Occupational health and safety and employment law recommendations for mobile working/home office

Moderner hybrider Arbeitsplatz mit ergonomischen Möbeln für Arbeitsschutz im Homeoffice
Learn the BMAS recommendations on how to create a healthy and safe home office for occupational health and safety in home office settings.


Occupational health and safety in the home office is a hotly debated topic. As part of the ARBEIT: SICHER + GESUND (ASUG) program, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has drawn up comprehensive recommendations under labour law and occupational health and safety law on the design of healthy hybrid VDU work. In a policy workshop with over one hundred experts from various disciplines and the social partners, key issues relating to the safety and health of employees were discussed. With these recommendations, the BMAS is responding to the mandate formulated in the coalition agreement.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, hybrid working from home has become firmly established as a new way of working for many people. In 2023, 77% of companies with 50 or more employees offered the option of working from home (source: IAB research report). The coalition agreement for the 20th legislative period includes the mandate to "(…) develop appropriate and flexible solutions for the healthy organization of the home office in dialogue with all parties involved." (Coalition agreement, p. 68 ff.). The BMAS conducted this dialog from September 2022 to October 2023 in the "Mobile Work" policy workshop.

During the one-year process, more than 100 experts discussed the technical, organizational, personnel, cultural and legal framework conditions for the design of good mobile work. In addition to the social partners, work designers and (work) scientists, the process also involved representatives from HR management, healthcare, experts in tax and legal issues, the real estate industry, office equipment as well as operators of co-working spaces, managers and consultants.

Parallel to the debate in Germany, social partner negotiations on the topic were held at European level, which did not produce a unanimous result. The EU Commission has therefore re-initiated social partner consultations with a view to a regulation under European law.

Conclusions from the policy workshop

The dialog in the "Mobile Work" policy workshop led to a differentiated picture of the challenges and opportunities of hybrid screen-based work, working from home and occupational health and safety. It became clear: Safe and healthy hybrid work is made up of a good balance of presence work and mobile work. Particular opportunities lie in a better work-life balance and better participation opportunities for people with disabilities. Hybrid working can also support reintegration after a long period of incapacity for work.

However, this new way of working also places new demands on everyone involved. Employers must guarantee fair and safe working conditions. This also applies if teleworking is not agreed. At the same time, hybrid working places special demands on employees, e.g. in terms of self-organization.

The discourse in the policy workshop and research results show: Where company or collectively agreed rules for working from home exist, hybrid working works well. Regulations are particularly necessary if mobile working takes place regularly and to a relevant extent. In this case, employers should come to an agreement with employees and their works councils on suitable activities and their organization. This also includes ensuring that employees have a workplace in the company that can be planned for.

Framework for action in practice

As a result of the "Mobile Work" policy workshop, a framework for action with recommendations for good hybrid VDU work under labor law and occupational health and safety law has been developed. Until a possible European regulation comes into effect, these recommendations form the framework for action for company practice in the design of safe and healthy hybrid VDU work. This does not affect the general requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The development of hybrid forms of work in Germany is not complete. Rather, it is a process in which both companies and employees are learning. The BMAS will keep an eye on these developments and review whether and which adjustments are necessary.

The BMAS recommendations for healthy hybrid VDU work

These can be viewed here on the website of the Ministry of Labor. However, we have also summarized them here in abbreviated form:

The 7th steps to designing good hybrid VDU work:

  • Define terms, areas of application and objectives
  • Determine suitable mobile VDU activities
  • Determine the time frame for hybrid VDU work
  • Make arrangements for sharing or bearing the costs incurred
  • Carry out a risk assessment, define and implement measures
  • Inform and instruct employees
  • Check measures for effectiveness and adjust if necessary

1. Define terms, areas of application and objectives

Negotiation processes are more efficient if all parties involved have a common understanding of the issues to be dealt with and the scope and objectives of the agreements. Important points for this are

Define common goals:

  • Reconciling work and private life
  • Reduction of commuting
  • Reintegration after illness
  • Increasing the attractiveness of the workplace
  • Operational cost savings through desk sharing

Principle of double voluntariness:

  • Employees have no legal entitlement to VDU work in the private sphere.
  • Employers cannot unilaterally order employees to work from home.

Clarify the scope of the agreement:

  • Regulations on screen work in the home office
  • Regulations on working at other locations (e.g. on the road, on a plane, on business trips, in a hotel, on vacation or during workation)

Right of co-determination of the works council:

  • The works council has a right of co-determination pursuant to Section 87 (1) No. 14 of the German Works Constitution Act (BetrVG) with regard to the organization of mobile working.

