Self-determination in the home office as an empty promise


A study by the University of Vienna locates a lack of regulation and a delimitation of working hours.

Self-determination in the home office as an empty promise

For many employees, the self-determined work at home often promised with the home office has not materialized. For them, for example, the working hours themselves are not clearly regulated, and they are regularly contacted outside of the agreed availability.

In some cases, your company can also electronically check when you work, according to a survey carried out by the Institute for Sociology at the University of Vienna in July.

Unlimited working hours

For the study, almost 500 people who worked in the home office from April 2020 were interviewed. A “company-controlled delimitation of working hours” was often identified. 40 percent of those working in the home office, for example, were not clearly communicated by their employers when they should be available.

Almost the same number, namely 41 percent, stated that they were actually contacted regularly outside of the agreed working hours or normal office hours. The same percentage felt obliged to be available outside of the agreed working hours.

Speaking of working hours: for a slim majority, this can be individually designed at least to a certain extent. For 53 percent, a working time or core working time was precisely defined – 83 percent were able to organize at least some of them flexibly. “It can be, for example, that someone has a core working time of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but divides the rest freely,” said sociologist Jörg Flecker to the APA.

Nonetheless, there is a risk of work becoming delimited, i.e. extending beyond clearly defined and limited working hours and beyond clear responsibilities. For 57 percent, the work was spread “from morning to night”. This means that there is no clear and reliable separation between working hours and housework and family time or leisure time for a large number of employees in the home office. There was no significant difference between managers and subordinate workers.

Electronic control

According to the study, “limits of autonomy” are also evident in controls: 81 percent were involved in activities in which the work result counts and less the time worked. 92 percent even decided for themselves how they do their daily work. However, 46 percent of respondents can check their company electronically to see when they are working.

Accordingly, not all respondents were of the opinion that working from home gave them more self-determination. Although 61 percent agreed with this statement, this was not the case for 36 percent.

Missing rules

Based on the results, the researchers identify a need for regulation with regard to working hours, accessibility and control. “Clear agreements are required about when someone can be reached in the home office or not. At the moment we are seeing a clear delimitation of work boundaries, some also feel obliged to be available at all times. More clarity as to what is expected and what not to be available would help, “said Flecker.

The employees received rather little information about the healthy design of their workplace: only around a third stated that they had been provided with information or advised on this. More often there was the opportunity to be supported by a technician from the company in setting up the home office – after all, a little more than half were able to take advantage of this option. Conversely, 47 percent remained without technical support.

Nevertheless, most workers in the home office did not feel left alone by their bosses. 67 percent stated that their superiors or other positions in the company were interested in how they get along in the home office.

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