Remote working is seen by politicians as a way to reduce the environmental impact of transport. Depending on the company or industry, the terms home office or teleworking are used. However, in order for home working to be a success for employers and employees, some points need to be considered – organisationally as well as legally and in terms of communication.

  1. what forms of home-based work are there?

Not every profession or job description is suitable for working from home. For example, if you work in production, in the trades or in stationary trade, working from home is only an option if you do office work. And even then, it must be examined which form of working from home is most suitable. In essence, there are three different forms:

  1. Telecommuting: In this form of home-based work, employees do their work exclusively from home and do not have to come to the company. In this case, entrepreneurs must observe most of the regulations, for example on the design of home workplaces and data protection.
  2. Alternating teleworking: In this form of home-based work, employees can work both from home and in the company. This form of remote work is the most widespread in practice because it brings advantages for both sides. For example, communication between employees is also improved because, in contrast to the first variant, it also enables personal contacts “face to face”.
  3. Mobile teleworking: This variant, which was rather less noticed some time ago, is becoming more popular or more frequently used. This form of remote work is particularly suitable for employees who are on the road a lot and are often in different places, e.g. if employees work in sales or in field service. Self-employed workers with changing clients are also increasingly using this form of telework.

The organisational and legal requirements for companies are usually lower for the latter two forms of remote work.

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home?

At first glance, working from home has only advantages for everyone involved. However, there are also a few aspects that can have a negative impact and that those involved should be aware of.

  1. Advantages
  • In principle, working from home offers the possibility of deploying employees more flexibly (depending on the organisation or the working hours).
  • Better compatibility of work and family.
  • Minimised transmission of illnesses, reduced costs and downtime.
  • Less disruption from colleagues.
  • No travelling time, time saving, immediate productive work possible.
  • Better utilisation of creative phases.
  • More personal responsibility and consequently higher motivation.
  • Elimination or reduction of space shortages. If, for example, more employees have to be recruited and there is no more space available in the company, “switching” some employees to their own rooms can help to save costs and avoid bottlenecks.
  • Saving running costs, e.g. if coffee or similar is provided in the company, possibly also saving office space and costs (in the case of teleworking).
  1. Disadvantages
  • Less contact with colleagues, possible risk of social “loneliness”.
  • Not all people can organise their time themselves or separate private and professional matters well.
  • Risk of distraction at home, e.g. by children or friends.
  • In the case of home workers with poor organisation, it is often not possible to have a proper end to the working day.
  • In case of technical or other problems, quick help is often not possible, risk of longer downtimes increases.
  • Not suitable for all professions.
  • Need for explanation (“Why does this work for colleague X and not for me?”).
  • In the case of teleworking, the employer usually incurs costs for setting up an additional workplace, including possible investments and installation of lines or WLAN. Costs for data security, for example, are often higher if additional hardware is required.

  1. what are the requirements for working from home?

If employees are to or want to use telework, various requirements must be met. These are described below.

3.1 Equipment of the home office

Above all, teleworking at home only works if the employer provides the employee with an appropriately equipped workplace. A small corner or a space in the passageway between two rooms is usually not enough. It is better if there is a completely separate and, if possible, lockable room. The room or office itself must of course be provided by the employee. However, employers may require that the room be secured and that a safe or other device be installed, for example, if sensitive data must be protected from unauthorised access.

However, employers must always provide their employees with a workspace and must comply with the conditions of the Workplace Ordinance and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. For example, legal requirements regarding room size, lighting, ergonomics or room temperature must be observed. Incidentally, the employer has the right to enter the home or office for inspection purposes. However, this must not be done unannounced; a “reasonable” period of notice must be agreed.

Practical advice: Please note: If employees only work at home from time to time, the requirements of occupational safety and health do not usually apply. Both parties must agree as precisely as possible which equipment is required and, if necessary, must be provided, e.g. computer, smartphone, table, chair or cupboards, so that there are no misunderstandings. For the employer, it is usually irrelevant whether he sets up an office for an employee in the company or at the employee’s home; at least if he can use the office for other purposes and does not have to set up duplicate structures.

