However, the debate surrounding flexible working models is not new – back in early 2019, proposals were put forward in Germany for a right to work from home. Now, on that basis, the Federal Minister of Labour has presented a draft for a “Mobile Working Act”: in future, office workers could be entitled to work from home 24 days per year.
The new bill is intended to close a gap – because there is currently no general right to work from home. Even the definition of this working model is often unclear, with various terms such as “home working”, “teleworking” and “e-working” in use.
A distinction is generally made between two forms of office work carried out from home. In the first, the employee works partly from home and partly on the company premises. In the second, the work is done entirely from the home. The set-up of the workplace can be contractually agreed with the employer.
Mobile working for one in two employees
The advance of digitalisation has long meant that mobile forms of working are becoming increasingly common. In mid-March 2020, Bitkom, a German association representing companies in digital economy, launched a survey of working people in Germany on this topic. Almost one in two respondents stated that they had mobile working arrangements, either partly or completely.
According to another Bitkom survey from September, four in ten German companies have prepared guidelines for working from home, with 20 percent of those companies having done so before the start of the pandemic. A further 37 percent is planning or considering such guidelines. The majority of start-ups in Germany also have home and mobile working arrangements in place.
The legal situation in other countries
While legal provisions are still being discussed in Germany, other countries are already far ahead. Employees in the Netherlands have been legally entitled to work from home since 2016, and other EU member states such as Poland, Portugal and Hungary also have statutory regulations for home working.
Despite not having a legal right, nearly 50% of employees in the United Kingdom work at least partly from home according to a report by the Office of National Statistics in April. In contrast, the topic is posing new challenges for other countries. According to a study published by the Bank of Spain last year, only 8.3 percent of employees in Spain work from home occasionally – a situation that would have changed dramatically with the pandemic.
New sphere of activity for the office sector
Many people prefer to go into the office to work despite the advantages of mobile working – that is often down to inadequate equipment at home. After all, the kitchen table is not really suitable as a workplace. This represents a new or additional sphere of activity for suppliers of office furniture and technology. What’s in demand? Flexible spatial solutions for the home office, with versatile furniture that meets the requirements both in terms of function and cosiness.
Safety, lighting and acoustic needs must be borne in mind when setting up a workplace in the home, and ergonomic aspects are equally important. Solutions that fit in with the home environment are also required when it comes to technical equipment.
Working from home is no longer just a trend but a reality for many of us, a new reality that is here to stay. The pandemic is not the only factor contributing to this – there is also a growing demand for self-determined working. More and more people want to be able to decide how and where they work. All the measures for improving home workplaces implemented by companies now are therefore investments in the future.