When science and politics implore us to avoid contact with other people and to work from home as much as possible, it sounds like the last resort against the spread of the virus. But what experiences speak for or against it from the entrepreneurial side? Here’s a little survey.
“Claims that companies refuse to allow their employees to work from home are, in my view, made up out of thin air. In the print and media industry, home office is practiced by many companies wherever possible,” says Dr. Paul A. Deimel, Managing Director of the bvdm (German Printing and Media Industries Federation).
Mobile working is part of the operational reality in companies and is used extensively, Deimel continues. Since the start of the pandemic, many companies have once again massively increased their efforts to enable their employees to work from home, if only out of self-interest.
However, many work assignments in the printing industry cannot be carried out on a mobile basis, but only in production or on site. These are restrictions that exist in almost every industrial sector. “In addition, however, we are finding that inadequate Internet connections are a limiting factor in some areas,” explains Dr. Deimel.
A huge opportunity?
Various sides describe the use of home office as a win-win situation: Employees gain flexibility as well as autonomy, and companies can optimize their infrastructure and establish better forms of work and a modern work culture. The topic could therefore offer a huge opportunity for our labor market.
The Corona crisis could bring about a fundamental change in the world of work along the lines of “get rid of the time clock mentality and finally move forward toward the future.”
At least, that’s how the president of the employers’ association, Rainer Dulger, sees it. After all, today’s working world makes completely different demands than it did ten years ago.
However, it has not yet come to the point where all work and working time models are being changed. And there is no legal entitlement to home office either.
Permanent home office? One in five would make the move.
However, even the use of a home office on a voluntary basis could have social consequences. Two-room apartments could become difficult to find, because young people in particular have realized that having their own study could be very useful.
And it doesn’t stop at apartments. More than a few city dwellers dream of a little house in the countryside, but the long commute to work has so far prevented them from making their dream come true. Under the influence of the Corona pandemic, this could change. According to a survey by the digital association Bitkom, 21% of Germans would move if they were allowed to work in a home office even beyond the crisis.
The thought of a possible move is particularly attractive to young workers: 35% of 16- to 24-year-olds and 29% of 25- to 34-year-olds could imagine moving if the place of work were flexible. In the 60+ age group, only one in ten of those surveyed would change their place of residence.
“During the Corona crisis, flexible working received a powerful boost and will continue to shape the new normal in the world of work even after the pandemic. The enduring trend toward home office means that many professionals are less reliant on living close to their employer,” said Bitkom President, Achim Berg. The bottom line is that the advantages of home office outweigh the disadvantages for the majority of employees. 80% feel less stress because there is no need to commute to work. 76% see the associated gain in time as positive. And 59% notice a generally better work-life balance. Other advantages include flexibility in terms of time (43%), the possibility of a more health-conscious lifestyle, for example with regard to sport and diet (32%), and less disruption from colleagues (28%).
The lack of personal interaction with other employees is again the most frequently cited disadvantage. More than half (55%) complain about less contact with colleagues. For 20%, having less contact with superiors is also a problem. Other disadvantages include difficulties in separating private life from the job (21%) and worse working conditions than in the office (21%). And one in six (17%) have the negative feeling of being cut off from important information in the company.
Asked: How do IOP members deal with the issue of home office?
For millions of employees, home office is the new normal, but almost 60% of employees cannot work from home at all. It’s a similar story in the printing industry. But how are companies dealing with the issue and what challenges do they face?
beyondprint unplugged interviewed some members of the IOP (Initiative Online Print) and received interesting statements in response to the following questions:
- Is home office possible at your company?
- Which departments can work from home?
- Do you have any experience with this?
digital print GmbH / www.digitalprint.net
Working from home has become the norm at our company. We started very early on to move a large proportion of our administrative, sales, marketing, support and prepress staff into the home office. Hardware was very quickly procured to equip the employees. Capacities for secure VPN connections to the company network were also greatly expanded, and the telephone switchboard was upgraded to enable our call center employees to work from their home offices. If necessary, individual employees come into the office briefly from time to time to use technical equipment, for example for product photography. We have had consistently good experiences with working from the home office and assume that many employees will continue to use the home office even after the (hopefully imminent) end of the pandemic.
