“A lab technician working from home? How’s that possible?” Holger Franzke is happy to answer this question. He is among the Bayer employees participating in an experiment that aims to establish whether this kind of flexible working can be suitable for laboratory staff, too.
Out of bed, under the shower, then it’s time to organize breakfast. For Holger Franzke, this involves getting out a lovely porcelain teapot his boss and co-workers gave him for his 50th birthday. He loves drinking tea, even while he’s working. As a chemical lab technician he is adept with liquids, filters and vessels – pouring the perfect cup of tea therefore comes easily. With that done, he takes his tray to the next room – his living room and workplace.
Of course, Franzke doesn’t have a laboratory at home. He doesn’t even have a chemistry set in his hobby room. His experimenting still takes place in the research center at Bayer’s Wuppertal site. However, the lab technician has recently had the option of writing up these experiments on his computer at home.
Franzke primarily uses the mobile working option when it “makes particular sense”. “There are plenty of advantages,” he says. You don’t have to fight your way through the rush hour. You’re at home to let tradespeople in before lunch. You can briefly drop in on your elderly parents in the afternoon, then finish off the evaluation in the evening. All good.
This freedom to decide when to do what is just one of the benefits, Franzke says: “There are some jobs that require me to focus my full attention on the screen. That’s when I take advantage of the peace and quiet within my own four walls.” There are fewer distractions, especially since he’s not sharing the room with six other lab technicians all busy conducting their own experiments. “However, you do have to possess a certain degree of self-discipline and time management to ensure the working processes run smoothly at home, too,” he adds.
We are acting as pioneers, and have the chance to be right at the forefront,
He is one of a group of 40 volunteer test subjects who are trying out this contemporary model of flexible working at the Institute of Medicinal Chemistry at Bayer’s Aprath site. What makes this a little different is that they are all laboratory staff. The whole working from home issue had previously entirely passed this particular group by. This situation is now set to change. “We are acting as pioneers, and have the chance to be right at the forefront of this development,” says Helmut Haning, who is head of the Institute. Yet the proposed innovations were initially met with a certain degree of skepticism. “Plants, supervisors and even co-workers often have a rather old-fashioned idea of work organization. Companies are frequently dominated by a culture of attendance and control.” For example, when Haning looked out over his audience at the first information event, he saw many critical, dubious faces – among staff and supervisors alike. How does collaboration work? How do you record your working time? What about data privacy? How do you separate work and private life? Questions upon questions.
Flexible Models At Bayer
There are two different flexible working models at Bayer.
Mobile working is more commonly referred to as “working from home”. This involves occasional mobile working, where agreement is reached with your supervisor that you will complete tasks outside your company workplace – from home, for example, or from your hotel room when you are on a business trip, or any other suitable place. No additional written agreement is required for mobile working.
Teleworking means some work is regularly scheduled to be completed at home, with employees working from home one or more days a week and coming in to their company workplace on the other days. Teleworking is regulated through a supplementary agreement to the employment contract.
The “Working well at Bayer. Healthy. Happy. Successful.” initiative was launched by the Works Council and HR Germany in late 2017. The initiative brings together employees from various sites to share their thoughts and put forward ideas for “Working well at Bayer” as part of a series of workshops. Based on these ideas, Bayer will initiate and implement concrete measures that benefit employees in their day-to-day work.
The doubts have now been allayed, and the feedback is outstanding. Other Bayer AG departments and sites have also been inspired. A similar model is soon to be launched in Berlin. The Group is even talking about innovative and flexible working time models for production workers on rotating shifts.
Excellent conditions that promote a better work-life balance are not only good for employees. The company benefits, too. Firstly, more satisfied employees are also more productive, and secondly, offering these conditions provides an extra edge on the labor market. “Demographic change is causing a shortage of skilled workers,” says Dr. Hartmut Klusik, former Bayer Labor Director. In competing for employees, companies have to show themselves to be attractive employers, he explains, adding, “If you have nothing to offer on that score, you’ve already lost when it comes to young people.”
Tips For Organizing Your Working Day At Home
Many employees dream of having the chance to use mobile working. No more commuting, no more traffic jams, no more overcrowded trains – more freedom, more self-determination, less environmental impact and more relaxation. Sound like paradise at work? Not necessarily – there are lots of things to look out for.
- Supervisors and staff should discuss decisions regarding working from home openly and transparently. This prevents dissatisfaction and jealousy in the team.
- Working from home is not for everyone. Some people will miss the social contact, while others struggle to get themselves organized. Simply give it a go.
- The technology also has to work perfectly, including guaranteeing the requisite level of data privacy.
- You must adhere to the Working Time Act. Your working time should be documented.
- Ensure working from home doesn’t become a double load of “family and career”.