3.2 Working hours

An important aspect is the consideration of the country’s Working Hours Act. As in the office, employees in Germany, for example, are generally only allowed to work up to 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. In times when there is a lot of work to be done and overtime becomes necessary, up to 10 hours per day may be allowed as an exception. In this case, however, compensation is due from the company within 6 months. In principle, care should be taken to agree on the working hours as precisely as possible in advance, also for working from home.

  • Compliance with break times

The topic of working time also includes compliance with prescribed rest periods and breaks.

After a working time of 6 hours at the latest, a break of at least 30 minutes is due. If the working time (exceptionally) exceeds 9 hours, the break time is extended to at least 45 minutes.

Last but not least, care must be taken to ensure that there is a rest period of at least 11 hours between the end of the working day and the start of work on the following day. However, there are exceptions to this rule as well: If a rest period of 11 hours is not possible, for example because urgent work must be completed, the rest period is extended to 12 hours on another day, whereby the compensation must be made within 4 weeks.

Practical advice: During break times, employees do not have to be available for their employer. It is advisable either to agree on fixed break times or to make an arrangement in which employees inform the employer in advance, e.g. by e-mail, from when to when they will be taking a break.

  • Capture and document times

Employers must document employees’ working hours and break times. How the documentation is to be done is not precisely regulated by law. The parties involved must agree on a way. The actual recording is usually assigned to the employees, and they must take action themselves. Manual or fully digitalized records are possible options. Employers should always keep an eye on case law. Changes may have to be made, which often have to be implemented within certain deadlines in order to avoid fines or other penalties.

Practical advice: Particularly in small companies with only a few employees, manual recording via paper forms should be chosen despite digital recording options. This is usually the easiest to implement in the working world, even though there are now numerous technical options. It is also important that the documentation is kept for at least two years.

  • Liability for occupational accidents

Accidents or injuries during working hours at home at the place of work (office room of the home worker) are basically covered by the statutory accident insurance. In most cases, other places or routes at home are not insured, for example if the employee injures himself on the way to the toilet.

At work, the situation is different: The way to the toilet (to stay with this example) is insured here because the employer can act on possible risks. For example, he can ensure that the path is not blocked with furniture or other objects. The employer does not have this “right of intervention” on the employee’s premises. For this reason, liability does not generally apply here.

  • Adjustments in the employment contract are reasonable

There is no legal entitlement to a home office in Germany. Both sides must come to an agreement in order to be able to implement home working. However, complete employment contracts do not have to be adapted. Instead, a supplementary agreement in the contract is sufficient. This supplementary agreement should regulate the following points, among others:

Checklist: Regulations in the supplementary agreement for working from home

  • Working time to be worked per week or month in the office or at home.
  • Agreement on core working hours, e.g. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Agreement on fixed home working days or flexible coordination with the employer.
  • Regulation that employees must appear at the company at certain times despite working from home, e.g. when team meetings or other meetings are scheduled.
  • Regulations on accessibility, e.g. smartphone, e-mail, inter/intranet.
  • Type and scope and timeliness of documentation of work and break times.
  • Design of the workplace, regulation of secure use of IT (incl. access and authorization concept, if applicable, and clarification of cost absorption).
  • Clarification of which work equipment is provided, e.g. PC and smartphone, and clause for possible (or not possible) private use.
  • Regulation on the right of access to the home, e.g. for control purposes and agreement on notice periods.

Practical advice: Although it is not mandatory for home office agreements to be in writing, it should be preferred in order to avoid misunderstandings and ambiguities, for example, and to create genuine legal certainty for both parties.

All information and details in our articles and information have been compiled to the best of our knowledge. However, they are provided without liability. This information cannot replace individual advice in specific cases.

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