In questions of remote work, many experts already regard the Corona crisis as a game-changer. But, Numerous experts already regard the Corona crisis as a game-changer in matters of work reality. Even if further developments in many areas are difficult to assess, Covid-19 will certainly, in retrospect, be described as a crucial catalyst for digitization.
Two aspects are of central importance here:
1. Various companies had already invested considerably in implementing flexible workplace models before Corona. As a result, they could respond significantly faster and more efficiently to unexpected challenges and avoid losses or even benefit in competition.
2. Companies that had previously acted more cautiously were ultimately forced in many cases to develop and implement concepts in the shortest possible time. Only businesses that could adequately achieve that could at least limit their losses.
Working away from the traditional desk within the four walls of a company-owned office building is not a new invention or an emergency plan for times of crisis. Working “outside the box” has always been a compelling necessity in many industries and functions. Field service is a classic area where employees work outside the traditional office. However, with new technical possibilities emerging, remote work becomes more important in various branches and industries.
The business world has known the term “telecommuting” since the 1980s. During this time, employers discussed decentralized working as a possibility for the first time. As a result, pioneering companies introduced decentralized working to relieve the increasing traffic and to improve work and family compatibility. Nevertheless, Germany is still one of the countries that have been somewhat reluctant about the so-called new work in recent decades. In contrast, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries, in particular, have been European pioneers in this area, with impressive results.
In Germany, too, it was already evident before Corona that especially young companies were increasingly recognizing the benefits. Nevertheless, statistics show that only around 4% of the German workforce worked entirely or at least regularly in a home office before the pandemic. In the various phases of the subsequent lockdown, the figure was as high as 27% at peak times between April 2020 and today, overnight.
During a lockdown, remote work, as described, proves to be a survival strategy for many companies. But even beyond that, mobile working can hold its own against traditional workplace models from a business perspective. Even if companies have to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure secure working from the home office or on the road, remote work holds enormous potential for savings. This is especially true if it is implemented consistently and is not just a small-scale add-on. For instance, the Institute of the German Economy predicts that employers can save up to 10% of office space they would otherwise need in the next few years through non-territorial working. Saving office space is particularly important against the backdrop of constantly rising rents.
In some sectors, young start-ups increasingly operate without regular office workplaces. Instead, they use the traditional office only as a place for project-related meetings and mandatory presence work. Remote work and mobile working thus also lower the market entry threshold for innovative start-ups, which often fail due to necessary investments for local infrastructure. In addition, experts emphasize that working from home positively affects employee satisfaction. It also has a positive effect on productivity. Last but not least, climate protection experts are moreover optimistic that new work models contribute to improving companies’ carbon footprint by significantly reducing emissions from office buildings and commuting.
Prominent examples show that more companies have recognized this potential and will use it beyond corona-related measures. For instance, the well-known car manufacturer Porsche recently announced that it would continue to allow its employees to work from their home offices for around two and a half weeks a month wherever possible, after the pandemic. Software giant SAP has also decided that “for most SAP employees […] it doesn’t matter where they work from” (quote: Cawa Younosi, head of HR at SAP Germany). IT company HP has made the home office the standard place of work. It transformed classic offices into areas “for meeting and exchanging ideas”.
Companies need a working concept that sets the parameters for remote work. Simply releasing employees into mobile working without addressing the risks and specific requirements can be a severe mistake.
Covid-19 revealed a relatively lenient approach to the security aspects of decentralized working. In the medium term, however, the issues of data protection and IT security will increasingly come into focus. Failures can lead to drastic consequences. Nevertheless, companies can easily set up, maintain and monitor local systems and infrastructures. However, the technical challenges posed by mobile solutions at numerous different locations are significantly higher.
Especially, companies that work with sensitive data have to ensure that employees protect personal customer data from unauthorized access. At the same time, they have to follow the provisions of applicable regulations, such as the GDPR.
If an employee connects to a company network from his/her home office, via a router that ist also used privately, or even relocates the office to the public network of a café or local or long-distance transportation, the employers bear the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that data protection is adequately taken into account here as well.
The challenge here has two aspects:
Human errors cause the majority of data protection breaches. Companies can easily create the technical conditions to ensure a secure data exchange. However, practical data protection does not infrequently fail due to careless disregard of crucial rules of conduct and care.
Employees can reliably avoid errors if they know the typical pitfalls. However, this means that employees have to learn correct data handling. On top of that, the necessary sensitivity in dealing with data has to be existent.
Those responsible in companies who accompany a changeover to alternative workplace models have to be aware that employees are rarely data protection experts. Instead, they are mainly guided users. As a result, differences between the desktop at work and the laptop at home are sometimes challenging to see.
With efficient and entertaining employee online training, lawpilots creates essential basics for productive and secure work in the home office or remote. In only 20 minutes, employees get sensitized and qualified to understand:
After completing the online training, employees receive a certificate to simplify the organization and documentation of the training measure for the employer. Moreover, the reception of a certificate motivates employees and provides them additional proof of qualification for their resume.
Even though remote work will not completely replace conventional workplace models in various industries and companies in the foreseeable future, the trend toward decentralized work will continue. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly involve employees in security concepts and train them sustainably based on current rules and regulations, to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks. That training employees in legal and regulatory topics does not have to be a necessary evil and can take only little effort is proven by lawpilots’ innovative e-learnings, which help employees get fit for New Work.