Why Switzerland’s work-from-home obligation is not working

Despite an obligation to work from home for more than a month, there has been no net decrease in mobility. Why?

Why Switzerland’s work-from-home obligation is not working
Has the working from home obligation changed your habits? Photo by Marc Mueller from Pexels

On January 18th, Switzerland put in place an obligation to work from home. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland's new working from home obligation? 

The rules require everyone who can work from home to do so all across Switzerland.

In practice however, there has been little change in mobility, a new study has found. 

The study, by the ETH Zurich and the University of Basel, found that mobility is much higher than in the first wave of the pandemic. 

“A significant decline like that after the first lockdown is currently not in evidence,” the authors write. 

A consequence of the working from home obligation is that people now have more time, which they are using to go outdoors or even to the mountains. 

“People on short-time work actually travel a little more than the others. People working from home travel less than those who have to drive to their workplaces. However, the difference is not as great as one would expect,” the authors write. 

The researchers did however find that the other aspects of Switzerland’s coronavirus lockdown – including the closure of bars, restaurants, shops and cultural facilities has had an impact in reducing mobility. 

There has also been a downward trend in public transport usage, with levels at between 40 and 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. 

Bicycle use – which increased during the first wave of the pandemic – has also fallen slightly, although the authors believe this to be due to the cold weather. 

Cycling has grown in popularity considerably since the start of the pandemic, with some manufacturers warning that Switzerland may run out of bikes. 

READ MORE: Why Switzerland is running out of bicycles 


Member comments

  1. Think the title is misleading. If home workers are still mobile to go to the mountains or their bikes, they are still not sitting in closed office spaces hence contributing to transmission.
    So home office obligation not working against what?

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Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here.