The Corona pandemic is supposed to have brought a breakthrough to office work from home, even for normal times outside of waves of illness. This notion appears to be only partially true. According to an as yet unpublished study by the University of St. Gallen and the health insurance company Barmer, the evaluation of which is available to the F.A.Z., activity in the so-called home office has declined sharply.
During the height of the pandemic, employees in Germany would have spent well over a third of their working time at home. By last fall, this proportion had then fallen to around 28 percent. More than 12,000 employees from 22 industries across Germany were surveyed for the "social health@work" study through September 2022.
September marked the fifth wave of illness. In wave one of the study in July 2020, the quotient was 26 percent, then grew to 34 in wave two in January 2021 and to a high of 37 percent in wave three in July 2021. For wave four in January 2022, researchers found 35 percent. Despite the decline, mixed work methods are on the rise, with some employees working online and others working face-to-face. Currently, 40 percent follow this model.
"As the pandemic ends, work will become more hybrid. People will continue to work in home offices, but also more in the office again," says Christoph Straub, Barmer's CEO. "For companies, the current work situation brings new challenges. They are challenged to make mobile working healthy, successful and sustainable after the pandemic."
In 49 percent of cases, all employees currently participate in presence, in 17 percent most are present, few online, in 10 percent half-half. In 14 percent, however, all follow via video conference, in 11 percent most. According to the results, those working in a home office today manage to separate work and private life better than in the past. This has a direct effect on health, because stress can be avoided. "The separation of the workplace from the private environment is particularly important in the home office to protect the health of mobile workers," says study author Stefan Böhm of the University of St. Gallen. This separation is more successful for men than for women.
Currently, 62 percent of men reported being able to separate their place of work well from their private life, but only 55 percent of women. Above all, employees who are able to combine their work in the home office with an active leisure activity would have health benefits as a result. Their stress levels are significantly lower. This advantage is even greater if employees are able to "mentally adjust" to their work at home at the beginning of the working day. This further reduces the stress level.
The study also shows that, among other factors, healthy mobile work depends to a large extent on how well employees feel included. An "inclusive team climate" has a positive effect on health. The same applies to job and career satisfaction and work performance. At the same time, it reduces employees' desire to quit their jobs.
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