Against the background of the expiry of the home office obligation in Germany in March 2022, bidt investigates the current practice and acceptance of home office in Germany with its sixth and seventh surveys. Data was also collected on satisfaction with the exchange with colleagues and superiors and how companies deal with home office.
Home office survey March & June 2022
On 19 March 2022, the home office obligation introduced in Germany due to the coronavirus pandemic ended. At that time, it was unclear to what extent the obligation’s expiry would affect employed persons’ home office use. The Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt) saw this as an opportunity to conduct two short representative surveys on the subject of working from home among internet users in Germany, conducted from 3 March to 20 March 2022 and from 22 June to 29 June 2022. The surveys collected data on satisfaction with the exchange with colleagues and superiors and on how their companies dealt with the topic of home office. Furthermore, the current use of home office and job satisfaction were examined.
Using Google Surveys, 1,957 adult working internet users were interviewed in March and 1,126 in June. These surveys continue the series of five cross-sectional surveys conducted by bidt in March 2020, June 2020, February 2021, May 2021 and September/October 2021 on the topic of home office and allow for a time-comparative analysis.
Professional exchange with colleagues and superiors does not suffer from frequent home office use.
Most of the professionals surveyed in Germany (81%) are rather or very satisfied with the professional exchange with their colleagues. However, there are differences between professionals depending on their use of the home office. Thus, 80% of non-users of home office say they are satisfied with the professional exchange with colleagues. Among professionals working from home several times a week, 86% are rather or very satisfied. Professionals who use home office only once a week or less often have the lowest satisfaction. Only 76% say they are very or rather satisfied with the exchange with colleagues.
The differences are even more significant regarding satisfaction with professional exchange with superiors. Around a third of the employees who do not work from home say they are very satisfied with the professional exchange with their superiors, and around another third are rather satisfied. Among professionals who work from home several times a week, 82% are rather or very satisfied with the professional exchange with their superiors. If they use home office once a week or less, only 65% are satisfied. Therefore, working from home does not seem to influence professional exchange negatively.
On the contrary, there is a correlation between the frequency of home office use and satisfaction with professional exchange with colleagues and superiors. More frequent home office use is generally associated with higher satisfaction.
No return to complete presence work.
Less than half of the professionals surveyed say they have to go to the office again somewhat or significantly more often than in the first three months of the year. On the other hand, 38% say nothing has changed, and another 9% are free to decide how often they go to the office.
At the same time, 59% of those who say they now have to go to the office more often still work at home several times a week or almost exclusively. Consequently, they continue to show a very high home office use. Also, 39% of the professionals who state that nothing has changed for them work from home several times a week or more. This particular circumstance is also reflected in the figures for June 2022. The numbers in the classification “at least once sometimes” and “several times a week” have increased slightly compared to March 2022. Currently, around half of the professionals surveyed are in their home office at least sometimes. A total of 36% work from home several times a week. This is significantly more professionals than before the pandemic (+ 16 percentage points).
Satisfaction in the home office remains at a high level.
Satisfaction with their home office situation remains high compared to previous surveys. At 87%, most home office users are satisfied with their situation. Professionals who work from home several times a week are the most satisfied (94 %). In contrast, only 72% of professionals who work from home once a week or less are rather or very satisfied with their home office situation.
Generation “working from home”?
There are some major differences in the use of and satisfaction with working from home in Germany with regard to age groups. Younger people work from home much more often than older professionals. In June 2022, almost half of the professionals aged 18 to 34 worked from home several times a week. In the 55+ age group, it is only 26%, and 61% say they do not work from home at all.
Age differences are also evident in satisfaction with their home office situation. People aged 18 to 34 are the most satisfied: 93% of home office users state that they are rather or very satisfied with their situation in the home office. This is somewhat less the case for the 55+ age group, at 87%. People aged 35 to 54 are the least satisfied with their situation: 84% say they are satisfied in their home office. One of the reasons for this may be that this age group often has younger children living in their households, which affects working from home.
A quarter of employed persons are dissatisfied with how their company handles home office.
The satisfaction of working Internet users with how home office is handled in their company or organisation is predominantly positive. More than one in three even say they are very satisfied. However, 28% also state that they are rather or very dissatisfied. Among professionals who do not work from home, 42% say this. If the home office is used less frequently, the satisfaction with how the issue is handled within the company is also lower. 91% of employees who work from home several times a week are rather or very satisfied with how their company deals with the home office topic.
Satisfaction with work-life balance increases with the frequency of home office.
If we look at satisfaction with the work-life balance, we find that 78% of employees are rather or very satisfied. There is a correlation between satisfaction with work-life balance and working from home: 87% of those who work from home are rather or very satisfied with work-life balance, compared to only 70% of non-users of home office. The highest level of satisfaction is found among professionals who work from home several times a week. 90% of them are rather or very satisfied. On the other hand, only 81% of home office users who work from home only once a week or less are satisfied with the work-life balance.
General job satisfaction is high and mainly driven by satisfaction with work-life balance and the company’s handling of the home office issue.
General job satisfaction is consistently high among the professionals surveyed. Thus, 78 % state that they are rather or very satisfied with their general work situation. Again, a cross-analysis reveals clear differences according to home office use. On average, people who do not work from home have a lower level of general job satisfaction than those who do. Only 71% of employees who do not work from home say they are rather or very satisfied. On the other hand, it is 86% in the group of home office users.
However, a multivariate analysis of general job satisfaction shows that the main drivers of job satisfaction are satisfaction with the work-life balance and how home office is handled in one’s company. The frequency of home office use, as well as the age and gender of the professionals, do not show any significant correlation with general job satisfaction. It should be noted, however, that the frequency of home office use clearly correlates with satisfaction with the work-life balance and is thus indirectly related to general job satisfaction.
Summary and outlook
The survey data show that the abolition of the home office obligation has not yet led to significant changes in the prevalence of home office. The vast majority of the professionals surveyed are satisfied with the home office regulations made by their company. However, there are clear differences according to home office use. The more frequently the professionals work from home, the more satisfied they are with how their company deals with the home office topic. Furthermore, the frequency of home office use shows a positive correlation with satisfaction with the balance of private and professional life, which positively affects general job satisfaction. Frequently working from home has no negative effects on the exchange with colleagues and superiors. On the contrary, intensive home office users, in particular, are satisfied with this exchange.
It should be noted, however, that in the present survey, it is highly likely that primarily employees in companies who had already met in person before the pandemic were considered. A corresponding exchange is expected to be more problematic for employees who have only known their colleagues virtually. In future, it will be important to have suitable formats for exchange and to get to know each other in person so that new and old employees can get to know each other in person and then maintain a good and fruitful exchange virtually.
The current waves of surveys also indicate that, at least in parts of the German economy, hybrid forms of work will become established in the long term, even after the end of the home office obligation. The high satisfaction of home office users and the desire to continue to work from home will pose great challenges, especially for companies that have failed to set the course for more flexible working models even during the pandemic. Qualitative surveys conducted at bidt clearly show that mobile and flexible work options are becoming an increasingly important competitive factor for companies in attracting skilled workers. However, a basic prerequisite for location-independent collaborative working is also advanced digitisation in the company. A lack of digitisation, a lack of home office options and a shortage of skilled workers in the company often go hand in hand. To remain competitive in the long term, many small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany must push ahead with digitalisation to stay attractive employers for skilled workers by offering home office options. Other suitable incentives must be considered for employees who should not or cannot work from home. This topic is important not only from a business but also from a social perspective to counteract social division along the home office border.