Home office was once neglected by some employers, but now it can save many businesses from closure. Due to the novel coronavirus, the growing danger of infection and an imminent curfew, more and more companies are encouraging their employees to do their work from home. This may be the only way for many companies to survive the lockdown.
The number of people infected with Corona is increasing by leaps and bounds every day. This not only affects major events but also operational processes. A single infected person in the company could be enough to paralyze all work processes, as all employees who have had contact with the infected person are potential carriers of the virus. To reduce the risk of infection and to avoid major breakdowns, working from home could soon be the only solution, as only strict avoidance of contact can prevent transmission of the Covid-19 pathogen. In order to enable employees to carry out their tasks even under quarantine, it is advisable for employers to timely consider the possibilities of remote work. This way, operational collapse can be avoided even in an emergency.
GERMANY STILL HESITATES
In contrast to many other countries, the home office is only offered by a few employers in Germany, because being present is very important in the country. It is assumed that physical presence is necessary in order to do your work diligently. In recent weeks, however, the topic of home office has been increasingly discussed due to the coronavirus. The crisis could lead to home office finally becoming common in Germany as well; it could even become vital for many companies. The reasons for the hesitation of many employers up to now are the lack of control over employees working from home and the difficulty of communication. Confidential documents are not always treated as such in households with several residents, and productivity could also suffer from mobile work, as distractions are much more present at home than in the office. Compared to the threat of a shutdown, however, these aspects are increasingly neglectable. Due to the rapid spread of Covid-19, many companies will not have the time to take appropriate precautions.
Under normal circumstances, employers cannot simply send their staff home but are bound by legal and organizational constraints. For example, if the contract specifies the office as the place of work, the employee’s consent to work from home is required. However, as some European countries have now introduced curfews, many companies are now forced to move their activities to home office within a few days. After all, Germany may also decide to introduce such a curfew. So, there is not much time for adjustments. Nevertheless, if possible, some technical and legal issues should be taken into account. In order to ensure data protection at home, business tasks should not be carried out on private computers, but if possible, on company equipment. Since private networks within one’s own four walls are often insecure, data transmission should also be encrypted. Hard disks should be protected as well against theft and data misuse by special encryption. It must be ensured that family members do not have access to company equipment, and it should only be used for business purposes. Companies that have already implemented these requirements and mastered technical changes can now react much better to the virus than companies that have always relied on presence at the workplace. The home office brings with it several new challenges and, for example, requires more communication than work at the office, which is why rules and structures should be established here as well. Using as few communication channels as possible reduces confusion, and misunderstandings in e-mail traffic can be avoided by using as much non-verbal communication as possible, for example through video conferences.
DIFFICULT, BUT NECESSARY
In general, each company must clarify individually how the transition to home office can be implemented as quickly and easily as possible. The advantages in times of crisis are immense: the risk of infection is minimized without having to close down the business and without personnel losses. Should all employees have to stay at home unexpectedly and with immediate effect due to Covid-19, companies with the home office option are therefore well prepared. With the help of appropriate precautions, however, companies that have not yet considered remote working should also take the risk of switching over in order to be optimally prepared.
If the crisis continues to worsen, home office will become a necessity that could decide the existence of companies. Currently, there is no entitlement to work from home because of the Coronavirus; employees cannot simply stay away from the workplace because of fear of the virus. However, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations is currently calling for the right to work remotely in order to reduce the risk of infection in companies.
HOME OFFICE AT PRESSRELATIONS
Long before the Corona pandemic, we started equipping our employees with laptops that are connected to a docking station in the office and linked to a large computer screen. Since the laptops are taken home every evening, working from home is always possible and desirable. All important processes run digitally and can also be managed from home, and communication runs smoothly through a central communication tool and video call meetings. We use VPN to access the central company server at any time and from anywhere. If members of a team are located at different company sites, they can be connected to one another via screens on the walls throughout the day. We also contribute great importance to data protection and IT security, which is why our experts provide advice and assistance to the staff and ensure that internal data is handled according to regulations. As a highly experienced company when it comes to working from home, we also use appropriate tools to handle any situation outside the office.
A current difficult issue is the question of childcare. All schools and daycare centers in Germany have been closed since this week, and many families are currently forced to reinvent themselves. When friends and neighbors are out of the picture, many parents are faced with the challenge of balancing childcare and work. At pressrelations, employees with children exchange information about childcare and home office in an internal messenger group, give each other tips and discuss their sometimes very imaginative solutions with colleagues. For example, many of them work with their partners in alternating shift systems or take turns with other close families as well as with individual relatives. Our highest priority is to stay healthy and continue to perform as usual. We at pressrelations are confident that the crisis can be overcome with cohesion and a great deal of ingenuity.
With our home office opportunity, we want to provide the employees of pressrelations with maximum flexibility at all times, because we rely on trust instead of control. Independent work in highly skilled teams with a lot of creative freedom was part of our everyday life long before the coronavirus. We exchange ideas, we are closely connected and support each other in word and deed. Working from home has numerous advantages even beyond the crisis: At the first sign of a slight cold, our employees can recover in the home office without worsening their symptoms by going to the office and possibly infecting colleagues. With us, there is no compulsion to work in the office. And if your plumber is going to visit between 8 AM and 4 PM, that’s no problem for us either. With us, vacation days do not have to be sacrificed for needed home repairs or renovation. Even if the current health situation should drastically worsen, we are already optimally equipped against the coronavirus without having to master complicated conversion processes.
And even if this time becomes difficult for all working people, perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that in many places there is already a great deal of social cohesion. Volunteers go shopping for older and weaker people, strangers offer to take over childcare without pay and relieve the parents. Well-known musicians stream private concerts from their living rooms, sports facilities make their courses available online and streaming portals offer their services free of charge. The environment is also recovering: the sky over China has never been clearer. Perhaps working from home also leads to the realization that it is not necessary to book a flight for every meeting at a different location. Now we have the unique opportunity to sustainably decelerate our lives.