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80 percent work at home: Bonn authorities and ministries have arrived at the home office

80 percent work at home : Bonn authorities and ministries have arrived at the home office

City, ministries and other authorities have arrived at the home office. Even 15 percent of Bonn's police officers work at home. There is still room for improvement, especially in technical terms.

Empty corridors, deserted offices and cold canteens: this has been the situation in most public authorities and companies in the service sector for many weeks. The tightening of the Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance two weeks ago has further intensified the trend towards home working in Bonn offices.

For example, at the city administration, where 685 employees already made use of the teleworking option "before Corona", by the beginning of January, this had grown to 1,757 employees who regularly make use of telecommuting - most of them, incidentally, using private devices, as permitted by a service agreement. In total, nearly 3,000 municipal employees recently had a "virtualised workplace" that can also be used from home. Naturally, teleworking is open to all those whose work can be done in a home office. For janitors, firefighters, educators and senior citizens' caregivers, things look more difficult. Regarding the technical infrastructure, a spokesperson says, "Of course, the systems had to grow quickly, and so things 'go bump' now and then, especially when a large number of employees are working at the same time."

However, the infrastructure is constantly being expanded within the limits of the available budget - for example, in the form of mobile workstations that replace the stationary computers and are then also always suitable for home offices. This is also a central concern of the Staff Council. "From our point of view, the goal should be to provide colleagues with standardised equipment by the employer by default," the body said in a recent circular. "At the city administration, as in many cities, there is a digital renovation backlog," says staff council chairman Christoph Busch, adding, "From our point of view, we are already achieving a great deal with the existing technical and personnel know-how, but are increasingly reaching our limits." However, Busch also sees room for improvement in the mentality of some employees - according to the motto: If you're not in the office, you're not working: "Some managers," he says, "find it difficult to manage at a distance.

The Stadtwerke currently estimates that around one-third of its 2,300 employees work from home. "Entire departments are currently working from home," says Jürgen Winterwerp, head of communications. However, he adds, there are numerous activities, particularly in the areas of responsibility of an energy supplier and transport company, that cannot be carried out from the home office at all. Here, says Winterwerp, the company not only implements hygiene regulations, but has also adapted shift schedules to avoid contacts.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), on the other hand, reports the possibility of almost comprehensive home offices: "At present, the percentage of staff present is in the low double digits," and telephone and video conferences are the order of the day, says a spokesperson for the ministry. The current situation at the Development Ministry (BMZ) at Bundeskanzlerplatz is similar: "On average, ten to 20 percent are working on site," a spokesperson puts it. And the Federal Ministry for the Environment at Robert-Schuman-Platz is also focusing on reducing its presence: 80 percent of the nearly 1,200 employees currently work from home, and in principle "all employees are called upon to work in a home office or on the move. And the Federal Audit Office in Adenauerallee currently has a presence rate of only 15 percent of its 1100 employees. The pandemic has led to restrictions on audit missions, which - according to a spokesperson - are largely being replaced by various remote data collection methods.

And then there is the Bonn police force, whose officers - previously almost unthinkable for law enforcement officers - now also find themselves at the kitchen table at home in many cases due to the pandemic: "This applies in particular to employees who are entrusted with investigations and administrative tasks," says police spokesman Robert Scholten. The fact that the rate of 15 percent of employees in the home office is low compared to other ministries is due to the fact that operational measures such as guard services, controls, searches and interrogations cannot, of course, be carried out at a distance. As long as the maintenance of service operations is guaranteed, every police officer is allowed to work in a home office. Even if the available VPN licenses still need to be adjusted, Scholten says: "So far, we've only had good experiences.“

So far, nothing has come to light in Bonn about checks on compliance with the "home office obligation," as promised by Labor Minister Heil. A task that, according to the city, would lie with the state's occupational health and safety authorities.

(Original text: Rüdiger Franz / Translation: Mareike Graepel)