Harder Online GmbH / www.labelprint24.com
We have some people in the home office. But of course, they are all people from administration, clerical work, customer service and prepress. Some of the people (accounting, etc.) have been given laptops by us, while others have simply taken their Mac workstations home with them. Some, however, also work in the company, as a good distance rule can be maintained here. Others with individual offices also work in the company.Calls are made from the cloud from the business with direct dialing or diverted to mobile. Both work very well and if necessary, customers are called back. We have good experience with most people who work more hours in the evening due to lockdown and childcare. However, some people have a problem with the home office: they lack contact with colleagues and social interaction in general – which speaks well for our good working atmosphere.
Ortmeier Druck GmbH / www.flyerpara.de
We have only a handful of employees working from the home office. Mainly employees from the IT, HR and customer acquisition departments. This works quite well for some employees. But it also poses problems. That’s why we don’t aim for this as a permanent solution. Every now and then, employees should simply be in the office to discuss joint projects. Since we have very spacious offices, we can maintain large distances and are therefore not so dependent on home office. In production, home office is not possible anyway.
BVD Druck + Verlag AG / balleristo.eu/de
In the office, we are set up in such a way that everyone has a laptop, can work from home and have relatively good access to the systems. We have arranged it so that one or two clerks are in the office in the morning and the other two in the afternoon. Since some of our clerks also monitor deadlines and are in contact with prepress and production, this approach makes sense for us. We diverted customer phone calls to the landline or mobile. That worked quite well.
In prepress, one employee worked from home. This works well when a job requires more time. If it’s just a matter of checking data, then the home office is not suitable, at least not yet. However, we assume that employees will demand to be able to work from home in the future. That’s why we will be looking into this more intensively. In the balleristo division, the project manager has always worked from home on one or two days. This has proven successful, as he can handle administrative tasks and customer phone calls there. Since most of the employees live close by, we have a great deal of flexibility anyway. For us, a home office for customer service, work preparation and prepress is definitely an option.
Dr. Paul A. Deimel
Bundesverband Druck und Medien e. V.
With its 13 employees, the bvdm is purely an office operation in which almost all employees have their own workroom. The risk of infection is low. Nevertheless, in the first lockdown, we switched to almost completely mobile working as early as March 16, 2020 and continued until the end of the summer vacation. Also, since the beginning of November, bvdm employees who want to do so have been back in their home offices. We have deliberately refrained from setting a maximum limit for employees in the office, as we cannot see any increased risk of infection if the AHA rules that are now standard practice are followed. In Berlin, however, the assessment of the risk situation will have to be based in particular on the use of local public transport. Most employees and also our employees depend on this, but they are best able to assess their individual situation themselves.
In any case, we have taken into account and responded to childcare needs, individuals at risk in the home environment of employees, and known cases of infection in the vicinity of the office or of employees. The bvdm therefore fully supports the rules of the states and the federal government. On the one hand, we have the technical working capabilities to do so, because from day one every employee was directly reachable by mobile phone and had full access to the office infrastructure and the data network. The effectiveness of our work has not suffered as a result. Only coordination processes and mutual information have become more difficult and costly.
Our business also thrives on personal contact with companies, sister associations, politicians, members and our federal organizations (state associations, PrintXMedia societies, academies, etc.), so we hope for a return to normality soon. This brings me to the situation of the printing and media industry, whose interests we represent after all, and which is of course more at stake than our small service organization. Here, of course, the situation is different because every company has different prerequisites, and a production company has different circumstances than a pure office. In the printing industry in particular, a distinction has to be made between departments or operations in prepress and those in press and postpress and finishing.
In Part 2, you will learn how other online printers handle the situation.
MARKET: HOME OFFICE - DO THE ADVANTAGES OUTWEIGH THE DISADVANTAGES?
When science and politics implore us to avoid contact with other people and to work from home as much as possible, it sounds like the last resort against the spread of the virus. But what experiences speak for or against it from the entrepreneurial side? Here's a little survey.
Klaus Peter Nicolay