How digitalized is Germany really? The D21 Initiative’s Digital Index comes to a clear conclusion: definitely more digitalized in 2020 than in 2019, and that is due to the pandemic. A surprising finding is that the digital gap has now mainly opened up between senior management and the employees. And not necessarily in the way you might expect.
Our working lives now have a new rhythm, and the pandemic is setting the tempo. Whenever there were signs of another wave of coronavirus last year, or even this year, it was reflected in the Google trends for the phrase ‘working from home’. In the first week of March 2020, searches for this phrase shot up, before falling back to normal over the summer at virtually the same time as incidence levels dropped, only to shoot up again in the autumn and especially in January of this year.
The findings of the D21 Initiative’s Digital Index are another sign that working from home has become the norm, rather than the exception. Last year, 59 percent of office workers in Germany worked from home at least part of the time, a considerable rise of 29 percent on 2019, with 34 percent of respondents working remotely for the first time. And 38 percent stated that they are more likely to turn their living room, dining room, study, or balcony into a workplace than they used to be.
So far, the figures may not come as a surprise, but it gets more interesting once you delve into the statistics. They show that managers enjoyed working remotely, and used that option more extensively than employees without management responsibility. 51 percent of managers in the survey stated that they work remotely or from home at least part of the time, while the figure for employees was only 26 percent.
Now things get more interesting: only 25 percent of managers surveyed want their employees to continue working from home once the pandemic has subsided and there are no more epidemiological reasons to stay at home, while 75 percent want to see their offices busy again. This shows how the digital gap runs through German companies: on the one hand, there are the managers, who consider mobile working and access to a digital workplace part of being a manager, but who do not want to fully grant this to their employees. On the other, there are the employees, the majority of whom would like to continue working at home at least some of the time in the future.
of employees with office jobs worked at least partially from home in 2020
of employees would also like to be able to spend at least half of their working time from a mobile work in the future
of managers do NOT want their employees to work from home in the future
The Digital Index also provides details about the right balance between working from home and at the office: 23 percent of respondents want to spend around half of their working hours at home, while 28 percent would opt for less than half their working hours. Senior management’s presumed fear of wandering around deserted offices in the future seems to be unfounded, as only 6 percent of office workers in Germany want to work from home (almost) all of the time. This shows that employees in German companies have a keen sense of when being in the office actually benefits productivity, and when it is mere presenteeism.
The right technical equipment contributes a lot to productivity, particularly when working from home, and German companies must be brave enough to invest in it. 49 percent of respondents said their employer provides them with a laptop, 33 percent can also use collaboration tools provided by their employers, and the same percentage have VPN access. These last two areas, in particular, have seen the highest growth. Overall, three-quarters of employees in the digital workplace feel well supported by their company. Almost two-thirds also consider their employers to be a sure-footed guide through the increasingly complex technological landscape of software and hardware, and they feel well equipped by the training courses on offer.
Digitalization means a better quality of life for almost two-thirds of the office workers surveyed, who stated that they were able to better balance their professional and working lives. This may well be the most valuable conclusion from the Digital Index in the long term.