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Monday, March 27, 2023

Work: How Corona has changed work

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More digitization, less travel – this is how the changes caused by the pandemic can be briefly described. But what remains in the long term? An overview three years after the first lockdown.

The corona pandemic changed life abruptly when contact restrictions were suddenly introduced in mid-March 2020 and offices were closed. Until then, working from home was unthinkable for many employees, even if their job made it theoretically possible. Video conferences were a rarity in many places, and the technology often went on strike even during telephone conferences.

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But in many cases Covid-19 left no other option than working at the kitchen table, including children screaming in the video meeting and numerous canceled business trips.

Sudden changes are often suddenly history again. But the corona virus stayed – and with the pandemic also some changes for the working world.

home office

“Employees tend to want to work from home more than before the pandemic, but not as much as during the pandemic,” says Ulf Rinne, labor market expert from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). Three years after the start of the first lockdown in Germany, there is definitely an expectation that employers will be able to work from home. “Home office is now being negotiated between employers and employees,” says Rinne.

According to figures from the Ifo Institute, around 25 percent of employees recently worked “at least partly” in the home office, in the service sector the rate is significantly higher at almost 36 percent. There has hardly been a change since the home office requirement was lifted at the end of March 2022.

According to the Ifo Institute, working from home is particularly popular with IT service providers (73.4 percent), management consultants (71.7 percent) and employees in advertising and market research (55.2 percent). In the hotel and hospitality industry, on the other hand, working from home – unsurprisingly – plays no role.

Expert Rinne believes that every company must find a solution for itself on how to deal with mobile working in the long term. “From my point of view, these will mostly be hybrid models, for example with presence days where everyone comes to the place of work.”


Home office is one thing – but what if the work can also be done on a laptop in a beach bar? Workation, i.e. the combination of work and vacation, has also experienced an upswing with the home office since the beginning of the Corona pandemic – at least among those who can afford it and are in the right positions.

“Workation is currently still a niche topic,” says labor market researcher Rinne. “Especially with a view to the younger generation, however, it is definitely an opportunity for companies to think along with such offers in the competition for scarce human resources.” Legally, there are still many open questions associated with Workation, especially when staying outside the EU.

video conferencing

The corona pandemic has also given the world of work a boost in terms of digitization. In many offices, the digital equipment has been significantly improved, communication applications such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom experienced a boom. In 72 percent of the companies, online meetings and video conferences were used “very often” or “often” at the beginning of 2022, according to the Digital Office Index of the digital association Bitkom. In May 2020 the proportion was still 61 percent, in March 2018 it was 48 percent. In addition, the group of people taking part in video conferences within companies is likely to have increased significantly.

“Long before the pandemic, video conferences in companies were possible for a few selected people and areas,” says Bitkom CEO Bernhard Rohleder. “Due to the widespread use of home office and the elimination of business trips, conferences and events since Corona, video conferences in today’s offices are a standard that employees no longer want to do without.”

The Corona period was therefore a successful period for companies like Zoom – but like other tech companies, the video conferencing service is now in trouble: In February, the company announced major job cuts in view of the uncertain economic situation. Zoom had launched a hiring offensive during the pandemic that turned out to be oversized.

business trips

While home office and video conferences were booming, business trips were threatened with the end of the corona pandemic. But far from it: In the past few months, their comeback can be seen – also because employees repeatedly state in various surveys that they value business trips with on-site meetings.

However, the pre-corona conditions are still a long way off, especially with regard to domestic air travel. According to the German Aerospace Center, around 15 million passengers flew on connections with start and destination in Germany in 2019 – compared to 2 million in 2021 and 4 million in 2022 Industry expects 57 percent of 2019 passenger numbers for summer 2023. These figures not only include business travellers, but their share of all passengers is likely to be quite high, especially in domestic German traffic.

International air travel has gotten a little better. Overall, the number of passengers at German airports last year was 66 percent of the pre-Corona year 2019.

“German companies are increasingly changing their travel guidelines,” says Stefanie Berk, Marketing Director for long-distance transport at Deutsche Bahn. Business trips are now being taken more often by rail. According to DB information, sales of the BahnCard to business customers have doubled in the past twelve months. With the BahnCard, travelers receive a 25 or 50 percent discount on the fare, with the BahnCard 100, every train can be used at no additional cost.

So everything new at work?

Despite all developments in the areas of working from home, business trips and video conferences: For many people, during the pandemic and even now, in the time without corona restrictions, nothing has changed fundamentally in everyday work – with the exception of wearing a mask and testing for the virus. Despite all the digitization, cashiers, waiters, geriatric nurses and construction workers cannot work from home to save themselves the trip to work.

According to labor market experts, the home office potential in Germany is around 50 percent of employees – and is heavily dependent on income. According to the Ifo Institute (2020), with a gross monthly income of 4000 euros, the home office potential is around 80 percent, with a gross monthly income of 2500 euros it is only 25 percent.

Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Ifo-Announcement on working from home (December 9, 2022) Ifo-Announcement on working from home (March 2, 2023) Bitkom-Announcement on the Digital Office Index 2022 Ifo articles on working from home during the pandemic

Source: Stern

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