Telework (Home-Office)

As part of the research on the “Future of Work”, the research at the Schöller Endowed Chair for Information Systems also deals with the topic of teleworking (Home-Office). Since the oil crisis in the 1970s, there has been a debate about whether there are advantages for employers and employees if the latter do their work from home. In the 1970s, the main issue was to reduce commuting to work and thus to save oil.

In the last 50 years, this has evolved into a vivid discussion: Technological developments such as the PC, the Internet, laptops, tablets, cell phones have created more and more opportunities for work to be done from home or another location (e.g., the downtown coffee shop). Information and communication technology is a prerequisite for the success of this distributed work. Thus, it is not surprising that technology companies are often cited as examples of how well this form of working works. And in open-source software development, too, the technology world shows how software can be successfully developed and refined in geographically distributed teams, some of which work together purely online. So, it is not surprising that telecommuting or home office is increasingly on the agenda of other companies, and decision makers are considering how to make the right work mix between office work in a presence and telecommuting in a home office or other location.

The Corona pandemic and esp. the first lockdown in March/April 2020 has brought a lot of attention to the topic in companies, politics, and the general public. Without teleworking (Home-Office) many challenges in the context of the pandemic would not have been manageable. During this time, many companies and employees quickly learned or had to learn how collaboration in teams and projects can be successfully designed virtually. However, there were also challenges that had to be overcome.

These challenges are not new. Companies such as IBM, Yahoo, Best Buy, and Bank of America began reducing or eliminating telecommuting (home office) opportunities in their organizations a few years ago¹. It was noticed that too much telecommuting has a negative impact on innovation and creativity and other aspects that are important for successful collaboration.

In our research, we contribute to a better theoretical understanding of the mechanisms of why and how benefits of telecommuting (home office) can be realized. We focus on what are the causes of negative consequences, and how companies and their employees can find the right mode to successfully implement telecommuting (home office) as part of their respective work modes in this span of advantages and disadvantages of telework (home office).

In our study series Recruiting Trends, which is published by the Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (CHRIS) – Prof. Dr. Sven Laumer is its Vice-President – shows, among other things, that four out of ten members of Generation Z would reject a job offer if there is no home office option. This means that from an employer branding point of view, home office is an important offer that companies need to make to their employees in order to retain them.

However, our research also shows the challenges we are facing: For example, in the Recruiting Trends 2015, 75% of the 1,000 largest companies from Germany said that home office creates new challenges for collaboration within the company. Employees in companies also saw challenges such as the blurring of boundaries between work and family, fewer social contacts, or even declining career opportunities (see Recruiting Trends 2015). Among other things, these challenges also lead to a sense of stress, both for employees in the home office (see Weinert et al. 2014, 2015), but also to challenges and frustration for those who (have to) continue working in the classic office (see Maier et al. 2018). Here, it can even lead to envy of those who have the chance to work in the home office due to their task or the respective opportunities.

In our current work, we want to contribute to a discussion in academia, politics, and the general public about the importance of the place “office” in the future and how the challenges of the “home office” can be well designed. These findings should also be taken into account when considering whether there should be a right to work from home for employees in companies. The discussions and the results of the pre-Corona period suggest that the place “office” will continue to be of great importance. However, the experiences during Corona also show that many positive experiences could be made in the home office and in virtual working settings. Depending on the task and industry, it depends on the right mix of office and teleworking, so no general recommendation can be made for one or the other. The characteristics and challenges of the respective context must also be considered here. The current research work of the Schöller Endowed Chair is therefore dedicated to these questions to be able to make further contributions to the discussion on how teleworking (home office) can successfully become or remain a part of the working reality in companies.

Prof. Dr. Sven Laumer presented the results of the chair’s research as well as initial findings and hypotheses on the post-Corona era in his talk “Successfully working from home: Theories, empirical Studies, and hypotheses on the post-corona era” and these are currently being deepened in further contributions and studies.

In our teaching, the topic of “Telework (Home-Office)” is addressed in our Bachelor course “Enterprise Content and Collaboration Management” as well as in our Master course “Enterprise Knowledge Management“. Both courses address theories, models and technologies on how collaboration can be successfully organized in companies.

 

Selected publications

Selected talks

  • Erfolgreiches Arbeiten im Home-Office: Theorien, empirische Studien und Hypothesen zur Post-Corona-Zeit

 

¹ https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-ATWORKB-750
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-boss-wants-you-back-in-the-office-1500975001
https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2017/10/12/why-ibm-brought-remote-workers-back-to-the-office-and-why-your-company-might-be-next/