Fears and disadvantages
In addition to the technical requirements, such as a PC, a stable internet connection, ergonomic furniture, etc. the changes to do remote work also went hand in hand with the establishment of new structures. As can be seen in the Spiegel article, families had to learn how to reconcile work and family. Daily structures and family structures had to be changed. Working eight hours straight mostly doesn’t work if children want to play with their parents or are in need of support with their school-related tasks. But even if there are no children, internet outages may interrupt video conferences and calls. Furthermore, many people do not have a separate office and thus have to work at the kitchen table.
Another explanation can often be found in the consideration of the employees’ fears. Blurring of work and leisure, lack of IT knowledge, experience in teleworking or lack of direct contact with colleagues, reduced chances of promotion and career opportunities (Grunau et al. 2019). All according to the motto “out of sight out of mind”.
But employers were also hesitant, and in some cases still have doubts, about the meaningfulness and efficiency of working outside the company building. Among other things, they had to adapt organisationally and also find technical solutions to enable their employees to work. This was often accompanied by considerable costs, such as the purchase of laptops, cameras, etc. The price comparison website Idealo shows an increase in prices for PC systems of around 29% from April 2020 to April 2021 (idealo 2021). But not only costs play a role. Companies need managers with the ability to lead employees outside the company’s premises. They need to be able to accept – what is at least often a subjective feeling – the feeling of loss of control over their employees. Often, the experience in dealing with virtual teams is simply lacking here (Grunau et al. 2019).
But after all these negative aspects and fears, why do people still decide to continue to work from home, also called “remote work”?
No more bland canteen food, no more colleagues who just come to your desk and stop you from working, no more traffic jams on the way to/from work, sleeping longer in the morning, wearing sweatpants or comfortable clothes all day, more time to spend with your children, doing the laundry at the same time, working in the garden, jumping into the pool in between… There are many different things that are important to people. They love their individuality and live it every day. They love to be able to organize their work time and -place themselves and for them, the new way of working is a big step towards a “work-life balance”. Not everyone struggles with coordinating children and work (Grunau et al. 2019).
For companies, outsourcing employees to their homes can also mean significant cost savings. Company buildings do not have to be expanded when more employees are hired, as they no longer need an individual workplace. This also adds to the cost savings in terms of water and electricity.
Different effects of working from home
Employees who haven’t already worked from home also experience the negative aspects of remote work. These include a closer intermingling of work and private life, supervisors assuming inferior performance, lack of recognition and/or interest on the part of the boss resulting in a lack of motivation, lack of support from colleagues, considerably greater communication effort associated with time delays (the way to the colleague’s desk is no longer possible), higher networking time (Grunau et al. 2019).