'Home office': Will the pandemic change the way Switzerland works?
The Federal Council announced on Wednesday that Switzerland’s employees can return to their offices, as teleworking is no longer obligatory. But will companies allow employees to continue working from home, and will workers want to?
Among the new relaxed measures that Switzerland announced on Wednesday due to a good epidemiological situation, working from home will no longer be an obligation, though the government recommends it where possible.
Mandatory testing schemes in the workplace have also been dropped.
After months of being merely a strong recommendation, 'home office' — as it is called in the Swiss-German part of Switzerland — became compulsory on January 18th 2021.
This measure was taken to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Since that time, 27.3 percent of employees worked from home full time, with over a third teleworking at least some of the time, according to government figures.
This was especially the case in professions that can be done remotely —such as in finance, insurance or consulting — rather than those which require on-site presence, like health care or manufacturing of essential goods.
Given that teleworking has become somewhat of a trend during the pandemic, “it is necessary to take a look at the extent to which teleworking has become popular in the long term”, Fredy Greuter, spokesperson for the Swiss Employers Association (SAV), told The Local.
He said that in some cases, home work “can improve the motivation and job satisfaction of employees and strengthen the attractiveness of the employer”.
However, this is not always the case, he noted.
International studies show that productivity of home office is no better than that of working on-site.
“This is not surprising, because people are social beings who often perform better in a team than alone”.
This is demonstrated in a recent study by Deloitte Switzerland, which asked participants about the challenges they are facing while working from home.
“Unsurprisingly, almost half of all respondents see a lack of personal interactions with colleagues and clients as one of their biggest challenges – about 20 percent even worry about their mental well-being as they often feel isolated when working from home”, the study found.
Other challenges include not having a designated workspace at home and being distracted by family members (16 percent).
So will teleworking remain an option in Switzerland even after the end of the pandemic?
“Where home office is possible, this form of work may become even more firmly established as a fixed option”, Greuter said.
Whether this will actually happen depends on several factors, such as if companies across various industries are ready and willing to shift their staff to the remote work to cut office space and other costs.
The SAV doesn’t expect it to happen on a large scale, Greuter said.
However, at the political level, the association supports a parliamentary initiative to allow more creative freedom when working from home.