Determine suitable mobile screen activities:

  • Determining which activities are suitable for mobile VDU work and their specific requirements.

2. Determine suitable mobile screen activities

Discussing the criteria for mobile VDU work creates certainty for everyone involved. Important points here are:

Joint Determination of Criteria:

  • Employees and employers should jointly determine which screen work activities can be performed outside the workplace.

Restrictions on Mobile Screen Work:

  • Not every operational screen work activity is suitable for mobile execution. Reasons may include operational processes requiring presence, data protection and security aspects, or specific technical requirements.

Co-determination and Determination of Workplace:

  • The decision on the location from which mobile work can be performed is subject to co-determination according to § 87 Abs. 1 Nr. 14 BetrVG or § 80 Bundespersonalvertretungsgesetz (BPersVG). This decision must be made jointly with the representative body.

Involvement of the Works Council:

  • The works council must be involved in the planning of the work process in a timely manner according to § 90 BetrVG. The requirements for employees should be discussed together with the employer. Even in companies without a works council, employees should be involved in the determination of the criteria.

3. Defining time frameworks for hybrid screen work

Discussing the criteria for mobile screen work provides operational security for all involved. Key points include:

Time Proportions and Attendance Obligation:

  • Agreement on the maximum time proportions of screen work that can be performed outside the workplace.
  • Determination of mandatory attendance days in the company.

Regulations for Accessibility:

  • Agreements on accessibility during screen work outside the workplace.
  • Observance of the works council's participation rights according to § 87 Abs. 1 Nr. 14 BetrVG.

Desk Sharing and Planning of On-Site Work:

  • Regulations for desk sharing models where multiple employees share screen workstations in the company.
  • Ensuring the planning of on-site work for affected employees.
  • Timely information and consultation with the works council according to § 90 BetrVG.

Co-determination and Employee Representation:

  • Determinations are subject to co-determination according to § 80 BPersVG.
  • Joint decisions with the company’s employee representation.
  • Inclusion of employees in companies without a works council in the determination of criteria.

4. Regulations on Cost Distribution and Assumption:

  • Transparent and balanced regulations on cost distribution provide operational security for all involved and prevent conflicts. Key points include:

Cost Assumption by the Employer:

  • Costs for necessary work equipment (basic equipment) and occupational health and safety measures (§ 3 Abs. 3 Occupational Health and Safety Act - ArbSchG) are to be borne by the employer regardless of the workplace.
  • Such agreements can also be the subject of company or collective bargaining agreements.

5. Conduct Risk Assessment, Determine and Implement Measures

The risk assessment is the basis for safe, healthy, motivating, and productive working conditions, even in hybrid work models. Key points include:

Involvement of Employees:

  • The necessary risk assessment in hybrid work models and the implementation of measures are carried out with the involvement of employees for activities outside the workplace.

Use of Checklists:

  • Checklists for risk assessment are recommended, which can be used by employees to record environmental conditions and workplace equipment.

Determination of Protective Measures:

  • Based on the risk assessment, the employer determines the necessary protective measures on a case-by-case basis.

6. Inform and Instruct Employees

Employees working in hybrid models must be enabled to fulfil their special participation duties in shaping working conditions for screen work outside the workplace. Key points include:

Informing Employees:

  • Suitable forms of information: notice board, email, intranet, team meetings, or information sessions.
  • The goal is to comprehensively inform employees about their participation duties.

Instructions and Training:

  • Employees should be informed about their special participation duties in hybrid screen work.
  • Training should enable employees to fulfil their participation duties.

Participation in Inspections:

  • Employees must also be informed about their participation duties during the employer's effectiveness checks and inspections by occupational health and safety authorities and supervisory services of accident insurance institutions.

7. Monitor the Effectiveness of Measures and Adjust if Necessary

Effective occupational health and safety rely on regular goal achievement reviews and continuous improvement processes. Key points include:

Effectiveness Checks by the Employer:

  • Checking protective measures in employees' private areas through:
    • Employee surveys
    • Photographic documentation of working conditions
    • Use of checklists

Adjustments for Significant Changes:

  • For significant changes in operational conditions (e.g., changes in time frames, content and scope of screen work, introduction of desk-sharing models), steps 1 to 7 should be repeated to systematically identify and implement necessary changes.

Adjustments for Individual Changes:

  • For changes in individual circumstances (e.g., moving, changes in screen work tasks), it is sufficient to start again from step 6.

You can access the publication of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs here.

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