ZEW Podcast with Daniel Erdsiek
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of lasting changes in both personal and professional life. During the lockdowns many people were forced to stay at home and had to accomplish their work remotely instead of going into the office every day as it was before. Since then, the pandemic has turned working from work into an integral part of the modern workplace. But what are the actual advantages and disadvantages to this new style of work? And what kind of work-from-work models are feasible for companies and employees also in future? In the ZEW podcast, Dr. Daniel Erdsiek, researcher in the ZEW Research Unit “Digital Economy”, explains how companies can successfully navigate the challenges of working from home and how employees can profit from it as well.
Work-from-home arrangements have gone down well with employees, as Erdsiek explains: “It has worked out very nicely for most of the workforce. We know this from a variety of findings – from Germany, but also internationally.” According to Erdsiek, the biggest advantage for many workers is the “ability to achieve a balance between work and private life.” Quickly vacuuming the living room between meetings or throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine – before the pandemic, these are things that otherwise would have needed to wait until the work day was over.
Possible dissolution of boundaries between work and free time
But of course, working from home also has its drawbacks. Unlike before, when leaving the office meant the work day was over, work laptops may sometimes stay open longer at home. This leads to the risk that workers could struggle more with logging off, choosing to dedicate their evenings to work instead of to their private lives. As Erdsiek explains, it is psychologically proven that getting away from work is important for rest and recovery. Therefore, those working from home need to have “self-discipline in two directions: getting motivated to do work, but also being able to take breaks and knowing when to log off for the day.”
Productivity when working from home
In one of his studies, Erdsiek demonstrates that companies are more likely to offer a work-from-home arrangement if they have a positive perception of the productivity of their remote employees. The results come from a survey of around 800 companies in the information economy between 2020 and 2022. More than one in three companies developed more positive assessments of work-from-home productivity during the pandemic. The experiences of the past few years have led to the dismantling of excessively pessimistic expectations and biases, which could be the reason that pandemic-related increase in working from home will also persist in the long term.