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‘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?

'Home office': Will the pandemic change the way Switzerland works?
Will you work from home more often as a result of the pandemic? Photo by Ken Tomita from Pexels

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. 

IN DETAIL: What are Switzerland’s new relaxed coronavirus measures?

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.

READ MORE: A refresher on Swiss office culture to make sure you fit in

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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Switzerland has made reciprocal agreements regarding working holiday visas with several countries. Here's what you need to know.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Over the past few decades, countries around the globe have rolled out ‘working holiday visa’ agreements.

These visa schemes, largely targeted at young people, allow people to work and live in a particular country, usually for a set period of time and pursuant to certain conditions.

In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its own form of a ‘working holiday visa’, although there are some important differences to be aware of.

Unlike some of the better known schemes like those in place in Australia, applicants are discouraged from moving around and are generally required to stay with the one employer for the duration.

The goal of the visa scheme is to allow applicants to “expand their occupational and linguistic skills in Switzerland”.

The visa scheme runs for 18 months and cannot be extended.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

The agreements are made between countries, meaning your fate will depend on whether your government has at some point struck a deal with Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

If you are from the European Union or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), then you will be able to live and work in Switzerland as is – and will not need to go through this process.

If you come from outside the EU, you will only be able to apply for this visa if you are a citizen of the following countries:

Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.

What does ‘reciprocal’ mean in this context? 

Where these agreements have been struck, they have entitled citizens of both countries to certain rights and permissions in the other country. 

However, while these arrangements might be reciprocal, they are not identical. 

For instance, while citizens of Australia can enter Switzerland and work, the rules for Swiss citizens in Australia are significantly different. 

Therefore, if considering each program, be sure to study all of the relevant details as these will change from country to country and from agreement to agreement. 

More information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland

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