More peace and quiet, more flexible time management, better work-life balance: Working in the home office has many advantages, that is undeniable. Thanks to digital conferences and zoom meetings, unnecessarily long business trips are no longer necessary. You save time and money on the way to work. The children can come home after school and do not have to go to care.
But what has advantages always has disadvantages. For many, long-term work from home can become a real stress test – too much pressure, too little self-discipline, no social exchange with colleagues. It is also becoming more and more of a problem that many employees in the home office find it difficult to switch off from work. Checking your emails early in the morning or hanging on for an hour after dinner has become a habit for many. The work cell phone stays on after work – it could be something important.
Of course, there were workaholics who work around the clock even before the corona pandemic forced all of us to work at home. In the home office, however, the threshold is even lower, to be constantly available or to work overtime. Because the boundaries between work and private life threaten to merge easily if you work and live in the same space. An analysis by the DAK shows that only every second person manages to strictly separate the two areas. And that in turn leads to work more quickly when you actually have free time.
The consequences are increased stress levels and insufficient recovery – which in turn can lead to health problems. Because productivity needs relaxation. And that assumes that the employees can switch off from time to time.
Problem reaches executive floors
A survey by the Frauenhofer Institute for Labor Economics and Organization among almost 180 company managers and HR managers shows that the problem has already reached the boardrooms. Around 70 percent of those surveyed stated that the lack of separation between work and private life had a negative effect on their employees – but to a different extent: 35 percent stated that some, 30 percent affected a few and six percent affected many of their employees are.
The HR managers and bosses surveyed named as frequent reasons
Work at unusual times of the day (66 percent), overtime (65 percent), fragmented work – that is, start early in the morning and then continue with a long break in the evening – and work on
Weekend (55 percent). This also reveals the typical corona-related challenges that many face in the home office, such as homeschooling, provisionally furnished offices in the laundry room or in the hallway and other tasks that we have to do on the side.
Only a third see a need for action
The problems are known, but only about a third of the bosses or HR managers surveyed see a need for trade. There is also disagreement about who is responsible for this issue and whose task it is to improve the situation. Half (52 percent) of the respondents made direct managers responsible. Around 48 percent of the participants think that the responsibility lies with the company management and just as many think that it is the employees themselves. The HR department, on the other hand, is given less importance.
So what to do “Employees have to set themselves apart when working at home and regulate themselves more closely,” advises the German Trade Union Federation (DGB). On the one hand, the home office offers more flexibility in dealing with time. But you also have to make sure that the protective rights of an employee are respected there as well as in the office – i.e. the legally prescribed rest breaks and only a limited number of overtime hours.
Define clear rest periods
According to the DGB, it is helpful to create binding regulations for working in the home office that are based on legally safe and healthy working conditions. It should also be clearly defined at what times the employees must be available. The bosses and HR managers interviewed by Fraunhofer IAO also see a good solution in discussing the availability of each employee as part of a team – as well as in the training of managers and a positive example of the company management. On the other hand, checks, for example whether rest periods are observed, are less popular.
And it is also your responsibility to allow yourself some rest so that you can return to full performance on the next working day. Anyone who is afraid of being considered less hardworking just because they are reducing their availability should perhaps just talk to their manager about it. Because they probably don’t expect their employees to read their emails late in the evening – and you just cause unnecessary stress.