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09/24/2020

Study on home office at German HEIs published

From May to June 2020, CHE Consult surveyed personnel managers at German HEIs on the subject of home offices. The central question was: How do HEIs deal with the topic in general and what changes have resulted from the experiences since the beginning of the corona pandemic? The report on the results is now available.

The investigation shows: The majority of HEIs offer flexible forms of work for employees. However, the HEIs have not yet been able to rely on generally binding legal regulations for home office solutions, as a legal framework is largely lacking. Employees in the home office are therefore much less secure than employees in the office (presence) or in legally regulated telework.


The basic attitude towards home offices is predominantly positive among HEI management, according to the assessment of human resources managers. However, the survey shows considerable differences when comparing attitudes towards technical and administrative staff and scientific staff. There are apparently considerably more reservations about home office solutions for technical and administrative staff, so that individual cases are often examined. For scientific personnel, on the other hand, it is seldom necessary to give valid reasons for the approval, the decisive factor here is usually the fulfilment of tasks.


The reservations about home office solutions among technical and administrative staff are clearly evident in the reasons for the permit, such as personal care or childcare. The focus here is on the individual and private situation, not on the opportunities offered by flexible forms of work. In the case of a permit, this does not necessarily result in a positive change for those affected, who are then exposed to multiple burdens at home and have to cope with many challenges at the same time. Positive effects of the home office in terms of satisfaction, quality of work results, reduction of stress due to the elimination of travel distances do not seem to be expected for technical and administrative staff.


It is also noticeable that the documentation of working time for scientific staff is missing in the vast majority of cases. This restricts the possibilities of fulfilling the duty of care towards scientific staff. It is problematic, for example, that undocumented overtime can be accumulated in this way. In addition, the impression can be created that employees should always be available if there is no regulation on working schedules. A high degree of flexibility thus also entails the risk of employees overloading themselves.


Among the challenges facing universities since the outbreak of the pandemic, respondents perceive the incomplete digitisation of workflows and processes as particularly pressing. In addition, the authors of the study also believe that measures in the areas of "management responsibility in the home office" and "communication in the home office" should be expanded.


"A discussion of the issue of care and prevention for scientific staff and a dismantling of unnecessary approval hurdles for home office solutions for technical and administrative staff are important for the further development of home office solutions at HEIs," the authors Elisa Himbert and Anna Gehlke summarise the results of their study.

 

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