Currently, the daily routine in German offices looks pretty much the same as in the last few decades. In most cases the prevailing mentality asks for people to be present, their performance evaluation based mostly on how much time they spent at the office. Remote work and flexible work hours, as happy as everyone is to cite them in the ongoing debate about being able to work and have kids, still are a rare sight.

Slowly, things are changing, though. Reality might still be lagging behind, but during polls the majority of managers and HR personnel both predict that remote work will become much more widespread in the future.

Of course, it is not only old habits that keep home office from catching on much quicker than it does, because there are also a couple of real problems. The most obvious one is the loss of dynamics when employees work, only connected by computer and phone line, kilometers apart.

In this case, communication becomes much harder, information is passed on more slowly, if at all. A lot gets lost when employees no longer can without effort stop for a quick chat with a colleague. Often it is those at first glance unimportant informal talks that spawn new ideas. The coffee machine where people meet might be the most important tool for innovation in your company.

A lot of managers also are uncomfortable with the perceived loss of control. The same with the reduced availability of employees, although that can easily be dealt with automatically transferred phone calls and other technical tools.

No doubt, releasing employees into remote work requires a measure of trust, but that trust will be well rewarded, as this form of work also has a number of advantages for the company:

Oftentimes, home office means that the employee works in a familiar and quiet surrounding, which allows them to concentrate better than would be possible in a shared office with all its built-in distractions and interruptions from colleagues, telephone, and the like.

The common worry the employee might be slacking off at home has proven to be generally false. Experience shows the opposite. On average, employees working from home are more productive and in the end work even more (partly because of the lack of interruptions) than they would in the office.

Workers especially appreciate the flexibility that the model gives them, along with the time saving aspect of not having to join the throng of commuters every morning. It is quite conceivable that the possibility of working from home will make the difference to make a prospective employee chose your company over another. It even has happened that people were willing to slightly compromise on the salary for that.

In reality, of course, home office and office will be mixed. Fully virtual offices are extremely rare, and the 9 to 5 office philosophy of keeping an employee at a specific desk for eight hours every day is becoming increasingly outdated. Of course, that largely depends on the specific job. Purely administrative jobs with little to no direct customer contact are almost destined for remote work. Someone stacking crates at a warehouse would have difficulty getting anything done from home. You’d be surprised, though, how many jobs, with a little bit of out of the box thinking, are suitable at least partly to be done remotely.

Taking a look at the workers themselves, we already mentioned the advantage of flexibility and reduced commute times – something that becomes increasingly relevant as commutes become longer.

But of course there are some down sides for them, too. Remote work requires great discipline and self-motivation, which isn’t for everyone. Some people also rather quickly feel isolated, as the connection to the team decreases and they don’t feel as much part of a group anymore.

In the end, the situation for every job and employee is different, and so the decision has to be made individually.

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