How the Coronavirus Pandemic Promotes Digitalization and Home Office Solutions
The Coronavirus crisis has induced many firms to expand the home office solutions for their employees and to switch to digital collaboration tools. A new study presents the latest insights on the spread and acceptance of digitalization in Germany.
As the efforts to limit the number of new infections require social distancing and the shutdown of many aspects of regular social and business life, digitalization has gained increasing importance. Video conferences and digital collaboration tools have replaced personal meetings, firms have expanded their employees’ possibilities to work from home, and schools and universities have switched to online courses. In this respect, the Coronavirus crisis is not only a major challenge but also an opportunity, because it accelerates many transformation processes linked to digitalization.
The Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt) has investigated important questions about the spread and acceptance of the home office arrangements. How common is it already? How satisfied are people working from home? And importantly, do they want to keep using home office solutions in the long run? To find answers to these questions, bidt conducted a representative online survey of 1,595 adults in Germany in March 2020.
In the following we present the study’s seven main findings:
First, the spread of home office has increased significantly during the Coronavirus pandemic. Currently, 43% of respondents work from home compared to 35% before the crisis.
Second, employees with the possibility to work from home at least part of the time are using their home offices more intensively now. Whereas before the pandemic only 23% worked from home more than once a week, now 39% of respondents work from home several days per week.
Third, employees are very satisfied with their work situation in the home office (81%). The satisfaction rate is slightly higher among professionals who used their home offices before the pandemic than among those who work in their home offices for the first time now.
Fourth, the perception of home office solutions has changed among both employers and employees. For 39% of the respondents who are using their home offices for the first time now, their employers did not allow such a solution before. Likewise, 26% of first-time home office users did not want to work from home before.
Fifth, the acceptance of home offices has increased. About one third of the respondents who are currently working from home have improved their assessment of home office arrangements.
Sixth, employers successfully managed a smooth transition to the home office. 71% of employees stated that their employer had been well prepared for the expansion or initial introduction of home offices.
Finally, the demand for home office solutions will outlast the Coronavirus pandemic. About 68% of surveyed employees, who consider it possible in their jobs, would like to work more from home after the current crisis.
Complementing these results is the outcome of another study conducted by two researchers from the University of Mannheim. By comparing regions across Germany, they find a negative association between the share of workers using home offices and the number of Covid-19 deaths. In this sense, home office solutions might indeed contribute to decreasing the spread of the virus.
In conclusion, the Coronavirus pandemic accelerates digitalization, promotes home office solutions, and will likely have a lasting effect on the future of work in Germany. More flexible forms of work such as the home office will probably be more important after the crisis than they were before. The good news is that this transition worked rather smoothly and that most employees and employers seem to be satisfied with this work situation. For managers, it becomes clear that the Coronavirus-shock will induce long-term changes to firms’ organizations and HR management. Thus, it should be a priority to seize the opportunities of digitalization and make working from home work.
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Stürz, R. A., C. Stumpf, U. Mendel and D. Harhoff (2020): “Digitalisierung durch Corona? Verbreitung und Akzeptanz von Homeoffice in Deutschland“, Bayerisches Forschungsinstitut für Digitale Transformation.
Fadinger, H. and J. Schymik (2020): “The Costs and Benefits of Home Office during the Covid-19 Pandemic – Evidence from Infections and an Input-Output Model for Germany “, University of Mannheim Working Paper.