Record incidence rates How Bonn-based companies are preparing for the end of compulsory working from home

Bonn · The incidence rate in Bonn is rising, and at the same time the end of the nationwide work from home mandate is due to end on 20 March. The high incidence rate is partly reflected in companies.

 Deutsche Post reports no operational disruptions due to increased Coronavirus infections among employees.

Deutsche Post reports no operational disruptions due to increased Coronavirus infections among employees.

Foto: dpa/Henning Kaiser

The city of Bonn has been steadily reporting new record incidence rates since last week. The current figure is close to the 2000 mark. Nationwide, too, the number of infections remains high. At the same time, most Coronavirus-related restrictions are to be lifted on 20 March, including the work from home mandate for companies. Details on a new infection control ordinance are expected on 17 March at the upcoming conference of the German state premiers.  What do large employers in Bonn have planned? What about companies that can operate partially or fully with staff working from home? Will they continue with the practice? And is the current high incidence rate reflected in companies' sickness rates?

"We are also noticing an increasing number of infections," says Jürgen Winterwerp, spokesperson for Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB), when asked by the GA. Around three per cent of employees across the SWB Group are currently affected. "We are continuing to keep Bonn running by cleverly reducing the number of contacts in the areas of supply, local transport and waste recycling," reassures Winterwerp. Furthermore, many employees want to work flexibly in a mix of mobile work and being at the office, where they can. It is planned to make this possible after 19 March, says Winterwerp.

The Sparkasse Köln-Bonn reports a similar situation: "In the past few months, the very contagious Omicron variant has, as expected, led to an increased number of bank employees on sick leave," says press spokesperson Jörg Wehner, although this had been steadily decreasing during the previous year. Wehner is not specifically referring to the end of the work from home mandate on 20 March when he says: "With the end of the pandemic, we will gradually and carefully return to our former mode." This consists of a hybrid mode of working, meaning a mix of office and work from home, as was already the case before 2020.

This is what the software development company AOK Systems is also striving for: It will continue to offer a mix of face-to-face and mobile working and it will keep protective measures such as mandatory masks and sufficient ventilation in place after 20 March, according to spokesperson Daniel Poeschkens.

 At Deutsche Telekom, absenteeism is "within the range we expected, clearly below the national trend," says Telekom spokesperson Peter Kespohl. One of the reasons is the hygiene measures and hybrid solutions offered since the beginning of the pandemic. "After the end of the work from home obligation, we will start to increase the offer of face-to-face work," says Kespohl, with details being coordinated depending on team and activity.

The Bonn branch of Zurich Insurance is also planning a return to the office. "We believe that in the long term, a so-called professional home, a place of work that people regularly visit, is a decisive factor for a successful company," says Bernd Engelien, Head of Corporate Communications. But even after the end of the home office obligation, Coronavirus naturally continues to pose a risk - which is why visits to the office will be ramped up slowly. The company already had a hybrid model that allows flexible working before the pandemic. "Initially, we expect employees to be in the office around 50 per cent of the time," says Engelien. There has not been a particular increase of cases of infection at Zurich recently.

Originalartikel: Johanna Lübke

Translation: Jean Lennox

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