Saturday, May 15

‘Continuing Blindly’: Too Many Workers In Germany Entering The Office Amid The Pandemic?

Since Easter, new blocking measures they have been implemented in most of Germany, dictating when, where and for how long households are allowed to socialize with people who are not members of the household.

But despite efforts to reduce contact with other people in our private lives, recent figures suggest that many people’s work lives continue normally.

Germany has tried encourage working from home amid the coronavirus crisis by offering tax incentives and making it mandatory for employers to allow employees to work remotely whenever possible.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to give homeworkers more rights and benefits

But while experts believe that around half of the country’s workforce could work from home during the pandemic, new figures have emerged showing that less than a third of employees do so today.

In March, investigate by the Munich-based Ifo Institute found that only 31.7 percent of the German workforce currently worked from home part-time or full-time. This is slightly more than in February, when Ifo found that 30.3 percent of the workforce worked in full or partial central office.

Commenting on the figures, Oliver Falck, director of the Ifo Center for Industrial Economics and New Technologies, said there was “a lot of room for improvement”.

“We estimate that about 56 percent of employees could work from home,” he added.

To make matters worse mobility data compiled from Google showed that moving to and from work actually increased February through March, suggesting that while some people have started working from home, others now spend less time in the home office and more time on site.

This despite the increase in coronavirus infections in March, which recorded more than 10,000 new infections per day and the incidence rate of 7 days. more than doubling in the four weeks starting March 2North Dakota to March 30th.

A working factory in Schwedt, Brandenburg. Photo: image alliance / dpa | Christian charisius

“In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the central office could be used much more as a means of social distancing while maintaining the economy,” Falck said. “At the same time, the comparatively low number [of home office workers] shows how important consistent testing is in the workplace. “

‘Very encouraged’ is not a rule

Joe, a software developer living in Berlin, has been working in a crowded office four days a week since starting a new job earlier this year, with no obligation to wear masks. So far, your employer has not offered you a coronavirus test, despite the risks your work environment poses.

“I think it’s crazy that employers are blindly continuing what they have always done,” he said. “And it’s the government’s fault for not making the rules clear – ‘strongly encouraged’ is not a rule. They need to be more firm with business owners, especially when people are being fired or cheated on. Short-term job left and right, and the power of the workers is degrading. “

However, some people have felt more comfortable setting limits with their employers, even when asked to come to their workplace.

READ ALSO: German president urges companies to allow workers to work from home ‘whenever possible’

Alex, 32, who teaches at a Berlin university, says he has been teaching his classes online since the first closure in March 2020. University administrators have asked him and his colleagues to offer some face-to-face classes per semester, but are wary of the risks involved, he told them that he would rather continue teaching from home.

“We have the means to work at home, and when I lead an online class, I don’t think there is a massive detriment to the learning and experience of the students,” he explained. “So why risk infection?”

Warnings, but no fines

In February, a investigation by Buzzfeed and Report Mainz found that regulators were fighting to ensure that companies had put in place adequate measures against coronavirus, such as masks, hand sanitizers and social distancing.

Photo: Picture Alliance / dpa / dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

Of the 50 workplace safety authorities surveyed, 90 percent said they had issued written or verbal warnings to companies that had broken the rules.

Yet despite the warnings, these companies have rarely been fined, and only a few have been asked to close their offices completely.

According to labor authorities, this is largely due to personnel problems, with around three-quarters of authorities saying they did not have enough staff to enforce the rules.

However, there are signs that the federal government could soon take a tougher line on business if the situation continues.

Speaking in the Anne Wille talk show In late March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that if companies did not comply with the government’s suggestions, they would impose new laws that would require more extensive work in the home office and free tests for employees at least twice. per week.

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