The new coronavirus spreads faster than expected and puts Germany in a state of emergency. Numerous companies are therefore sending their employees to the home office: an important step in the fight against COVID-19.
Corona is an official case of emergency: closures, restrictions and home office
In the morning of March 16, 2020, Minister-President in Bavaria Markus Söder (CSU) announces in a press conference drastic measures for Bavaria to counteract the rapid spread of the coronavirus. It is declared a state of emergency in Bavaria. In the evening, Merkel follows presenting an emergency plan for all of Germany...
Among other things, public facilities such as gyms, bars, theatres, cinemas, etc. will be closed, and gastronomy will be massively restricted. (Food markets will of course remain open, with extended opening hours).
The German government is taking action and making it clear how crucial the solidarity of society is in these times: "We will not leave anyone alone," said Söder. However, the situation also requires the cooperation of each individual. Citizens are encouraged to think carefully before leaving their own four walls asking themselves whether it is actually necessary. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn urges employers to enable people to work from home as far as possible.
Home office against Corona: A challenge for German companies.
Several companies have already sent their employees home to work in their own apartments and houses because of the coronavirus. This is also an important step to further slow down the spread of the virus. However, a large part of Germany is moving into new territory. According to a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), just one third of the German workforce works at least partly in the home office. How can employers proceed?
Corona protection in companies: Home office in 5 easy steps
1. Inform yourself: What difficulties arise from remote work and dispersed teams?
It is helpful to first consider what problems can actually arise through home office. Basically, you should pay attention to the following factors:
- smooth communication
- clear ways of collaboration
- secure data exchange
Of course, communication becomes a little more difficult as soon as employees are physically apart. The traditional face-to-face meeting is not possible anymore. However, with the right tools and by taking into account a few tips, you can maintain a well- functioning communication. (see points 4 and 5)
2. Inform yourself: Where and how can home office be implemented?
For all those who are not yet familiar with home office, it is of course advisable to first gather information and get an overview of your own situation. The following questions should be clarified:
- How do the team structures look like? A good starting point is to check out how the team usually works together and to also notice who works intensively together?
- At what places and for whom is home office possible? Unfortunately, not every job is suitable for home office. Though, there are many office jobs that can be done from anywhere with a little preparation.
- Hardware and software: What equipment is already available? Is further equipment needed to secure the three factors from point 1? A simple inventory analysis is the means to an end.
3. Prepare and organize
As soon as you have an overview, you can start organizing. At this point you should start gathering the missing equipment. Hardware and software is often provided by the employer for reasons of data security.
It is essential to instruct employees precisely in advance. This is best done comunicating by speech, if necessary also over the telephone. This gives employees the option to ask questions. In any case, regulations on working hours at home should be clarified. Do employees remain flexible in this regard or do they continue to work the usual office hours? If new tools are used, employees may need to be familiarized with them. Guidelines for documenting information can be helpful to ensure smooth communication. Where can I find relevant data? Where and how should relevant data be made available to others? The most basic idea is to create an information sheet that is centralized and accessible to everyone.
4. Organize: Communication
As mentioned in point 1, communication between team members is essential for home office to work properly. A few tools help to ensure this during the home office:
Team chat: A team chat is already a common feature in many companies and teams these days and facilitates the exchange on basic topics. Important news and questions are visible to everyone in real-time.
Audio and video calls: More complex issues that should actually be clarified in person can now also be easily discussed online. Audio and video telephony and even screen sharing are available for this purpose.
5. Organize: File and Task Management
Task lists and boards: Enabling smooth communication via chat and telephony is the cornerstone that makes home office work. However, this alone does not make for perfect collaboration. In order to keep an overview of all the tasks at hand, we recommend to use task management tools. These can even be simple todo lists that you check off. Consider the use of task boards when working in a team on certain tasks. Then status columns can easily be created to track the processing status of the tasks.
File and document exchange: The last big point is the digital management of files and documents that several employees at different locations need to view and edit. There are solutions that are designed for the pure upload and exchange of files as well as those that support joint editing, e.g. by giving options for commenting and versioning the files.
With the rapid spread of the coronavirus, a large part of the German workforce was sent to the home office. Infections can be counteracted in the best possible way by social distancing, which is why it is important that all companies and every single person follow suit. So far, Germany has been lagging behind in terms of switching to home work. The fact that, given the situation, many see themselves in the responsibility to introduce home office, at least temporarily, could also be an opportunity: Perhaps the concept will also find more acceptance in Germany in the future.
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