No more working from home – it’s finally “we” again

Hardly any innovation has been rated as highly in the last 18 months as working from home. Except, what obviously sounds a lot more fancy is not called homework but a “home office”. But, after your initial enthusiasm for more flexible working hours, it’s time to summarize a little more soberly.

It then turns out that the separation of work from leisure, home and workplace was quite a cultural achievement. An achievement that does not outweigh the purported benefits of digital connectivity.

Therefore, care must be taken that the legislative initiative of the Social Democratic Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, which aimed at establishing the right to work from home, was not gradually forced into seclusion at the kitchen desk at home.

Remember: this is not about single days, but about a normal employment relationship.

Working from home has real disadvantages

Some arguments against a home office are as banal as they are inevitable: not every apartment has room for one or even two offices. Not every employee can afford an expensive ergonomic office chair. Physically present children are a world more distractingly than colleagues ever could be.

Worse, however, is that the work software changes when teams and groups of colleagues are torn apart. At the start of the Corona period, the replacement was still tolerable as plans and project lists had to be reworked.

But as the home office continued – sometimes celebrated with almost religious fervor – the better team leaders noticed that the new ideas were starting to fail. Somehow, less creative input seemed to come from the employees, while at the same time developing a feeling that they had to invent everything now, really everything, all by themselves.

Management reacted nervously and tried to exert more pressure – without asking themselves if there might be tangible psychological reasons why individual colleagues had fewer ideas than the group as a whole.

Only groups resist power

The interpersonal phenomenon “group” apparently has a significant impact on the creativity and expression of an individual. The directors describe how actors who come to rehearsals become depressed because they struggle with their lines at home, suddenly become part of a team and do everything right.

Body language, laughter, eye blinks, jokes, wild interference, snotty contradictions, overly sharply spoken criticism, or viciously formulated instructions – all these develop group dynamic effects in the culture of presence, good and bad, beyond the current state of mind and contribution of the individual.

Successful resistance to power can only be found in groups. Videoconferencing and the associated chat and email culture: these are the structures of the bosses. Orders are issued which would be formulated by superiors much more politely in confrontation with their subordinates.

There is no collective eye-rolling that the sovereign bosses could use as internal quality control of their proposals. There is also a complete lack of: shared enthusiasm for the project.

The sense of community is lost through the home office

In the home office world, the employer loses sight of his employees, for whose welfare he is jointly responsible: Are they doing well? Someone burned out? Who started drinking?

Working from home, employees lose their sense of commitment to a common cause: work is no longer “ours”. It consists of allocated components.

This relegates workers to servants of a system that asks for their opinion much less than before.

Susan Gaschke writes for WELT, WELT am SONNTAG and NZZ. In the years 1997-2012 she was a reporter and editor of the weekly “Die Zeit” in Hamburg. At the end of December 2012, the Social Democrat took office as the mayor of Kiel. At the end of October 2013, she announced her resignation. In 2020, she left the SPD. She is the author of many non-fiction books. Recently she published: “SPD. A party between burnout and euphoria. ” (2017). Her biography of Green’s co-chair Robert Habeck will be published by Heyne Verlag in summer 2021. Susanne Gaschke lives with her husband in Berlin

© Deutschlandradio / Jessica Sturmberg

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