Working from home is established – but more and more companies are demanding that their employees return to the office. This causes resentment among many employees. Some are even willing to change jobs because of this.
“Return to Office”: This term describes the current development in many companies to bring employees back to the office from their home office, at least for a certain number of days.
A global study by the real estate consulting company JLL recently showed that 33 percent of the companies surveyed have already introduced a compulsory attendance requirement. Another 27 percent could imagine doing this in the near future.
More and more companies are also considering rewarding employees for coming to the office – with preferred tasks, salary increases or promotions.
SAP wants to introduce office duties
The German software company SAP, for example, announced in January that it would impose an office requirement. From April, employees will be expected to work three days a week in the office or on site with customers or partners.
Upon request from tagesschau.deThe company says why SAP is doing this: “At SAP, we continue to be convinced that a balanced relationship between working from home and in the office promotes productivity and innovation as well as the well-being of employees.”
“Maybe his controller heart is bleeding”
Eberhard Schick, chairman of the works council at the software company, speaks out against this step: “I don’t know exactly what SAP boss Christian Klein expects from this. Maybe his controller heart is bleeding. In any case, he has to negotiate this with the works council first. This can take a while.”
Ultimately, the employees adjusted to working from home and set it up accordingly. SAP also cut numerous physical jobs during the pandemic. “We don’t even know where the employees should sit.”
Discontent among the workforce is growing
Opposite tagesschau.de Schick announces that he will oppose the planned measures at a works meeting: “An employer cannot unilaterally change an existing works agreement and order employees to be present in the office on days. We hope to achieve this without a legal dispute.”
There is also increasing dissatisfaction among the workforce. “The employees are angry. They lack reliability,” says Schick.
Special leave for fathers will be canceled
In addition to the planned office duties, the planned special leave for fathers after the birth is also to be canceled at SAP. “That’s dubious. As if we were in a small company where patriarchs decide what happens,” said the works council boss.
A lot has changed since Klein started running the company. “He certainly expects the numerous measures to create more connection to the company and communication between employees, especially better integration of younger colleagues,” says Schick. The most important thing for the CEO is to achieve the financial targets for 2025. “A lot of things are sacrificed for this.”
“It’s not something that people like to negotiate about”
In other companies, too, a demand to return to the office causes dissatisfaction among employees. According to a study by the Technical University of Darmstadt, if the company lacks the opportunity to work flexibly in terms of location and time, 24 percent of employees even see this as a possible reason for termination. This is the result of a survey of more than 1,100 employees in so-called “knowledge work”. These include specialists with particularly high qualifications, such as engineers, researchers, doctors or lawyers.
“Employees mostly see mobile and flexible work as an enormous gain and are reluctant to negotiate about it,” says Kyra Voll, project manager at the Real Estate Management Department at TU Darmstadt. “So if the employer forces employees to come to the office, then they are acting against their satisfaction and productivity and ultimately run a high risk of dismissal.”
“Coffee Badging” as a silent protest
According to the generation researcher and management consultant Rüdiger Maas, companies must expect a defensive attitude from employees if they deny the opportunity to work mobile.
“The so-called coffee badging, for example, has become a kind of silent protest as an office duty, in which employees only come to important meetings and show their presence,” says Maas. “Then they then disappear back into their home office.” In particular, an office requirement that is introduced without justification could deter potential workers.
Home office also has disadvantages
Nevertheless, working from home also has a downside, emphasizes Maas. “During the pandemic, many employees complained that they lacked social interaction and that digital meetings were more strenuous than analog ones. We’re talking about video conference fatigue.”
The purely digital workplace is particularly unsuitable for young professionals. “For them, a purely remote workplace has too many gray areas, the employer is too interchangeable and self-organization is too difficult.” Nevertheless, it is important to also give young people the option to work from home.
There is no legally enshrined right to work from home in Germany. However, if employees and employers agree, they can enter into a company agreement on this. There are repeated calls from politicians to regulate this permanently by law. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck has spoken out in favor of the right to work from home – with reference to the shortage of skilled workers. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil also supports this.