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In Germany, many more people could be working from home. This is the result of a recent study conducted by the ifo Institute, according to which only around 30 percent of employees worked at least some hours from home in February. “An immense 56 percent of potential for remote working remains untapped by companies and employees.

The remote-working obligation for employers, which was adopted in January to limit the number of Covid-19 infections, has so far failed to take full effect,” says ifo researcher Jean-Victor Alipour, one of the study’s authors. The proportion of companies using remote working was 81 percent in February.

If Germany wants to overcome the coronavirus and reopen the economy, more people will need to work from home, the authors write. This could mean extending the remote-working obligation to employees. “As things stand, all that is requested of employees in Germany is that they agree to work from home if asked. France and Belgium, on the other hand, made it a requirement for them to do so this past winter,” Alipour says.

One way to make working from home more attractive both to employees and to employers is to incentivize it – for example, by capping the number of people allowed in the office, thus increasing companies’ overhead for office workstations, or by offering better tax incentives for those who have the option to work from home. Currently, people who work from home can deduct EUR 5 a day, up to a maximum of EUR 600, from their taxes. “But this is intended only as a way to help cover costs, not as an incentive,” Alipour says.

At 40 percent, the largest share of people working from home are in the service sector. “The main reason for this is likely to be how the businesses are organized and the job profiles in the industry,” Alipour says. Wholesale accounts for 24 percent of remote workers; manufacturing for almost 22 percent; construction for a good 10 percent; and retail for just under 10 percent.

The share of people switching to remote working is far less pronounced in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than in large companies. In industry, for example, almost one-third of employees at large companies currently work from home. This compares with just under a quarter of employees at SMEs. Even before the coronavirus crisis, however, remote working was far more common in larger firms.

Source: ifo Institute