In a joint study, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the German Association for Human Resource Management (DGFP) analyzed the impact and experience of virtual forms of working during the coronavirus pandemic along with the opportunities this brings. Over 500 companies took part in the survey. The study investigated changes in work organization, the management of customer contacts and the technical challenges facing employees and companies. It also focused on companies’ assessment of how things might continue in this “new normal” and on the technical, cultural and management changes that this will necessitate.
“The results are impressive,” says study director Dr. Josephine Hofmann from Fraunhofer IAO. “We’re in the midst of a large-scale, nationwide experiment in the digitalization of work and teamwork, which is all taking place at a speed that until recently would have been unthinkable. What I find really remarkable is just how quick and agile companies have been in their response, and how they’ve had the courage to rapidly adopt new practices, even if that was a necessity.”
Almost 70 percent working from home – the “new normal” in the age of the coronavirus
In particular, the speed and the extent to which remote working has been introduced have been high. Almost 70 percent of companies surveyed said their entire workforce was working from home during the first phase of the corona pandemic. Some 21 percent of respondents opted for a 50:50 split between working from home and at the workplace. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the share of people working from home was significantly lower. Similarly, business trips and customer events have been largely replaced with online, digital equivalents. The same applies to centralized human resources processes, which in the past were almost exclusively carried out face to face – e.g., interviews with job applicants or new recruits. Of the companies surveyed, 57 percent said it was the first time they had held such interviews on a virtual basis. For employee reviews, the proportion was 62 percent; and for customer dialog, 72 percent. “These figures really do show what a huge influence the coronavirus has had not only in the area of interpersonal relationships but also in the business world. It has meant a massive boost for the process of digital transformation in work processes,” explains Kai Helfritz from DGFP. “In the ‘new normal’ – or the ‘new different’ – we are going to see much greater coexistence of virtual and office-based forms of work and teamwork,” Hofmann adds.
Of those surveyed, 47 percent confirmed that management, in particular, had lowered its reservations. As expected, the study also revealed clear potential for improvement in areas such as managing employees at a distance, managing employees in the absence of formal boundaries, and handling technical issues such as digital signatures. The results of the study show that working and teamworking processes can be made virtual to a much greater degree than was previously assumed.
The study is now available for download free of charge. In addition, Fraunhofer IAO can conduct a survey for individual companies or organizations. Our researchers then ask employees and managers for their assessment and evaluate the results according to the strategic planning requirements of the company or organization in question. In the event of interest, please contact Dr. Josephine Hofmann.