On the move

The obligation to be present versus flexibility

In Germany, working from home is once again becoming a thing of the past. In Switzerland, the trend is moving in the opposite direction. The reason: different corporate cultures and the local lack of qualified employees.

Claudia Bardola

German companies are calling those who work from home back into the office – this is the conclusion that the German Institute for Economic Research has come to. For example, the proportion of employees who regularly work from home has decreased massively and, at eight per cent, is now at the same level as around twenty years ago. The authors of the study surmise that this is due to the corporate culture, which is characterised in our northern neighbouring country by enforced presence for employees and control mania among the management.


Meanwhile, here in Switzerland presence is not equated with performance: “When it comes to working from home, Switzerland is in the top third in a European comparison. Up to 25 per cent of employees regularly perform their job from home,” says occupational and organisational psychologist Johann Weichbrodt, who conducts research into flexible working models, among other things, at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland.


More productive and attractive thanks to flexible working

Weichbrodt headed this year’s FlexWork Study, in which Swiss companies were asked about their working flexibility with regard to location and time. According to this, more than half of companies from the knowledge-intensive services sector – the largest industry group in Switzerland – have largely established flexible working or are in a corresponding transition phase.


Weichbrodt is not surprised by the high proportion: “Flexible working models with the opportunity to work from home are a key recruiting argument in the face of the lack of qualified personnel.” In addition, this way businesses can save office space, help the environment by reducing commuter traffic and are also better able to meet the requirements of a globalised economy. Research also shows that employees working from home are up to 15 per cent more productive.


Companies want to continue accelerating

Weichbrodt does not believe that the negative trend in Germany when it comes to working from home could spill over into Switzerland in the medium term: “We see no signs of this. Quite the opposite – according to our study, a majority of corporate businesses are planning definite expansion over the next few years when it comes to working flexibility.” In particular when it comes to company regulations as well as HR measures, corporate businesses want and need to catch up – according to the study, just about a quarter has found a policy that is satisfactory for all concerned.

«Flexible working models with the opportunity to work from home are a key recruiting argument in the face of the lack of qualified personnel.»

Johann Weichbrodt

“In general there is still significant potential when it comes to flexible working,” says Weichbrodt. At the same time, he maintains: “Not every company has to be super flexible. An optimal fit is far more important.” A company needs to find its own pace and, in doing so, ensure that the individual dimensions, such as technology, management culture and regulations develop in harmony, as far as possible.


For those companies that are just starting out here, the expert has the following advice: “Flexible working models do not work perfectly overnight. It is important to allow for inequalities at first, and a certain amount of chaos is certainly part of the learning process.”


On 27 May 2014, experts from business and science discussed the topic of “new forms of working – new management culture” (in German).

Recording of webinar


Switzerland on the road to greater productivity and quality of life: is your company fit for flexible forms of working? (in German)

White paper to help you get started

Companies and employees can equip themselves for working from home with checklists. (in German and French)

Tips and Tricks

What potential does flexible working provide? Calculate the working hours, data volume and kilometres for your company.

Working hours calculator

Johann Weichbrodt

Dr. Johann Weichbrodt is an occupational and organisational psychologist. He is an associate lecturer for qualitative research methods and research assistant at the School of Applied Sciences of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland

(FHNW). His research interests include home office and flexible work models.