At the beginning of the corona pandemic, many companies introduced the home office to protect their workforce and to maintain and secure work processes. Work was carried out in alternating shifts and cohorts and various security measures were implemented. Initially, offering a home office was only a recommendation, but it is now mandatory for employers. There is no question that in times like this, from a purely epidemiological point of view, personal encounters must be minimized. So far, so understandable. However, for many companies – especially for those with personal customer contact – this arrangement does not only mean a logistical challenge:
“First and foremost, of course, we feel obliged to our customers and are very interested in the fact that we can continue to advise and support them in the usual quality,” emphasizes Patrick Stöben, managing partner of OTTO STÖBEN GmbH. “But I also see myself equally committed to providing my employees with a pleasant and safe working environment.”
In order to capture the mood on the topic of home office, OTTO STÖBEN asked its workforce from the various departments about their very individual, positive as well as negative, impressions of the home office. Many employees from the property management, sales (also from the regional offices), appraisal department, rental department, residential property management and accounting department responded to the request for a personal assessment.
The brokers from the sales department felt the changes in their way of working less intensely, as they were more on the move than, for example, the colleagues in the other departments from the Kiel headquarters even before they started working from home. The changes for the brokers are mainly present in the area of the implementation of the AHA rules. Objects are still personally inspected and the viewing appointments continue to take place – of course, in compliance with all prescribed measures.
The classic home office, on the other hand, takes up significantly more space for employees in the administrative area. Almost everyone agrees on one positive point: Depending on where you live, you save time and money on the way to work. Furthermore, many emphasize that more concentrated and, above all, quieter work is possible within their own four walls than, for example, in the open-plan office of the property management company. Here, too, there are exceptions if there are still smaller children in the household during working hours. The fathers have to prove to be able to multitask and be creative when a customer is on the phone and the little daughter wants to have a unicorn painted at the same time.
The possibility of free time management is also registered positively. Some employees are happy to be able to let their biological rhythm run free in the home office and, for example, to be more active at night. Others enjoy checking their morning e-mails with an aromatic coffee from their own fully automatic coffee machine in a rather casual outfit. Some find it difficult to blur work and leisure time. While one person is only slowly getting used to a structure in the home office, the other enjoys the combination of “laptop on her knees and at the same time the view of the slowly blossoming garden”.
Despite the physical distance due to the home office, contact between colleagues via phone and email works smoothly and usually reliably. Here, however, the negative aspects of the home office also come to the fore: Due to the lively company intranet, phone calls from customers unfortunately only get through to the right place with a delay one or the other time. Internal matters and questions cannot be clarified “quickly” through the “small” official channel. In addition, most of the mail, which is still used by many customers, is managed via the Kiel headquarters. Here, too, there may be a time delay in processing.
After more than a year in the home office, a completely different, very elementary negative aspect is now apparent: Most of the colleagues, with all initially positive impressions, lack interpersonal contact very much. Furthermore, there is also a lack of technical possibilities in some areas to process all the wishes and needs of customers comprehensively from home – above all for reasons of data protection. For example, it is forbidden to take home folders that contain sensitive data. It must also be ensured that all data protection-relevant digital files are also safe on the media in the home office.
Patrick Stöben: “This survey of the company workforce and also the so-called ‘Flurfunk’ in our headquarters clearly shows that the often so much vaunted home office also has its limits. As soon as the course of the pandemic allows, we will enable all employees to work on site as usual. Until then, we hope that everyone will stay healthy and that we will cope with this special time together. ”