Companies disagree: home office or back to the office?


The big question on the table is: Should employees be allowed to continue working from their home offices or do they have to go back to the office?

Many company leaders disagree on this question. Some (such as Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk) insist on office presence, while others recognize that office presence is not necessary in every case. A shift in thinking is taking place, not least as a result of the experiences of the last few pandemic years. Companies are increasingly realizing that working from home can work well if they learn to trust their employees. Trust and connectedness are more important than ever.

As a result of the pandemic, many company leaders were forced to send their employees to the home office from one day to the next. For many company leaders, this working model was completely new and posed challenges in its implementation. Especially since they no longer had full control over their employees. However, they had no choice but to learn to trust their employees. In the end, even the biggest doubters were able to put aside their prejudices about working from home, as they noticed that their employees were significantly more productive in the home office, as they were able to work in a self-determined manner.

Some companies (e.g. the energy company RWE) rely on trust-based working hours. This means that employees decide for themselves when they work. They have recognized that as a company you have to move with the times and become more modern if you want to attract young people to the company. However, it is important that employees take care not to work more hours despite this freedom. Many trade unionists are critical of the danger of “extra work”.

So should employees rather go back to the office?

This question should be considered from different points of view. There are employees who commute every day and accept a long drive to the office just to be present in the office. This only makes sense if the presence is urgently needed to carry out the work. Certainly, most companies cannot do without an office presence. But an employee-friendly solution can be found for this as well. 

Gunnar Kilian (Volkswagen board member), for example, reports that the company made a digital push when the pandemic hit. They realized that they wanted to work more creatively together as a team in presence in the future. Judith Wieso (Siemens board member) reports something similar. She believes that people need to exchange ideas directly wherever cooperation and creativity are required. Zvezdana Seeger (Labor Director RWE) adds that first meetings were personal and emotional and gave them a creative boost. 

One has learned from the last 3 pandemic years and does not want to fall into old patterns. Today, many companies offer their employees much more flexibility on the job. Team members decide jointly with their managers who comes into the office and when. If flexibility in location is out of the question, there should be flexibility in time for employees. However, not every company manager knows how to implement this in a target-oriented manner. Here, one should consciously rely on the personal responsibility of the employees. A regular exchange with team members is important, especially if you are new to the company. This is often underestimated, but it is important in cooperation.

As Fränzi Kühne (Chief Digital Officer Edding) said so well: “Corporate culture is created at the coffee machine.” It’s where team members can talk to each other, both professionally and privately.

Feel free to share your opinion on the topic with us on social media.

*Source: SZ-Wirtschaftsgipfel

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