In order to reduce the number of working hours in companies for health protection in the Corona Crisis, a labour scientist is considering extending work to the weekend. “It would be easier for us to carry out work at a distance if the presence working hours could be better distributed between the times of the day and days of the week,” said Dieter Spath, President of the German Academy of Engineering Sciences. “Even the weekend does not have to be taboo in this exceptional situation. This would allow working hours to be equalized and the necessary distance in the companies to be ensured.”
Safety is a prerequisite for good work and economic performance, Spath said. “As long as there is no vaccine against coronavirus, we must therefore remain at a distance in the factories and adjust the organisation of work accordingly.” The number of employees in a room had to be reduced by distance in time and space. “This can be done via more flexible presence working hours in changing shifts or also by dodging empty rooms – all of course only in this exceptional situation.”
Companies and employees would have to find individual, good, creative solutions together. “A lot is already happening in companies in this direction,” said Spath, who is also head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Labour Economics and Organisation in Stuttgart.
Dampers for future business trips
In line with the push for equalization of working hours, the FDP has also called for a permanent modernisation of the Working Time Act. “Finally to tackle the legal framework for home office and mobile work is overdue,” Johannes Vogel, spokesman for the Bundestag group on labour market policy, told Handelsblatt. The crisis shows that many things are going on that were supposedly not possible before.
At the weekend, Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) had already proposed that a right to work be enshrined in law from home. “I am working on a new law for a right to a home office, which I will present by the autumn. Anyone who wants and allows the workplace should be able to work in the home office – even if the Corona pandemic is over again,” Heil said “Bild am Sonntag”. According to Vogel, the two issues, home office and working time law, belong together.
According to researcher Spath, the crisis will also change the way people work. “Many have now reduced reservations about videoconferencing and other communication opportunities. Many will consider which trips are really necessary, so whether we will not reduce business trips to dates where the online meeting is not an alternative, even after the crisis. This saves time, money and makes ecological sense.”
“During the crisis, we recognised the importance of developing digital infrastructure and the urgent need for us to move forward here,” said the labour scientist. “We notice that companies, schools or even authorities that have invested more in digitalisation in the past are more resilient, i.e. more resilient, in the crisis. We need to do more, even after the crisis.”