There are certainly many reasons why home offices have not yet become the norm. But when employees, employers and even the self-employed are asked why they have decided for or against home working, the same arguments seem to come up over and over again.
For employees and
Working from home is an enticing opportunity, and the advantages are obvious. Employees save on commuting time and don’t have to pay for petrol, train tickets, and so on. They can also arrange their work much more flexibly.
Even if their employers set their home office hours, they will still have a quiet working environment and be able to concentrate better. This makes it easier to organise themselves and avoid distraction.
According to a study by the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB), 38% of employees in Germany are prepared to work more than agreed in their contracts. Working from home is usually much more relaxed, reducing stress levels and increasing productivity and motivation.
A home office can also make it easier to balance work and family life. Reduced travel time and straightforward childcare will benefit commuters who barely see their children during the week and can’t support their partners if someone in the family falls ill. However, it is crucial to establish rules so that everyone in the family knows when their partner/parent will be working. Disturbances in the home can impair workflow just as much as in the office.
It may be hard to imagine at first, but home working can have drawbacks for employees, alongside the numerous benefits. The same goes for self-employed people who run their businesses from home. Working from home in the long term means that they spend the whole day alone, and a separation can quickly develop between them and their colleagues. Some people may also start to feel lonely.
And as positive as it may be to combine your work and private life, there is also a risk of not being able to separate the two. Some people will quickly return to their desks after their evening meal, or opt to empty the washing machine in the morning rather than tackling an important project. If you find yourself doing this regularly, then you urgently need to work on your self-discipline – otherwise, your attempts to work from home will fail.
Employers who are used to knowing that their staff are always in the same place, and being able to control their presence in the office, are certain to struggle with the supposed loss of control over home workers. If everyone works in the same office, it’s easier to check that they are all present than if they are working in various locations.
Lack of trust is often the greatest issue. Nevertheless, it is crucial to build team solidarity and trust between individuals. After all, trust cannot be achieved through control.
However, many company premises are packed with technology, and sensitive data which can only be accessed on site. Employees are registered when they enter the office and their hours are logged automatically. This doesn’t work with home offices, and so a different time logging system must be established that requires individuals to take responsibility.
Another factor that prevents companies from allowing their employees unlimited access to home offices is the fear of unequal treatment. Certain tasks within a company will not be possible from home. For example, if a staff member works with data that must not leave the premises under any circumstances, or operates a machine in the production department, they will obviously have to come to the site. If all their colleagues are working from home, some employees may feel disadvantaged. Naturally, this damages their relationship with their colleagues.
According to a survey by Bitkom and Toluna, around 46% of companies in Germany fear that productivity may drop if their employees are unable to talk to one another. Teamwork quickly generates new ideas and can result in great synergies. If a person works alone all the time, they will receive no input from others. Video calls and regular virtual and physical meetings can curb this issue. Communication is key.
While there are drawbacks and reasons to be concerned, employers can expect to gain just as many advantages if they offer home working. Employees will feel more flexible if they have the option to work from home. They can divide up their childcare much more easily if someone in the family falls ill or school is cancelled, and even relocate without having to quit their job.
This has an extremely positive effect on the rate of staff turnover experienced by businesses. It also strengthens the positive bond between employees and employers. Allowing staff to work from home shows that they are valued and trusted.
Many people prove much more productive if they can work from home undisturbed. At home, you won’t be distracted as easily – no chatting by the coffee machine, spontaneous questions or conversations across the open-plan office. What is crucial is that employees display the necessary discipline and don’t abuse their employers’ trust. If you prove difficult to contact when working from home and deliver work late, you’ll soon forfeit your chance to benefit from the “new work model”.