Closes offices, demands employees: can a home office offer help?

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Regardless of whether it is a system-relevant job or not: Anyone who wants to work in their office at the moment is allowed to go there. He is still allowed to do this at a time when private individuals have to limit their contacts to an absolute minimum, children are not allowed to go to school and in certain regions even the permitted range of movement around their own place of residence has been restricted to 15 kilometers.

Anyone who wants to, or anyone whose boss wants it that way, can travel the distance to their office, no matter how far, using local public transport. He is allowed to chat with his colleagues at the office coffee machine to “meet people”. He is allowed to hold face-to-face meetings. And whether he is wearing mouth and nose protection or adhering to distance rules – who wants to check that?

But because precisely such situations – several people in poorly or non-ventilated indoor rooms who, in the worst case, do not adhere to the AHA rules – are one of the largest sources of infection, there is now movement against the “Corona parties in the open-plan office”, such as the Deutschlandfunk recently referred to it, more and more resistance. This is particularly visible on Twitter, on the account of Laura Sophie Dornheim, Bundestag candidate of the Greens for Berlin-Lichtenberg. Under the hashtag she created #PowerBuerosZu There are now thousands of stories from German employees. Many report employers who use them in an exemplary manner protect against corona. But many also complain that they are helpless and fearful – because their bosses continue to insist on their presence in the office.

Several employees came together to “chat”

The 42-year-old Katharina S. also commented under Dornheinm’s tweet their anger at their employer. She is a manager in a large German company. S. suffers from a rare autoimmune disease, she belongs to the risk group – and should come back to the office in autumn 2020 after, according to her, in the first lockdown in spring, all work processes had worked well via video conference. Her boss, she says in an interview with, wanted to “see his management team personally again”.

“Although the home office was set up for everyone, attendance was required,” says S .. Officially, it was said that only one person was allowed to come per office room. But hardly anyone in their company adhered to this, and according to S., other managers did not take the rule seriously either. “There were always several employees in offices and kitchenettes coming together to chat,” she says.

“For months I was the only one in the entire company who wore a face mask all day long. Even when mouthguards were finally introduced after long months, the employees – and also their superiors – didn’t really adhere to them. ”Sometimes she would have sat in a meeting room with 14 people, sometimes for up to four hours. “Nobody with a face mask! I was the only one, always. And it was always said: ‘If you feel insecure, may you yes wear one. ‘”

For S. all of this was an existential threat

S. has some of these stories to tell from her everyday work. She felt compelled to take part in meetings with the management on site, even though her boss had coughing and runny nose symptoms (“Then it was said it was just a runny nose, next time it was an allergy – and you couldn’t wear a face mask because it is so difficult to breathe underneath ”). She had to put up with a colleague touching her, then coughing in her face and then claiming that it was just “fun” (“That had no consequences for the employee, it meant I didn’t have to overestimate it “). And she did not get any support from her bosses either, after her own employees did not adhere to the duty roster she had set and some of them came to the office at the same time.

The chronically ill S. felt all of this to be an existential threat. “For me, flu, measles, rubella or mumps can be fatal if things go badly,” she says. For her, Corona was now “a completely threatening new situation.” And the company in which she worked only superficially protected her from it. Because officially S. ‘ Employers launched a pandemic plan – only, according to her, simply nobody followed it. On the contrary: S. Chef even insisted that she should show presence as a manager.

Federal government adviser calls for the home office requirement

Employees like S. who don’t feel comfortable going to the office to work, but who are subliminally urged to do so by their superiors, currently have no way of taking action. And the contributions to the # MachtBuerosZu discussion on Twitter show that there are many such employees. A so-called home office requirement, such as Viola Priesemann, physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, would help them. Priesemann researches the spread of the coronavirus in Germany – and advises the federal government.

In a presentation that the scientist gave to the Prime Minister and the Federal Chancellor on Monday, and which has, she wrote, among other things: For an efficient lockdown, such a “home office requirement” is needed. And who definitely doesn’t work at home could, should do an antigen test twice a week. According to Viola Priesemann, company canteens should also close. All this is necessary because, according to the prognosis of the scientist: “At least until Easter we will hardly get any relief from the vaccinations.”

“I’ll never go there again,” decided S.

Katharina S. couldn’t wait that long. She could have continued to play according to the rules of her superiors. “But it doesn’t help me if my obituary says: ‘She was always present and dutiful,’” she says. She always views her working relationships as similar to love relationships, says S. And in this case, the Corona emergency situation did not weld her and her employer together – it confirmed how broken the relationship was. “And then you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and know: It’s over. I’ll never go there again. “

S. broke up with her employer, who paid so little attention to her. When she told him about her plans to resign on the phone, her boss said he had already seen it coming. Her departure is a shame, but if S. cannot come to terms with the situation, then unfortunately he cannot change things either.

* The name of Katharina S. was changed by the author for her protection.


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