hero_home_office_desktop Home Office

The topic of home office and mobile working, or remote working, suddenly came into focus for many companies as a result of the Corona pandemic. While some of them confidently switched to digital collaboration, others recognized a multitude of unanswered questions. With the end of the "home office mandate," organizations are now faced with the question of how much virtual collaboration to maintain going forward. A practical guide to legal issues, as well as organizational topics such as leadership and collaboration, can help.

Confusion of terms home office, mobile work and remote work
It already starts with the term for the condition when employees no longer pursue their work in the company building, but act spatially separated.

The distinction as to what this means in each individual case is of the utmost practical relevance. This is because legal claims, obligations and regulations on the bearing of costs also depend on this.

So do you know whether your employees work in a home office or are more likely to be remote workers?

Legal requirements regarding the length and duration of working hours
With a view to an increased degree of autonomy and self-organization of employees in mobile work as well as in the home office, a number of questions arise around the topic of working time.
  • What working time is owed?
  • How is the actual remote working time measured?
  • What freedoms exist with regard to the location of working hours?
  • What applies with regard to maximum working hours and deliberate inaccessibility?

Protective obligations of the employer in the case of home office and remote work

Virtual collaboration poses an additional challenge for HR managers. How can protection obligations, among others according to the regulations in the
  • Occupational Safety Act (ArbSchG)
  • Workplace ordinance (ArbStättV)
  • Industrial Safety Ordinance (Betriebssicherheitsverordnung)
  • company's own company agreements and collective bargaining agreements
must be complied with and proven? And what about the classic risk assessment?

How should work be organized in a home office or remotely?

The success factors for successful virtual collaboration in a home or remote office are many and varied. They start with the right equipment for the premises, continue with IT equipment and end with operational processes.

As is generally the case with digital transformation, processes must be examined closely when it comes to remote work. Analog processes that have worked in collaboration at a shared work location must be rethought digitally or at least critically scrutinized.

Leadership and communication for home office and remote work

But even if business processes have been technically optimized via collaboration tools, remote collaboration with employees can still fail. This is because many companies focus intensively on IT and infrastructure when it comes to mobile work, but forget about leadership and communication.

One of the key tips on leadership is to adjust your mindset:

As a manager, accept your fear of "loss of control" as quickly as possible!
Or to put it another way: If you are a manager today with a "command & control" mindset only, you will quickly distrust your employees in the home office. However, this says more about the suitability of the manager than about the remote employees.

Leadership at a distance does not mean a lack of rules! - It's just different rules

Working in a home office or remote work in general requires new rules. Leadership at a distance makes the necessary switch from transactional leadership to transformational leadership much clearer.

The topic of self-leadership or self-management also plays a much greater role. After all, managers who are poor at organizing themselves or who engage in inappropriate "micro-management" will quickly reach their limits remotely. Actual successful leadership plays a role that should not be underestimated.

Concrete practical tips for video conferencing

To be a little more concrete and to include a few practical tips from the guide home office and mobile working:
Tools for video conferencing there are quite a few on the market. Their operation is largely intuitive. Still, there are a number of questions about how to use videoconferencing successfully.

What length should video conferences be?

Should the image be transmitted permanently or only selectively? If the latter, what are the criteria for this?
What is the effect of virtual backgrounds versus insights into the real space behind the person at the monitor?
How can video tools be used for coordination.

Communication during virtual onboarding or conflicts

Special cases are certainly occasions such as the onboarding of new team members or conflicts within the team. Special rules for communication apply here. Personal contact at eye level is clearly more important than a high degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, purely virtual onboarding is also very possible, as various successful examples have shown.

If there are conflicts or even dismissals, live personal contact is an advantage. Professional leadership shows itself here through an increased degree of flexibility and, for example, "walk & talk" as a suitable method.

Demarcation and trust in the team and the employer

Spatial distance requires a different kind of closeness. On the one hand, team members still want to make sure they can rely on each other. But even across distances, the flow of information must be maintained intensively enough to ensure that employees in home offices or working remotely retain basic trust in their employer.

Because of the local separation, the challenges of maintaining a team culture based on trust are particularly great. If managers fail to meet the demands that arise in the process, employees become emotionally distant from the team - and ultimately from the employer. The bonding effect diminishes. And let's be realistic: Nowhere is it easier to think about a job change and to get in touch with other employers than at home.

Self-efficacy, health and resilience

Leadership, however, means much more. It also involves areas of enabling, increasing self-efficacy, and aspects of maintaining health and strengthening resilience. But how do managers recognize psychological stress in particular from a distance? What tips are there for sharpening the focus on the emotional situation of employees in particular, without lapsing into inappropriate monitoring fantasies?

Last but not least, the practical guide provides valuable tips here, including on the topics of exercise and sport, mindfulness and relaxation, and nutrition. Home office and mobile work are thus considered holistically.

The future of work is hybrid

The end of "home office duty" is not the end of mobile work and the home office. Rather, it is the beginning of much more professionalized remote work. Organizations now have the opportunity to work with their operating partners to develop and agree on practical solutions that will enable them to continue to reap the many benefits of remote work in the future. And to minimize disadvantages at the same time.

Presumably, there will be neither one extreme nor the other in pure form. The future of work is likely to be hybrid. Not only in the sense that some employees work on-site and some remotely. No, also in terms of switching between, for example, home office and work on the company premises.

Flexible working models or activity-based working scenarios are already finding their way into companies. In the future, a large number of companies will have the opportunity to determine the best form of work and the most suitable work location for the respective activity.

Admittedly, not every job can be performed remotely. And even so-called deskless workers cannot carry out their activities on a 1:1 mobile basis.

Do home office and remote work already mean New Work?

Back in the days of the Corona pandemic, home office was already being touted as New Work. Yet the makeshift "work" at the kitchen table at home between small children to be looked after, homeschooling and pets often had more in common with hardship than productivity.

In this respect, once again the clarification:
Home office or mobile work does not necessarily have anything to do with New Work.

But professionally organized remote work can advance some of the various aspects around self-organization and freedom. At least if you take the New Work Charter as a basis.

Source: Stefan Scheller (Persoblogger and HR-Scene Influencer)