The world of work is currently changing in Germany at an unprecedented speed thanks to the Corona pandemic, and long-delayed projects are being implemented. This is the result of a study conducted by the European Management Institute at Hof University of Applied Sciences (emi e.V.) in cooperation with over 50 companies from all over Germany
While there are winners and losers of the crisis from an economic perspective and depending on the economic sector, the pandemic acts as a decision accelerator for nearly all companies. According to the study, this has triggered numerous changes in the organization of work and working hours, which are seen as very positive by HR managers.
Covid-19 caught Germany largely unprepared
While the German government endeavored to contain the pandemic through sometimes drastic measures, companies were confronted with numerous challenges such as maintaining their supply chains and their own production, securing their sales, and some fundamental changes in their work organization.”Prof. Dr. Stefan Wengler, Prof. of Marketing and Technical Sales
Qualitative company survey
Together with his colleague Prof. Dr. Joachim Riedl, head of the Marketing Management program, he has now conducted a comprehensive study to investigate the consequences of the COVID-19 virus on the German work reality. The aim of the study was to provide data to better assess the medium- to long-term economic impact of the pandemic – particularly with regard to the design of future work processes. To this end, HR managers from 52 medium-sized companies in various sectors were asked about their experiences in in-depth interviews.
Interaction processes undergo lasting change
The key finding was that even if the initial focus of company management was on securing the supply chain and guaranteeing production, in the long term it is above all the internal and external interaction processes that will be much more affected by the consequences of the Corona pandemic and will change: “The traditionally organized work processes were broken up from one day to the next and shifted to the home office. Employees had to learn to organize themselves independently and in new ways. The amount of communication required between employees was challenged almost daily and made more difficult due to local conditions. And customer communication and customer interaction also had to be rethought. In addition, of course, the companies’ IT systems were subjected to a real endurance test,” say the two researchers.
Crisis as a time for change
According to the survey, it is the uncertainty of the business outlook or future business development that causes companies the most trouble. Low predictability, unpredictable customer behavior and the fear of further and long lockdowns are named as key challenges.
However – and this is the positive finding – according to the companies, many fundamental decisions were made during the pandemic, as the management of many companies saw the Corona pandemic as the appropriate time to do so
The pandemic is seen by many decision-makers as a real accelerator of decision-making processes. Although the HR managers surveyed were heavily burdened with organizational tasks, on the other hand they find it very gratifying that the concepts for making work processes and working hours more flexible, which had been on the back burner for a long time, have become more topical. In general, digitization is also seen as beneficial for HR-relevant processes in this context.”Prof. Dr. Joachim Riedl
Proportion of home offices growing rapidly
With the mass conversion to home office and mobile working, many companies entered uncharted territory. Whereas before the pandemic only 8.5% of employees worked from home on average, this proportion grew to 38% on average as a result of the virus, and there are now also companies that have 100% of their employees working from home. While the initial focus was on the purely technical change that hit many companies abruptly, the participants in the study recognized other challenges as even more serious: their own employees had to design and schedule their workday at home themselves from one day to the next. Home office is no easy feat in many professions – and with all the distractions possible at home. In addition, employees had to learn to cope with limited communication and other communication channels.
Trust-based working time instead of “clocking in
HR managers see the challenge here in ensuring that employees nevertheless remain productive and can cope with forgoing social contacts. At the same time, supervisors have had to learn that traditional timekeeping is becoming obsolete and that it is inevitable to move in the direction of trust-based working time. Accordingly, access to one’s own employees was no longer as immediate as before, which could lead to considerable restrictions in the processing of certain tasks in individual cases.
Overall, however, the new working reality, the “New Work”, will find its way into the future normality, the human resources managers of the economy are sure. “Admittedly, many organizational, technical and, above all, management-related issues still need to be clarified before a final and sustainable changeover can take place in the coming years. But COVID-19 has nevertheless initiated an epochal change in our working culture, which may make our society more crisis-proof and flexible in the future,” concludes Prof. Dr. Stefan Wengler.
The study is available in detail here ..