E.t is summer, and that means: many have to go back to the office. The so-called home office regulation, which since January had obliged employers to let their employees work from home, has been repealed since July. With this obligation, many German companies were forced to deal with all the conjunctivities, such as flexible working methods, digitization and new management methods – and to convert them into imperatives.
The pandemic presented itself globally as an unwanted experiment for the world of work: one that not only shows what needs to be repaired or what was difficult to implement. But also one whose results now consist of concrete experiences (be they statistically recorded or simply experienced individually) and which can henceforth serve as a concrete blueprint. So what results has this experiment produced so far?
Even before the pandemic, there was a lot of knowledge about what makes sense for a modern working world and what doesn’t. Daily presence and working hours after a time clock, for example, make little sense: constant monitoring dampens self-confidence, performance and a sense of duty – and in case of doubt leads to more sick leave. Those who only work from home and on their own often work too much; When work and living space flow into one another, the end of the day can break up into working hours.
So it was clear even before the pandemic that it was a mixture that worked well for some professions. It was just that such knowledge was not trusted. One reason for this is that this applies to quite a few professions: According to the Institute for Economic Research, a remarkable 40 percent of jobs could also be taken at home.
In fact, about 36 percent has been taken there since January.
The move to private life promised first of all: less commuting, better compatibility of work and family, more free time and freedom to work from wherever you want. However, during the pandemic these benefits were very limited: those who lived outside stayed there; Children who now learned at home had to be looked after, which was usually taken over by those who were paid less anyway (women again); Time gained was used for more work rather than personal interests. And very few could afford to retreat to beach houses.
Time savings against occupational safety
Well, those were the conditions during the lockdowns, in which other parts of social life were also paralyzed. So what would it look like once the pandemic is completely over? One of the greatest benefits of working from home was highlighted as one for the environment: fewer cars in the city center, fewer air travel for meetings. The Berlin Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment calculated that at least 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions could be saved every day that employees work at home.
But when a train commuter stays at home, he is no longer dependent on the train driver, the conductor or a visit to a restaurant. And the less he or she drives to the office, the less it is needed. Then it does not have to be kept in good condition, and cleaning staff are needed less. In other words, those who were put on short-time work during the pandemic or who lost their income anyway because they were employed on a mini-job basis. The question of better pay, occupational health and safety or retraining for others calls up what environmentally friendly time savings mean for some. So far, however, this is less up for discussion than the many “hybrid work models”.