Present in the office – yes or no?


Microsoft recently abolished the requirement that staff be present at the office. The possibility of working in the home office is being offered more and more by German companies too. But how efficient is working at home?

Microsoft recently abolished the requirement that staff be present at the office. At a bar, in the park, in the bathtub – employees can now decide themselves where they want to do their work. The company already got rid of compulsory working time in 1998.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Elke Frank, personnel manager at Microsoft Germany, explains the company’s decision by stating that just being present says nothing about the quality of employees’ performance. What is decisive is the result. Working at home is more relaxing for employees.

Last year the Internet company Yahoo embarked on the exact opposite path – Yahoo boss Marissa Page announced early in 2013 that all employees had to come back to the company. Yahoo employees should not do their jobs by themselves day in and day out. What is important are exchanges and experiences which are only possible in the company’s offices, according to a memo that was sent to all employees. Many German media saw this attitude as being regretfully backward.

Two Opposing Positions

Flexible working and especially the issue of home office have been up for debate for quite some time in many companies. It is picked up by the media time and time again. There are basically two opposing ways to look at it:

For: it is only home office that gives workers the necessary freedoms that make modern working possible. At home people work with much more concentration than with colleagues; frequent interruptions and high noise levels are ruled out. At the same time working at home is family friendly, and it makes sense for ecological reasons. Workers leave their cars in the garage and produce less exhaust and traffic jams.

Against: Opponents criticize that it is only good in theory, but in practical terms it is hardly sensible. At home above all workers are often distracted since there private business, for example housework and private calls, are mixed up inappropriately. In addition employees lack exchanges with colleagues. And conference calls arranged at home make an unprofessional impression.

And who is right?

Obviously both sides are justified. Reading through articles and readers’ comments about the issue, it is soon clear that not only nagging bosses react allergically to the issue of “working at home.” Not all workers are keen on the model either.

Even the main target group, parents with children, sometimes make skeptical comments. “Home office is only something for people without children,” is for example one on-line comment. Parents would be kept from working by their children. One other commentator describes concretely how a toilet was flushed audibly in the background of a conference call (embarrassed silence).

Homeworkers have to actively look after contacts to the colleagues in the office and feedback from the boss. They are excluded from conversations that take place every day just by chance in the corridors. And in the end even conference calls create less togetherness than non-virtual sitting together in the conference room, together with light perfume aromas and the smell of coffee.

The Benefits predominate

All of that is more or less marginal in relation to the benefits that are offered to many workers at least by working at home some of the time. Many people benefit extraordinarily from choosing their own place to work. It goes without saying, and that is clear in many comments, that those who work in home offices must bring along a huge measure of self-discipline. Then the flexibility gained in this way means much more quality of life for many people.

A Question of personality

The question “home office – yes or no” is very personal. Answering it always depends on the personality, the taste, the way of working and also the type of work. It can be very inspiring for people. It can even make workers start to be able to perform their jobs in the desired way – because children are sometimes ill and in addition have so many days off that the parents’ vacations, especially single parents’, are not enough to cover them. Nevertheless every worker in the home office must have a sure feeling for when his or her presence is necessary at the office.

Those who treasure flexibility but do not want to work in their own four walls or at a bar can rent more and more their own space in cities in specially arranged areas. The self-employed, graduate students and in general anyone who cannot or does not want to work at home can find their own solutions here for rent.

Confidence is motivating

Ultimately those in charge of personnel who offer the home office option must have confidence in their staff. Anyway they will no longer be able to check up on the progress made at all times by looking over a shoulder. But those who expect their staff to act independently and to get themselves organized give them a great boost in motivation in this way.

Source: Verlag Dashöfer GmbH