If you ask around your circle of friends, you quickly get the feeling that the majority of your friends are working from the comfort of their own homes – at least every now and then. No wonder. In the age of digitalization, companies are relying increasingly on flexible working arrangements such as the often-mentioned home office arrangement. In many companies the previous norm, the presence culture, is becoming increasingly less important.
However, the term home office is used incorrectly in most cases. In the following interview, Mareike Kaczorowski explains what home office actually means and outlines why MailStore bucks the trend and focuses on a presence culture, without sacrificing flexibility and mobile working in the process. Mareike is responsible for the HR department, among other things, as Office Manager at MailStore and can draw on a wide range of experience from her time at other companies such as Daimler.
Mareike, first of all, everyone refers to “home office”, but that’s not quite right, is it?
“That’s correct. Legally speaking, the term home office doesn’t exist in Germany. The German Employees’ Statute, which seems pretty outdated these days, instead refers to ‘teleworking,’ or in this case ‘home-based telework.’ This means that the employee performs their tasks while working from home. Teleworking is covered by the German Workplace Ordinance (Arbeitsstättenverordnung), and it includes all the related consequences for occupational safety and data protection. That means the employer is also obliged to comply with occupational safety and data protection laws for their employees working from home. Working at the kitchen table or on the sofa, while the kids are playing in the same room? From a legal point of view, that’s not permitted with teleworking as it means the employer cannot comply with their data protection regulations, for example. To be able to fulfill the regulations and to ensure third parties cannot access the workstation, the employee needs a lockable room in their house that might have to be furnished by the employer. Anyone doing teleworking also has to be aware that the boss or an occupational safety specialist might turn up on their doorstop at any time to carry out inspections. On top of that, you have to keep in mind that the landlord may even forbid living areas being used for commercial purposes. With this knowledge the question quickly becomes do I, as an employee, really want to work in a home office and subject my private environment to measures defined by my employer?”
There does seem to be an alternative to this home office or teleworking concept seeing as a lot of people work from home now. What is it?
“Yes, there is. What most people colloquially refer to as home office is defined as ‘mobile working’ from a legal perspective. This typically means working at varying locations rather than exclusively from home. Mobile working isn’t legally covered by the German Workplace Ordinance, which gives the employer and employee a much greater degree of freedom. But of course, data protection and occupational safety still need to be ensured. These are defined in individually agreed working rules between the employer and employee.”
So we’ve just learned that many companies aren’t increasingly using home office at all, but instead mobile working. Then why does MailStore buck the trend and focus on a presence culture? Isn’t that approach somewhat outdated in the age of digitalization, especially in the IT industry?
“At MailStore, we work with agile methods and with the Kanban method across the board. Our way of working sets itself apart with short paths and very immediate discussions amongst ourselves with which we ensure uncomplicated coordination between and within the departments. Personal interaction and personal appreciation are very important to us. In our eyes, this can only be achieved when employees show up for work in the office on a regular basis. These issues have never been as relevant as they are today in the age of digitalization.”
Are there any other benefits to the presence culture?
“You can only build up and maintain an appreciative and close corporate culture if the employees are in the office. Meetings and the regular stand-ups that are part of the Kanban method also become simpler when everyone is physically present. There is no technology in the world that can completely replace a face-to-face conversation. We also hear time and again in interviews that applicants place a lot of importance on personal interaction. A great team with an equally great corporate culture is sometimes even more important than the salary.”
Does that mean then that MailStore is completely ruling out mobile working?
“No, mobile working is still possible with us in consultation, provided it makes operational sense. For example, if an employee needs some peace to record a video or really concentrate on a complicated issue, they can discuss with their line manager when they can work from home to perform these tasks.”
What else is MailStore doing for its employees’ work-life balance?
We’ve noticed at MailStore that in most cases employees aren’t too keen on mobile working, and would instead prefer plain and simple flexibility. That’s why we offer our employees flexible working hours, which we also actually implement without the bureaucracy. We have a ‘come in when you want’ rule – operational requirements permitting – with the exception of meetings and telephone availability, which is a necessity in certain departments. We have some colleagues who start at 7:30 a.m., while others don’t arrive until 10:00 a.m. It’s also no problem if you have craftsmen coming to your home between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Thanks to the flexitime account you can simply arrive at work at 1:00 p.m.
Our employees also point out time and again how great the atmosphere is at MailStore. You’re not a number here, you’re a real and appreciated part of the MailStore family. After work, you can also take part in an in-house MailStore soccer tournament. Another benefit is our location in the beautiful Lower Rhine region. Our workplace isn’t plagued by commuter traffic, making the morning search for a parking space hassle-free. If you want, you can spend your break by taking a walk through the local recreation area on the river Niers, a tributary to the river Maas, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the office. Although we love being internationally active at MailStore, we’re equally as rooted in our local area – we work where we live.
If you want to take a deeper look into the day-to-day work at MailStore, then have a look at our ‘I am MailStore, because…’ blog series in which some of our colleagues tell us what they like about MailStore and why they love being a part of the MailStore family: