Back to the office or home office forever?

Back to the office or home office forever?

Companies in the digital economy report on how they shape their everyday work after the end of the home office obligation. The trend is towards hybrid working. […]

Many employers were faced with the decision of whether and how to maintain the flexibility gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is remote the perfect solution? Or are compromises more in demand so that colleagues don’t just get in touch virtually? A survey of several companies in the digital economy shows that all options are represented in practice.

Most of the companies surveyed rely on flexible working models after the end of the home office obligation and leave their employees to decide how and where they want to work. Christian Deponte, vice president at New Relic, a provider of observability solutions and real-time IT monitoring, explains that flexibility is a great advantage for both the company and the team members.

At New Relic, they have introduced a so-called “Flex First” model, since employees worldwide are free to work where they want. “With the right online tools and rituals as well as our office in Stuttgart, we offer all employees the opportunity to determine the proportion of remote work themselves,” says Deponte.

However, flexibility also requires trust. The companies emphasize that it is above all the great commitment of the employees that makes remote concepts possible in the first place. Even at Talent Tree, a recruitment consultancy for startups and tech pioneers, there is no requirement to work in the company office for a certain number of days, says Julian von Blücher, founder and CEO of Talent Tree.

“But all this only works because we have a very high level of mutual support. There are no free riders with us, but there is a lot of psychological security,“ says Blücher. It turns out that companies are quite capable of relinquishing control and leaving the decision for or against the home office to their employees.

Rabea Thies, Head of People and Culture at Meister, says: “When I trust someone, I also believe that this person can assess for himself when and where he can work best. Therefore, we have finally decided to completely waive both a core working time and binding office days and attendance obligations.“

For companies that operate internationally and whose teams are made up of different time zones and locations in different countries, digital working was also a standard before the pandemic. Here, the considerations regarding the end of the home-ofiffce obligation were different.

Lars Riehn, Practice Lead People & Culture of the cloud provider Skaylink says: “Even before the pandemic, hybrid and distributed work through different locations was common at Skaylink. The issue of attendance has always been regulated individually. Our onboarding has always been hybrid and will remain so even after the pandemic. And since there have been international colleagues at Skaylink for a long time, events have always been designed in such a way that they could also participate in them remotely.“

The team of the solar system specialist ecoligo has also been living and working on four different continents for several years. CEO Martin Baart emphasizes the crucial role of qualified employees and functioning exchange formats in distributed work: “It is important that all team members know exactly how and for what purpose which tools are used. Regular exchange with the entire company, relaxed coffee talk sessions and virtual celebrations have not only preserved the team spirit with us, but even further promoted it.“

Shopify, the developer of the e-commerce platform, works exclusively from home, regardless of the pandemic. For this purpose, all employees worldwide receive the technical equipment and furniture from the company.

“The end of the home office obligation will not change anything in our digital-by-design approach. Since our decision was thought out beyond the pandemic from the very beginning and we have seen the benefits that have resulted from our decision for everyone – especially with regard to a balanced work-life balance.” says Linda Hoffmann, Senior Business Development Manager at Shopify.

Many companies that work completely remotely or rely on flexibility use tools and virtual events to bring employees together. But can this really replace a real coming together and an exchange in person? This question was also asked by the medium-sized company Diamant Software, among others.

“It was clear to us that the question of how we would like to deal with the home office obligation can only be clarified and decided in a very open dialogue,” says Haiko van Lengen, CEO at Diamant Software, a provider of intelligent accounting and controlling. The result: the clear majority of Diamant employees would like to return to the office and would like a hybrid model.

“On the one hand, the advantages such as peace of mind, higher individual productivity or less travel time for the home office are obvious. On the other hand, after two years of pandemic, we hear from the team that many are now missing personal encounters from person to person very much. As a company, we benefit greatly from the informal networks that are easier to create through contacts in the office.” That’s why Diamant Software is aiming for two working days per week in the office, although there are also individual adjustments depending on the department.

As a small goodie, Diamant Software provides free breakfast every day. On the one hand, the regulation on hybrid working should aim to meet the needs of employees and, on the other hand, to re-focus the office as a place for valuable personal encounters.

However, there are also companies that clearly see the advantages of working together in the office. After all, the office was the central place of work before the pandemic, and the transition was more or less forced by the acute pandemic situation.

Johannes Woithon, founder and Managing Director of orgavision, a provider of solutions for quality management, is in favour of a presence in the office, contrary to the trend of the companies surveyed: “Hybrid working was never on our agenda. Even before the pandemic, it was assumed that people were working in the office, and no one questioned this. In addition, our office is very well designed and working in the office strengthens the company’s sense of togetherness.“ Working from anywhere and completely virtually also has disadvantages and it is difficult to create a corporate culture without personal encounters.

The mood among companies from the digital economy shows that most of them rely on a hybrid solution for their employees – and they trust that this will continue to be the case. The last two years have certainly increased the appreciation for working remotely and at the same time opened up new opportunities for recruiting. Certainly, the home office obligation has led many companies to rethink, which have not previously offered flexible solutions for their employees. One thing is certain: many employees can look forward to a hybrid way of working with more self-determination in the future and find employers worldwide without having to move.

However, physical presence and personal encounters are also a major driver for corporate culture and creative exchange. Employees and companies do not want to completely do without this either. The cross-section of the companies surveyed shows: whether remote or not remains a consideration and a decision that is not made rashly.

*Hans Königes is Head of the Jobs & Careers Department and is therefore responsible for all topics related to the labor market, jobs, professions, salaries, personnel management, recruiting and social media in professional life.

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