Surveys show: Working from home will remain relevant
A recent survey conducted by the Ifo Institute among 1,188 managing directors, managers and HR managers of German companies has shown that working from home will remain relevant in the future – especially in larger companies. Before the crisis, 51% of companies reported that at least part of their employees regularly worked from home. This number has increased to 76% in 2020. The majority of respondents also stated that the initial switch to working from home full time had not caused them any particular difficulties. This is also confirmed by Miguel Alcalá, Senior Consultant at InterSearch Executive in Cologne: “We already offered remote work and working from home before the pandemic, so the basic technical requirements were already in place. We work together perfectly in our cloud-based virtual office and we had already previously equipped all employees with laptops and smartphones.” The majority of the company’s clients have also wholeheartedly embraced video conferencing, even in companies which had previously had very little experience with it.
Working from home is no longer mandatory so offices transition to a more hybrid model
With Germany ending mandatory working from home regulations on June 30th, 2021, some employees are going return to the office, while some of their colleagues will continue to work from home. Any company wanting to offer their employees more flexibility in the future will have to adapt to such hybrid home offices. There may be advantages to allowing parts of the workforce to continue working from home full-time. Shorter commutes and greater feibility in regards to childcare are just a few examples. According to Miguel Alcalá, going forward, a manager must ensure that company policy regarding be tailored to the needs of the individual employee. “If a person has been with the company for a while, they can naturally organize themselves much more independently from home. But newcomers who are still getting to know the lay of the land will benefit from being able to work from the actual office in the beginning.” It would be difficult to make blanket statements about what kind of ratio works best, but Alcalá sees it as quite realistic that many workers may split their time working from home and in the office 50/50 in the future. Many companies are simply not yet ready for pure remote working.
For some companies and positions, on-site presence remains essential
According to Alcalá, the executive search business, as well as many other sectors of the economy, will continue to require “face to face” meetings. Be it to maintain client relationships, for client acquisition, or for a more in-depth, personal assessment of potential candidates. He also predicts that business trips will pick up again, although some meetings would prospectively be moved to the digital space for time and budgetary reasons. “The work environment has to be appropriate for the occasion. For a meeting with a company executive, I need professional surroundings that a laptop on the kitchen table simply does not provide in the long run,” Alcalá explains. In any case, certain economic sectors aside from the service sector, such as production and development in the automotive industry, are simply dependent on the physical presence of their employees. Hierarchy also plays a role when it comes to being able to work remotely, he adds. “A sales manager may be able to work primarily from home, but a general manager or CEO should be present at the office at least as regularly as his or her employees.
Measures for a safe return to the office
Many companies are taking their responsibility for their employees seriously and by only allowing them to return to the office under certain conditions. InterSearch is no exception: In addition to QR codes for checking in with the Germany Luca app, visitors to the office must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result. Meanwhile, the staff takes turns working in the office in small teams of two to three people who do not come into contact with each other. “This is scheduled flexibly, depending on who has client appointments that require a presence in the office.” Alcalá also feels it is important to strengthen the feeling of unity that comes from using shared office space. “Spontaneous, face-to-face interaction is so important. But the office also needs to be staffed so that our clients feel like there is a team there for them, united behind a physical company, and not just a bunch of scattered individuals in different locations.”