For many years, the home office has been a goal of many employees, the vision of ultimate work experience. Where many bosses have insisted on the physical presence of their employees for years, Corona has forced them to rethink in next to no time. Now a lot of people are working from home, and everything is going surprisingly well.
The professor and director of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich assesses how to proceed. "Companies should not revert to the old organizational patterns after the crisis [...]. Working from home is not just a question of organizational culture. It also leads to new management concepts and strengthens digitization and innovative ability.”
However, the hype of the first few weeks is now significantly regressing. And the question of whether the home office is a long-term solution is increasingly asked. This is mainly related to the following problems: Employees who were previously used to follow a daily structure at their workplace must first manage this outside of the office. At second glance, the aforementioned self-organization is more of a curse than a blessing. Working effectively requires good structure. However, it is difficult to bring a work-like structure into your everyday life when your workflow is constantly interrupted. Especially (single) parents will experience this problem. With a normal 100 percent workload, the organization of the household, and entertaining your offspring, there is neither time for boredom nor yourself.
A question that unfortunately often remains unanswered: when and how do you have to be available? Many struggle with irregular working hours. This leads to a delimitation of work – people take fewer breaks at home and tend to work even more without noticing it. This can ultimately affect the employee's psyche and lead to serious mental stress and fatigue. It is difficult to be productive at a makeshift desk between an ironing board and your sofa and to reduce social contacts during web meetings and phone calls with colleagues. The Corona crisis shows that a physical presence may not be necessary for productive work – but for long-term satisfaction.
In addition to employees, there is also a second group at home: the self-employed. The home office is a much easier challenge for those who have always been able to organize their tasks themselves. Nevertheless – the self-employed who currently work from home suffer even more than employees. For the self-employed, the worst-case often means sitting at home without a commission while trying to steer their business through the crisis. In times like these, creativity is even more important.
In the best-case scenario, you have a network in which you can help each other out. Those who fight for themselves will have a much harder time right now. So why shouldn't we try to stick together? Our idea? Coworking. Of course, what else could it be? But honestly: this option is definitely worth a closer look, as it also promises an innovative concept. The goal is to create an atmosphere of independence and realization at the workplace to break down hierarchies and office traditions.
You don't necessarily need to work together with your colleagues or superiors. Nevertheless, social interaction still plays a significant, perhaps even the most important role: Coworking is intended to promote the exchange and encounter of people who may have very different fields of activity or ideas. Such encounters promote innovation and mutual inspiration. New ideas emerge spontaneously and not because a virus forces the whole world to restructure. These developing networks are one reason why coworking is particularly attractive for self-employed people and founders – especially those who were still on their own when founding their company.
But coworking is also suitable for long-established companies with numerous employees. Staying up to date with regard to innovation and digitization is also considerable for large companies – the Corona crisis quickly made that clear. The alliance of established companies and small but innovative start-ups can only benefit the company and its employees. By outsourcing employees, entire projects, or even departments to such a new work environment, an employer can expect a great surge in the creativity of its staff. Coworking spaces also solve the home office problem on an organizational level. You are offered an infrastructure that saves the homeworker from having to collect all the necessary office equipment and to settle responsibilities as well as liabilities for countless topics. Leaving the house in favor of a productive work environment delimits everyday life and work in a healthy way. This leaves the framework for an organized and healthy day's schedule.
Employees with a long journey to their office can also reduce both the cost and the time involved in commuting. Larger cities already have a wide range of coworking spaces at different locations, even though smaller cities and rural regions are recently discovering the concept of shared office space as well. It's not so unlikely to find a coworking space that is closer to home than the office. Especially parents will experience enormous relief when every minute counts in the morning to get the children ready for daycare. Or in the afternoon, when rush hour traffic puts a spanner in the works and you also have to pick up the children on schedule. This tiny amount of time that you suddenly save twice a day ensures that you can resume leisure activities that you swore off years ago – or that a quick espresso date with your best friend might instead become a full-fledged cup of coffee. Saving fuel money and improving our ecological footprint are also reasons to consider.
Most coworking spaces offer a wide range of durations with flexible notice periods like Amazon or Netflix do. The option of daily, weekly, or monthly tickets offers additional flexibility. Coworking should be an option, not an obligation. If you do not see this form of work as a permanent solution to the problems of working from home, it can still be used temporarily.
The corona-related financial crisis shows that flexible notice periods enable a proper response to unplanned difficulties. Companies do not have to be bound by contracts for years and do not have to pay rent if their employees cannot even come to the office. We are certainly not designed to be alone for extended periods of time – both from a psychological or an economic point of view. If Corona clearly shows one thing, it is this. Working together with others, being inspired by them, and expanding your perspective: If you allow it, coworking can achieve exactly this.