Productive, motivated – and also exhausted: How employees assess their home office experiencesStudy shows: Majority of employees wants to continue working from home after the pandemic, yet a “right to remote work” is controversial
Most employees say that they work longer and more productively at home than in the office, yet some also suffer from loneliness and isolation. Nevertheless, a large proportion (56 percent) does not wish to return to full-time attendance; a majority of those surveyed would prefer to work from home two to three days a week. On the question of a legal right to mobile work, the population is divided. This is the result of a representative study by the Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality” at the University of Konstanz, published in cooperation with the think tank Das Progressive Zentrum.
The authors of the study, Prof. Dr. Florian Kunze, Kilian Hampel and Sophia Zimmermann, see a possible reason for the great support for working from home in the fact that the vast majority of those surveyed perceive themselves as motivated and productive in the home office. 45 percent even stated that they can work more effectively than in the office. Another reason for supporting mobile work could be the compatibility of work and private life. 70 percent of those surveyed stated that this is better handled in the home office – regardless of whether they have underage children to look after or not.
However, a large minority also reports serious disadvantages: One in five feels lonely and socially isolated in the home office. Also, almost one in six complains of emotional exhaustion. This stands in contrast with the fully convinced people: one in four would is willing to work without an office visit at all – and remain in home office entirely.
Employee protection and the “right to work from home”
The authors see a need to catch up as regards employee protection. “Works councils should advocate clear home office rules. With the experiences from the Corona pandemic, a healthy balance must now be found for employees between a motivating work environment and workloads,” concludes Prof. Dr. Florian Kunze. This would also be in the interest of the companies. “Employees feel more productive and appreciate the improved work-life balance. However, these positive effects will presumably only be sustainable in the long term if companies ensure social exchange and avoid a possible burden on their employees through mobile work.”
When asked about a “statutory right to work from home“, the respondents showed an indifferent reaction: Exactly one in two would support such a legislative project. However, the team of authors found that many employers were able to make home offices possible for many employees even without a legal claim – although only in office and knowledge-related jobs. Workers in “systemically relevant” occupations, such as nursing, trade, and manufacturing, are unlikely to benefit from such a general right.
About the Policy Paper
For the study, 699 people were interviewed. During the survey period, all respondents worked remotely from home. The consultations were conducted at nine different dates during the social and economic constraints from March to May 2020. In terms of age and gender, the population of respondents corresponds to the average of the German working population. The survey is part of a nationwide survey program of the Konstanz Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality”, on the basis of which several papers with policy recommendations will be published in cooperation with the think tank Das Progressive Zentrum. More information on the survey program, methodology and data basis can be found here.
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Prof. Dr. Florian Kunze is Professor of Organizational Studies at the University of Konstanz and a member of the Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality”. He conducts research on generation management, digitalization in the work environment, successful leadership, and remote work at home.
Kilian Hampel is a research associate in the working group for Organizational Studies of Florian Kunze. His research focuses on the digital transformation of the world of work, management of demographic change, aging in the workplace, and the introduction of new forms of work.
Sophia Zimmermann is a research associate in Florian Kunze’s research group for Organizational Studies. Her research focuses on employee management, digitization in the world of work and demographic change.
This Policy Paper was published in cooperation with the cluster of excellence „The Politics of Inequality“ at the University of Konstanz together with the think tank Das Progressive Zentrum.