Work from home or return to the office? These pros and cons help you decide

Published On: 20.February.2022Categories: Working world6 min read
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Nora Wölflick writes about interesting, topical issues for the Love & Law Blog at Recht 24/7.

Google wants to let its employees work from home even after the federal emergency brake ends, while Goldman Sachs wants to see its employees back in the office as soon as possible. Whether employer or employee, the “home versus office” debate is in full swing. A clear trend? Not in sight. This article will help you wisely weigh the pros and cons of both options. Important to know: What are the legislative requirements for telecommuting and how does it work in terms of employment contracts?

Advantages and disadvantages of the home office for employees

For you as an employee, working from home sounds tempting: being more flexible in terms of time, being able to concentrate on your tasks in a pleasant atmosphere. It looked different in the office. While you try to focus on spreadsheets and mails, your colleagues are having a chat. The noise level in the open-plan office is high. According to measurements, it reaches a sound pressure level of up to 70 decibels. Your concentration suffers as a result. This problem doesn’t exist in a home office. You design your workspace the way you want it. With absolute silence, your favorite music in your ear or with the window wide open.

There are also advantages because you don’t have to travel to work. According to statistics from the German Federal Statistical Office, around a quarter of all German employees need more than 30 minutes to get to work. Home office means sitting at your desk immediately. Without traffic jams, train delays or other annoyances, your workday starts more relaxed. After work, there’s more time for friends, hobbies and family. Days spent in the home office also have a noticeable effect on your wallet. You save money on gas or public transportation.

Another advantage of the home office are the flexible working hours. An early start to work, an extended lunch break, an early end to work: Provided that no appointments get in the way, you can arrange your working hours in the home office according to your wishes. This has a positive impact on your work-life balance. In addition, the home office allows you to better balance your job with caring for relatives or children in need of care.

The disadvantages: In a home office, you don’t have the opportunity to take a coffee break with your favorite colleagues. Social isolation can weaken cohesion among employees in the long run. Without face-to-face collaboration, communication lines lengthen. If information can be passed quickly from desk to desk in the office, it’s harder to maintain the flow of information at home. Despite online communication, chats often lead to misunderstandings. Long and frequent “zoom meetings” require more concentration than face-to-face meetings.

Home office: advantages and disadvantages for employers

As an employer, you save money by having employees in a home office – for example, in electricity costs. Computers, beamers and lighting are not required. In addition, there are no costs for employee meals, such as fruit, snacks or drinks. Depending on how many of your employees want to work from home on how many days in the long term, you can reduce the office space. It may even be more attractive in terms of price to move to new premises that are better adapted to Corona’s hygiene regulations. Our tip: Have your lease checked by our specialist lawyers so that you know exactly what your leeway is.

According to a study by Malakoff Mederic, employees who work at home are up to 85 percent less tired than when they are in the office. As a result, they are less likely to be sick. Additionally, they don’t infect colleagues because they don’t leave the house for minor illnesses.

The attractiveness of your company increases when you let your employees work from home. Around one in three employees would like to occasionally work from home. For example, because he or she doesn’t want to travel far. This is the result of a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

Does productivity suffer in the home office?

This is one of the most important questions currently occupying employees and employers alike. Until reliable studies from various industries under the currently prevailing corona conditions are available, an individual balance must be drawn. Working in a home office generally requires a great deal of self-discipline. For this reason, many employers fear that productivity will drop. However, the study “Does working from home work” found that employees are up to 13 percent more productive in a home office. However, this comes with increased stress. A study published in 2019 by the UN’s International Labor Organization shows that employees who work from home regularly suffer from inner turmoil and insomnia. How this will be exacerbated by the current Corona situation remains to be seen.

Home office as a duty: This rule is prescribed by the legislator

To reduce the risk of infection, the federal emergency brake will take effect until June 30, 2021, for the time being. It obliges employers to offer home office. Exceptions are only possible for compelling operational reasons. For example, if you lack the necessary work equipment or your employer has an inadequate IT infrastructure, your presence at work may be required.

The home office obligation only applies to activities that can be performed from home. For example, if you work as a craftsman in a carpentry shop, your boss may still send you to the customer for a job. However, if you are responsible for bookkeeping or appointments, you must be offered home work.

As an employee, are you obligated to accept this offer? Until June 30, 2021, you must relocate your professional activities to your private home as far as possible in accordance with Section 28b of the Infection Protection Act. An exception exists only in justified cases such as these:

  • Disadvantages that make working in a home office unreasonable
  • Disadvantage of the apartment: It is too small to set up a desk for the home office.
  • Working from home is not possible because the technical requirements are missing (weak internet connection).
  • Decreasing productivity: You fear disturbances by third parties, for example distraction by your children.

To reject the home office, an informal message to your boss is sufficient. A comprehensive explanation is not required.

Home office: Does your employer have to adjust your employment contract?

The inviolability of your home is protected by the Basic Law (Article 13 GG). The introduction of home office work requires an employment contract agreement between you and your boss. You can have our specialist lawyers check whether your employment contract contains an effective clause – within 24 hours.

If your employment contract does not contain a corresponding paragraph, your employer should conclude a supplementary agreement with you. Ideally, this should include provisions on the time frame for working from home, on availability, and on the transfer of documentation duties.

Important: All agreements on home office work are subject to the general terms and conditions control according to §§ 305 ff. BGB. When formulating a supplementary agreement, your employer must ensure that the contract is transparent and appropriate. Our guide on the topic of “Working in a home office” explains what this can look like.

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