Overtime in the Home Office
Staff council email
In an email from 5 May 2020, the university president insisted on compliance with a new regulation for the home office which reads as follows: “In order to counter and prevent any abuse of this system, overtime is not permitted in home office work.” Subsequently, the staff council was asked to approve a corresponding amendment to the bylaw (Dienstvereinbarung) on flextime.
The provision means that working time in the home office is now only recognised up to the daily standard working time (e.g. 7 hours, 54 minutes for full-time employees). Any work performed beyond this is overtime.
The university management also takes us, the staff council, by surprise with some issues and decisions – for example, the urgency of this regulation. In its meeting on 13.05.2020, the staff council discussed this matter and decided to reject the university management's proposal.
The reason is that this is an encroachment on existing agreements on flextime, which we cannot accept as it is. Instead, the staff council maintains that the provisions already contained in the agreements must be applied instead. This applies especially to the duty of superiors to keep an eye on employees' working hours and to consult with them as necessary. We reject any change for the worse in the conditions for employees working from home.
The main purpose of the home office as currently practiced is to enable the measures prescribed by the state to protect against infection at the workplace. The university has a vested interest in preventing mass infections and protecting the health of its employees.
Many colleagues are currently not always working from home voluntarily and under considerable strain. In the absence of suitable workplace equipment and technical support from the university, they provide their private computers, living space and other infrastructures such as internet and telephone connections free of charge.
Moreover, we often receive feedback that more work, not less, is being done. An increased coordination and communication effort is required, because sudden digitalization confronts us with unfinished homework. Now, suitable means of digital collaboration must be found, learned and applied, which are not always available in a centralized manner. This applies to all occupational groups, for instance to teaching staff, who have to produce digital content under high pressure. In the current situation, supervisors are also acutely dependent on their employees' increased willingness to perform in order to meet the increased demands of everyday work.
It is not appropriate to impose stricter rules on overtime to the detriment of all workers because a few have not sufficiently adhered to them. In the current circumstances, stricter regulations of this kind are no adequate means of recognizing employees’ performance and maintaining motivation in the long term. On the contrary, it would be more appropriate to show appreciation for the fact that "restricted regular operation" has been possible and practiced at all for weeks now given the current situation.
Finding solutions in the current phase is a challenge for everyone. This is certainly not easy and mistakes can happen. Work organizational models for spreading out employees spatially and temporally are necessary in order to return to daily work together and safely. In order to cope "healthily" with the tasks ahead and to achieve social cohesion, however, mutual goodwill and trust are needed, because cooperation is not a one-way street and trust must be the natural basis for it.
As always, the staff council is ready to contribute to meeting the challenges in line with employee interests. Feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns.
Good health to you, all the best and hang in there!
Warmest regards on behalf of the staff council,