clearly outweigh the negative ones here, with more than 80% of the respondents expressing the positive experience mentioned above. All in all, remote work has left its positive mark on employees and the majority can hardly imagine working without it.


Remote work models for the future: What will everyday working life look like after the pandemic?

On the one hand, the Corona pandemic has revealed many problem areas to the world of work, but on the other hand, it has opened up new opportunities. There is the poor digitalization as well as the basic working conditions in some industries, which do not allow work from home. On the other hand, the pandemic gave many people the opportunity to work from home more flexibly and, above all, more securely in terms of protecting oneself from COVID-19. But what will our everyday working life look like in the future? 

The aforementioned reports and studies by the Hans Böckler Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs already provide meaningful trends: What was originally intended as a temporary solution to contain the pandemic will be a long-term working model in the future. The Capgemini Research Institute has a similar view: remote work is here to stay, even after the pandemic. While the working world will not completely align itself with pure remote work, ideas for hybrid solutions and shared offices are already under discussion.

However, such a long-term hybrid working model also requires restructuring and reorganization within a company. What already worked during the pandemic must also establish and prove itself in the long term. We are talking about the organization of employees, technological infrastructure or equipment, as well as technical training opportunities and new ways of recruiting.

In its report, the Capgemini Research Institute makes key recommendations on how the shift to a hybrid model can succeed. 

Of great importance are the organization and the relationship of and to employees. A key role is played by managers, who lead such models and can keep the team together despite the distance. Important factors to consider are good and empathetic communication, transparency, the promotion of autonomy among employees, their own adaptation to complex programs, and collective rituals for team building (Capgemini Research Institute, 2020).

A second key pillar is the technological infrastructure and equipment for employees. To maintain a fast and good digital structure, there must be no lack of good IT or high technical standards. Companies are advised to invest in a robust digital infrastructure as well as in qualified IT experts, for example, to prevent cybercrime and technical disruptions (Capgemini Research Institute, 2020). There should also be no skimping on training opportunities for employees who are not technically proficient. If you want to ensure good and fast communication among employees, you have to give them the opportunity to understand and use new programs (Capgemini Research Institute, 2020).

Great opportunities are emerging, especially in recruitment. Hybrid working will enable companies to expand their search for new qualified employees to other regions. Especially for special positions, this can be an advantage, as it allows them to find experts from more distant locations. In addition, this can also be a clear sign of cultural diversity. 

Even though hybrid working will become more important in the future, it will not completely replace the office. Personal contact, which is only possible in the office, will continue to be important for many employees.

 

Conclusion

Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, everyone’s experience of remote work is very different. While a large majority welcomes the benefits of the gained flexibility, there is still a longing for personal contact with colleagues.
The pandemic has transformed remote work from a niche to a widespread work model, while at the same time qualifying it as a future concept – at least as far as office work is concerned.
Whether and to what extent hybrid working will prevail is up to the respective companies, but equally up to the employees.

 

Author: Dimitra Sismanidou, July 2021
Copyright: IAM Global GmbH

 

Literature

Ahlers, E., Mierich, S. & Zuccho, A. (2021). Homeoffice: Was wir aus der Zeit der Pandemie für die zukünftige Gestaltung von Homeoffice lernen können. WSI Report Nr. 65. https://www.boeckler.de/pdf/p_wsi_report_65_2021.pdf (Zuletzt abgerufen am 12. Juli 2021).

Bonin, H., Eichhorst, W. & Kaczynska, J. (2020). Forschungsbericht 549: Verbreitung und Auswirkung mobiler Arbeit und Homeoffice. Im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für Arbeit und Soziales. https://www.bmas.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Publikationen/Forschungsberichte/fb-549-pdf-verbreitung-auswirkung-mobiles-arbeiten.pdf;jsessionid=6A834B1F4D0A0D210ED185E3F4A8B3FB.delivery2-replication?__blob=publicationFile&v=1 (Zuletzt abgerufen am 12. Juli 2021).

The Capgemini Research Institute (2020). The future of work: From remote to hybrid. https://www.capgemini.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/The-Future-of-Work_Final.pdf (Zuletzt abgerufen am 12. Juli 2021).