Are all workers back at work this Monday? Certainly not. But the obligation imposed on companies by lawmakers to allow their employees to work from home has ended with the expiration of the federal emergency brake. This means that the decision on where to work, is once again in the hands of bosses and HR offices - and with it the question of what can be learned from the experience of mandatory home office time. Both continue to harbor potential for conflict between employers and employees. Yet the time to consider post-corona working has been long enough. At first, many employees will simply hope that they won't be ordered back to the office with a bang, but that their employers will deal gently with the innovations that have been established in recent months. These were, above all, the positive experience of personal responsibility and a sense of responsibility for the company - and that with relatively high security for their own health.
Protection from Corona continues to be an issue. Because even if the government allows people to go to the office again (with testing and distance requirements), the pandemic is not over after all. The delta variant is spreading, and concerns about the fall are growing. From companies, this requires continued effort to ensure employee health protection. In many cases, that alone should be reason enough to continue home office operations.
However, this view has already had a hard time gaining acceptance among company management - which is why the statutory regulation was necessary in the first place. Should that suddenly be different now?
And beyond health protection, there's also the cultural change that will be hard to ignore. All surveys show that employees, including executives, would like to continue working from home in some cases. The reasons for this range from the commuting time saved, to better and more focused work, to a new form of freedom and self-determination that younger people in particular value.Such new, downright revolutionary experiences will also play a role in work design debates from now on.
How to deal with the distrust of managers?
Carelessly, however, in many companies the debates about what to do after Corona have not even begun. The middle of summer vacation is certainly a bad time to start.Yet there is enough to discuss, because the topic is complex.
How do the employees' desire for freedom fit with the mistrust that many supervisors still have today about the lack of physical control? What becomes of the desks in the offices when they are occupied only half the time or less? The individual workstation with potted plant and family photo could be history if the trend is toward "desk sharing," as it likes to be euphemistically called, as if doing something good for the environment.And it is not yet clear how such "homelessness" in the office affects the work done there. Employees get the feeling of being shuffled around from place to place at will and ultimately being completely interchangeable. This, in turn, could have an impact on the sense of belonging to the company and the willingness to perform.
The pandemic has already provided a foretaste of the further "dehumanization" of office workers: In digital conferences, employees were just screen heads - there at the push of a button and gone again at the push of a button. No living counterpart anymore, no whole, no physical presence, no presence, just pixels everywhere. So there is an immense need for discussion in companies, among employees and with employers. We are only at the very beginning of a (hopefully) new corporate culture.