How the workplace is transforming within an extremely short time – yet a few aspects have been omitted
“Has the German economy learned to value the home office during the pandemic? asked a German news magazine at the start of August, only to answer the question in the affirmative in the very next sentence. A survey of companies suggests that this is likely to be true.
The Centre for European Economic Research ZEW in Mannheim conducted a survey on home office use in June and established that last year’s company forecasts concerning home office plans had actually been adjusted upwards. The reasons given were not only that the proportion of companies with long-term home office plans had grown, but also the percentage of employees who are likely to take up offers like this after the pandemic, according to the results.
Many companies in information technology (82 per cent) and the production sector (70 per cent) had already equipped some of their employees with the necessary hardware before the corona pandemic, and they continued adding to this significantly during the pandemic.
So the trend towards remote working operates in the same way in both technical and organisational terms for companies as well as employees. While resolving digital tools has been a success and people are starting to have confidence in their colleagues’ work output, we are now starting to see the areas requiring optimisation: the provision in spatial, functional and ergonomic terms. Many people have set up a makeshift workspace in their own home, but they are noticing that things are lacking here and there. Sitting at the wrong desk for a long time, no inspiration for the perfect room design, dealing with challenges from an organisational perspective … it isn’t just the communication aspect that’s missing from the office, it’s also the conceptual approach.
Even if many employees are likely to spend just one day a week working from home in the immediate future, and maybe even two or three in the mid-term: the workspace at home should meet the same requirements as the one in the office with respect to health, acoustic protection, stress reduction and inspiration. The thing is, you need to perform your work with maximum economy of resources and efficiency here as well.
It used to be the latest digital gadget, the frequent flyer ticket or the luxury briefcase that were unmistakable status symbols. These days, when we frequently encounter each other in a professional context in a brief snapshot format, the workspace in your home has a whole new role. It defines the image we convey when we invite colleagues into our home via Zoom, Skype or Teams. Or, as expressed by Busse, Fromm and Hägler in the Süddeutsche Zeitung in their discourse on the fundamental transformation of status symbols: it’s all a question of setting the perfect stage. When your home office workspace is fitted out in authentic style, tastefully and sustainably, it’s more than part of your life – it’s a reflection of your personality.
As a manufacturer of office outfitting and designer of working environments, we recognise how important office design is for employee happiness, as well as the role it will play in the future as a factor of identification or inspiration. The workplace is an important employer branding tool and the relevance of this affects the home office too. In what way does the role of the company change if they use their office spaces differently in future? At what point does employer responsibility cease? Is it a good idea for employers to help their staff furnish their workspaces at home?
It will take a few months before many of these questions can be answered. In the meantime as a designer of working environments we will be giving our customers access to our entire knowledge base in the form of workbooks and a home office microsite covering these themes. The expertise we will be collating over the next few weeks from experts in a variety of fields will be equally useful to office outfitters and customers. Our goal is to provide people with ideal conditions for successful, efficient and relaxed working – from their home office as well.