At our company, working from home isn’t taboo – quite the opposite! Developers will often start solving a problem from home, only coming to the office when the task is complete. Sometime, a colleague will need to concentrate on a certain problem in the quiet environment within their own four walls. And of course, there are also be external reasons to work from home: tradesmen visits, phone technicians dropping by, doctor visits, or sick children.
In fact, as a young mother, it was the ability to work from home that allowed me to return to work in the first place. At first, I worked from home on a freelance basis during the day while my daughter slept, or during weekends when my boyfriend was home. This led to a permanent position with flexible working hours.
Whether it’s about work-life balance or simply having the opportunity to organise one’s work according to individual requirements, the ability to work from home is a great advantage of the modern working world.
Unfortunately, many German companies don’t see it like that. A study undertaken by the Deutschen Instituts für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) [German Institute for Economic Research], reported by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, showed that only 12% of workers surveyed have the option to work from home, although 40% say they complete tasks from home. There are many reasons that home office allowances are a great advantage for companies.
Working from Home Makes People Happier
Numerous studies, including a recent one from the Bundesarbeitsministeriums (Federal Labour Ministry), suggest that the ability to work from home increases employee satisfaction. Not only were employees who work partly from home more satisfied with their work, they also viewed their supervisors as fair.
There are many possible reasons for this perception:
Employees Manage Their Own Time
If tasks don’t have to be completed at a specific time, employees can plan their work independently. This could well mean first completing errands or dedicated private projects. Parents can spend time with their children in the afternoon and work later in the evening when the kids are in bed. When you don’t have to confine personal time to evenings and weekend, life is more balanced. This can in turn affect motivation and performance at work.
Commuting Time is Saved
Commuting to work is a pain, especially during rush hour. Employees who avoid commuting at least every now and then, also save themselves a lot of stress. Add to that the fact that not having to commute frees up more time to get work done. There’s a strong argument for your boss!
Trust in Employees is Expressed
Bosses that allow people to work from home make a clear statement: I trust you. I trust in your ability to organise yourself and to deliver the assigned tasks on time and to the usual high standard, without having to look over your shoulder. This shows a high regard for each employee and ensures respect and high esteem for the supervisor.
Presence at the Office ≠ Work Performed
Unfortunately, many companies still evaluate employees by their presence in the office rather than the actual standard of their performance. According to the DIW study, in 2014 people who worked from home worked on average 40.6 hours per week, and often worked overtime. People who worked from the office contributed an average of 36.2 hours. Another study by the University of Stanford found that call centre employees who worked from home were significantly more productive when compared to their colleagues at the office. In the same amount of time, they managed to complete more work.
Businesses Save on Costs
If you don’t think you’ll be able to convince your boss with these arguments, perhaps you should bring it down to the bottom line. Employees who alternate shifts working from home can share a single workstation. Or certain regular tasks can be completed by home workers who have no desk at the office. The Berlin-based startup K.lab for example, employs a number of so-called Tagger Employees who take care of the material-indexing that makes meinunterricht.de possible. The Taggers can do their jobs from anywhere, and they include parents but also students from all over Germany.
Personally, I like to be in the office to hang out with my colleagues and to share coffee and lunch time with them. I couldn’t imagine working from home completely, and certainly, working from home doesn’t suit everyone. Sometimes there are just too many lurking distractions! Nevertheless, for me I consider it a serious perk to be able to work on my own time.
Ultimately, the real goal should be to evaluate employees more on their actual performance, rather than the amount of hours they put in at the office. The failure to do that is, in my view, the real problem.