Economy

I live in the countryside in Franconia and work with a team in Berlin

Alexander Spatari / Getty

If I walk to the nearest bakery, it’ll take me about half an hour. According to Google Maps it is 27 minutes, but the baker does not have his own search result on Google. I have to look for the neighboring village butcher shop – yes, there are many of them here – to get the distance of 2.2 kilometers displayed.

No, it is not the one particularly good baker for whom you have to go a long way, but a completely normal baker who is sufficient for basic supplies and where you can also hand in your parcels. But if you arrive too late – i.e. after eight o’clock – the choice will be limited on some days.

I live in a Bavarian, or to be more precise, a Middle Franconian village with 100 inhabitants, maybe a little more. For orientation: larger or better known cities in Middle Franconia are Nuremberg, Erlangen, Fürth, Rothenburg ob der Tauber or Ansbach. But there is also real village life here.

Since I’ve been with NewsABC.net, I have been writing from this very village to an extraordinarily large extent. These lines are also created there. When I’m not writing in my own four walls, I’m on external appointments or I visit the editorial office, which was initially based in Karlsruhe and is now located in Berlin – just under five hours by car from me. I know many colleagues personally. Other, newer colleagues only virtually.

Get to know colleagues via Slack, Teams or Google Meet

Slack, Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams make it ever easier to get to know new people this way. In this context, it is also helpful that I have a fast internet connection here in the country – an absolutely necessary circumstance that unfortunately is not yet taken for granted in all rural regions of Germany.

When I started at NewsABC.net in October 2016, I was the only employee who worked exclusively in the home office until March of this year. Conferences by phone or video conference have been part of my everyday life for years. As the corona pandemic spread, NewsABC.net decided on March 12th of this year that we would all write from the home office.

NewsABC.net wasn’t the only company to respond like this. The crisis has turned the world of work on its head. “The corona pandemic means a leap in time and culture in relation to our working world,” futurologist Daniel Dettling tells me. “Before Corona, according to surveys, 40 to 50 percent of employees could imagine working in the home office. In the meantime, surveys show a willingness of 70 to 80 percent. ”Achim Berg, President of the Bitkom digital association, also emphasizes:“ Corona makes the home office suitable for the masses. Before the pandemic, it was rather the exception. Currently it has become normal for almost everyone who can work from home for their job. “

Young families are increasingly drawn to the countryside

For me, the home office was a perfect way to combine work and family years ago. Appointments on site in my area were part of it, but also countless phone calls and video conferences with interview partners or people for background discussions. Over time, I learned how to build up a trusting environment for a conversation from a distance and was able to make numerous new contacts in this way.

Of course, there are moments when a face-to-face meeting is better. Strategy meetings of the department or the entire editorial team are such moments. People prefer to attend the Christmas parties personally, unless it’s Corona and all “guests” are sitting in front of their laptop cameras.

The home office is now more and more part of everyday life. Not just with NewsABC.net or other media, but in many industries where it is possible. In addition to the job market, this will also change the housing market, futurologist Dettling tells me on the phone. “Young families are increasingly drawn from metropolitan areas to the countryside or smaller cities. There they can afford cheaper or larger apartments that they need for work in the home office. But startups are also increasingly looking for work locations outside the metropolises. ”

But that’s not all: When it comes to the question of where children should grow up better, a clear majority of Germans are of the opinion: in the country. This was the result of a representative survey for the ZDFzeit program in the summer. According to this, 78 percent of Germans are of the opinion that living in the country is beneficial for children. Only 10 percent think the city is a better place.

“Two to three days of home office are also based on the Corona Standard”

Sometimes this creates a problem: Young families want their children to grow up in the country, but good jobs are easier to find in big cities. Of course, numerous (large) corporations will still have their headquarters in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg or Cologne, but those who shy away from life in the big city do not necessarily have to live there to work for a suitable employer. The labor and housing markets will become decoupled, which will relieve the strain on employees with the particularly sharp rise in rental prices in the metropolises.

A relief, either financially or in terms of time. After all, many people are already commuting to the big cities every day because they prefer to live in the countryside or do not want to pay the high rents in the metropolis. “Even after Corona, two to three days in the home office will probably be standard, which is not only a positive development for employees. There is less commuting, which is good for the environment and companies reduce their personnel and office costs, ”Daniel Dettling even sees a win-win-win situation for employers, employees and the environment. This also relieves the traffic in the big cities, which helps those who live there.

But it does require a certain change and attitude if you are also working in your own four walls. Work and private life are merging more and more anyway, especially in the younger generation. This trend is reinforced in the home office. The service laptop is always close at hand and you can quickly write “one more e-mail” or “just finish the text for a moment”. A strict separation is very difficult, especially at the beginning of the time in the home office.

Separation of work and private life

It could therefore be helpful if like-minded people meet to work, even if they are not colleagues at all. What has long been normal in the metropolises will also increasingly prevail in the surrounding area. “Co-working spaces in smaller cities or rural regions will increase. Some employees sometimes need an exchange, which can result from a mixture of home office and community workplaces, ”explains Dettling.

There is no co-working space near me and it will probably take some time before one is created. In order to define a kind of separation between everyday life and work, I have got used to a kind of “commute to work”. “Go to work” almost 30 minutes before starting work. You get into the air, have a demarcation in your head and then start your day in the office. It is more pleasant to spend most of the time in the forest and not in crowded traffic or in full underground trains.

An impression of my "way to work".

An impression of my “way to work”.

Private / Christoph Damm

Not that a wrong impression is created. I know a lot of people who say that working exclusively in the home office would be difficult or even unimaginable for them. That’s why I don’t want to say that everyone should only work at home. But hybrid solutions or the option of choice should and will – as it currently looks like – increase. Attendance days in the office are important and helpful, but sitting in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day seems like an outdated world of work. Numerous companies were forced to rethink this year and many decision-makers should be surprised at how well operations could still be maintained.

Futurologists expect: co-living is becoming more and more important

Living and living could therefore continue to decouple in the future. Accordingly, according to futurologist Daniel Dettling, a clear trend can be identified as to how cities and rural areas will develop in the future. “The big cities will become single and retired cities, while co-living and multi-generation houses will increase in more rural regions. Joint construction projects, where you share a garden, garage or even a kind of ‘office’, for example, will become more and more popular in the future. ” could be used for exactly such building projects in the future, ”says Dettling. This could also change the image of the metropolises in the future.

The new working world should also play into employees’ cards, after all, they can also recruit geographically distant specialists who otherwise would not work for the company because of the distance. At the same time, workers already seem to feel comfortable. In a survey by the digital association Bitkom, 57 percent of those questioned say that they work more productively within their own four walls. 43 percent said that they are more satisfied with their work situation because they have more time and peace, for example.

The trend towards more work at home – if desired – seems unstoppable. Corona was a kind of fire accelerator in a positive sense. I don’t want to miss the fact that my place of work and place of residence can be separate. In return, I gladly accept the half hour to the bakery without a Google Maps entry.

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