Sometimes half the staff in the office: the government demands a home office – and fails in its own bodies – the economy

While the stores were closed for several weeks, the daily office life for many government employees apparently remained almost unchanged. Employers are not obliged to let their employees work from home.

For example, according to the spokesperson, almost 100,000 employees work at the Federal Employment Agency (BA), and less than 50 percent work at home “at peak times”. According to the spokesman, the share of the German Bund Insurance (DRV) Bund is around 50 percent.

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“It was a radical change for all authorities,” says Gerhard Hammerschmid, director of the Digital Control Center at the Hertie School in Berlin. Even at the peak of the first lockout, a quarter of the employees interviewed were in the office, Hammerschmid said of the results of a recent study he conducted on behalf of the consulting agency Next: Public.

The administration is “distant” from the fact that employees do not have to go to the office for months, as is often the rule in the private sector. For the study, Hammerschmid and his team interviewed 6,147 administrative staff at all levels last summer.

It also turned out that this is by no means always due to lack of equipment if the home office does not work. “The current administrative culture is a very strong culture of presence,” says Hammerschmid. “You differentiate yourself by being present at conferences, for example.” Managers expect this from their employees. ”

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Supervisors often do not believe that their employees work just as well at home and in the office. Digital thinking also often seems to be lacking. The manager of the public transport company states that their administrative employees regularly visit the office at home, despite the proper technical equipment, because “a higher level of management has made it clear that they expect presence and visibility.” currently only provides telephone or video advice, not home office advice – if you still want to work from home, you need to prove what you are doing “useful during this time.”

Hammerschmid emphasizes that, of course, there are offices where everything works perfectly. In his experience, however, such cases are the exception rather than the rule, especially at the municipal level.

Also the Berlin administration and federal ministries have problems

It is also clear that the Berlin authorities need to be improved. Additional capacities for working from home were created in 2020, but these are far from enough. About a tenth of all administrative staff in Berlin are currently able to work from home, and more technology is expected in January. In this context, statements by Government Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) have recently been criticized. He asked employers to allow their employees to work from home. A large part of the 120,000 employees of the Berlin authorities are not far from this.

“Does he work, too?” Many employers ask as he oversees the employees. Lisa Ducret / dpa

Officially, one does not see any problem in the federal authorities. According to federal and state government resolutions, the presence requirement is limited to “urgent official needs,” a total of 14 federal ministries say. However, there are very different evaluations of the ability of their employees to use the home workplace. While only 60 to 80 percent of the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) works from home, according to the spokesman, the Ministry of Development Aid (BMZ) gives a quota of 80 to 85 percent.

It is ironic that the Federal Ministry of Labor (BMAS) cannot provide any specific information in this regard. Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to introduce the right to work from home for employees. On average, according to a current query from Tagesspiegel Background, the ministry reached a home office rate of around 75 percent. At the beginning of March, it was still said that two-thirds of all federal ministry employees would be able to work with available facilities from home.

Employees do not trust

There is often still a lack of technical equipment. Employees of the social service of the Brandenburg judicial system complain that a home office is not possible. There are no laptops or cell phones. According to the Brandenburg Higher Regional Court, this court should change soon. However, in the case of laptops, the spokesperson gives employees little hope: central purchasing is overloaded.

The Greens want to change this – and initially consider private sector failures. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, head of the Green Group, demands the right to work from home, including fines for unintentional companies. And Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) also supports other domestic offices. For this Wednesday, he announced a “home office summit” with businesses and unions to push for more housework in Bavaria.

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