The trend began in the USA in the 1980s and has since established itself internationally: working from home. IT companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard publicised the benefits. At times, 40% of IBM’s employees were active from their homes. While employers here in Europe are increasingly discovering the advantages of home offices, in North America they are backpedalling. According to the statistics portal Statista, 41% of office workers in Germany would prefer to work from home for some of the week, only 28% exclusively in the company office, and just 20% in their home office alone.
We asked two people from corporate business what drives them and what pros and cons they see.
Our interview partners
Frauke Milbrecht loves working from home. She has been Global Customer Experience Leader at Nexans Global Headquarters Paris since spring 2017, already has several years of experience working in a home office and currently works three weeks a month from home.
Elena Simutenkova prefers the company office. She works as a Marketing Manager for Kitchen Appliances at Philips France in Paris.
How do you divide your working hours?
‘50% management, that is to say future prospects and planning, evaluation, performance optimisation.
25% consumer and market insights for the development of regionally relevant portfolios and positioning, including customer-specific activation strategies.
25% external and internal category presentation and product reveals
for customers and the press.’
‘For me it is half and half silent work and interaction.
The division looks like this:
10% coordination and management of my team, 20% interaction with colleagues from my department to coordinate joint projects, 20% interaction with colleagues from other departments worldwide, 30% strategic work, reorganisation of the way of working within the company, 20% operational work.’
A study* has shown that people working from home are 13% more efficient. Frauke, do you work more efficiently at home?
‘Yes! But working from home requires discipline. Especially for meetings, which are then held via Skype. The important points are: be punctual! Be prepared!
You need to check who the right people for the call are; efficient preparation and processing afterwards are important. Skype meetings run in a much more concentrated manner than meetings in person at the office. Particularly when several people are together on Skype, they are more focused.’
‘I have some experience with working from home, because our company allows one to three days of it per month. The advantage is that I don’t have to make the journey to the office and can complete analytical tasks without being distracted. From a personal point of view, I also like working from home in my pyjamas, and like to use the opportunity to go for a run before work or during my lunch break. I use time and energy that would otherwise be taken up with the journey to work in a different way.’
‘When working from home, I find there is the problem that you have to allow yourself a break now and then.
Sometimes I get tunnel vision. For that reason, I want to establish certain rituals for myself working at home, for example: having breakfast in a personal area, then going to a separate room to work.’
Elena, what disadvantages do you see in working from home?
‘No interaction with colleagues and not being able to ask for advice in a face-to-face conversation. Direct communication with a colleague cannot be replaced by technology. If I work from home, I scoff down something fast in front of my laptop rather than having a proper meal. In the company office, I love start-up culture, i.e. having the option of both concentrated work and break periods in the office and talking to colleagues.’
Frauke, what would you have to be granted in order for you to be seen at the office on a daily basis again?
‘My own office! I don’t miss having a colleague at the desk next to me or in the break room.’
What direction is the wind blowing for the future?
‘Our company increasingly supports working from home. We are also transforming into a company where more of a flexi-desk culture prevails, that is to say where everyone has the freedom to select a different workspace in the office each day. I think we will be allowed greater choice of where we want to work in future, in the office or at home. That will turn the offices into ideas places, into the fulcrum for inspiration, mutual support and supporting of the employees by the company.’
‘Increased acceptance of working from home has developed, and will continue to grow. And it supports the change from time basis to efficiency basis. In this case, the responsibility of the employer is to provide a sensible infrastructure. And they must carry out serious monitoring, to ensure that people do not exhaust themselves.’