How the working environment in Germany is changing

  • 2023-07-21
  • Lisa Priller-Gebhardt
  • Comment
Adult Indian man in wheelchair working at home on laptop in his kitchen and has a video appointment.
© Getty Images/Edwin Tan

Today’s employees want to combine their professional development with personal fulfilment, in short new work. The pandemic and digitisation have by now helped to ensure that flexible working models, remote working and workation are part of many people’s everyday working lives. Here is an overview of the most significant new approaches.

1. Location-independent working*

For decades, remote working was only possible for very few employees in Germany. Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic, which permanently altered the working environment. Everyone who could was now supposed to work from home. This is obviously not feasible for those in the care, retail or trade sectors. But many people who for instance have pure office jobs found that they were soon capable of implementing location-independent working.

Satisfaction among many employees increased, especially given their more flexible work scheduling and the time and cost savings due to cessation of their commute to work. In the meantime, many companies are offering hybrid working models that involve a mixture of working from home and office-based work.

revealed that most Germans in the University of Konstanz would on average like to spend three days a week working from home or remotely. Some 70 per cent of those surveyed even stated that the option of working from home has become a decisive criterion when choosing a job. 

2. Flexible working time models*

A tightly scheduled working day leaves little time for weekly shopping, doctor's appointments or the fitness studio. A good work-life balance is now also high on many employees’ list of priorities – and thus the desire for flexible working time models.

One of many approaches is the four-day working week with full salary adjustment. There has been a lot of discussion concerning its statutory introduction in Germany, but this is not yet planned. Each company can make its own decision on how it wishes to deal with the regulation of working hours. There are some companies that have already introduced a four-day week, such as a 36-hour week over four days.

Digital agency Rheingans brought in a particularly innovative working hours model a few years ago: the 5-hour day. Employees work without breaks, work through in a concentrated manner and go home after five hours. And on full pay. The Bielefeld agency has been operating this model for several years and states that it has had ‘positive experiences’ with it.

ZDFheute Nachrichten: New Work - This is how it's done (in German)

ZDFheute Nachrichten: New Work - This is how it's done (in German)
ZDFheute Nachrichten: New Work - This is how it's done (in German) ©

Flexible working hours, flat hierarchies, working from home: how realistic is a new working environment?

3. Workation*

This neologism is derived from the two English terms ‘work’ and ‘vacation’. In practice it means that work and holidays can be deftly combined. The offer is intended to increase the employer’s attractiveness and companies use it to gain a competitive advantage in the struggle for the best talent. Working from a hotel room or the beach is of course only possible in professions where a laptop and stable internet connection are sufficient to do so.

Since last summer, for example, the employees at media group ProSiebenSat.1 can spend 30 days a year working remotely from European countries outside Germany. This offer was recently extended to cover 26 countries – which includes virtually the entire EU. Employees at pharmaceuticals group Merck can even spend up to 60 working days a year outside Germany.

4. The new Time Recording Act

Studies reveal that more than half of all employees in Germany work more than contractually agreed. This can often amount to three hours of overtime a week that in many cases are neither remunerated nor compensated. This is due to change. The Federal Labour Court decided last autumn that . Should the employment contract not contain an overtime provision, companies are obliged to pay for the extra hours worked or ensure that they are reduced.

5. Upskilling

The reckons that just under two million jobs were unfilled at last count. A record. These gaps also partly originate because new occupational fields are emerging as a result of the progress in innovation. Companies are therefore investing heavily in professional development training to make their employees fit for the changing labour market.

They include for instance the . It is using various upskilling formats, including the ‘GetStarted’ programme, to train employees for future jobs. This could involve an airline pilot becoming an IT business analyst, a musician a software project manager and a sociologist a sales force consultant.

IT company has also set up its own programme and recruits talent irrespective of CV. A year ago it launched its in-house professional development programme that acts like a nine-month dual study course. The theoretical element is taught at Provadis School of International Management and Technology in Frankfurt and participants learn the practical element in one of the Bechtle branches that are scattered throughout Germany. The special feature here is that participants can be up to 60 years old. And no one needs to have any prior knowledge.


It should be noted that this transition is only occurring in certain sectors. Implementation of the described phenomena is possible especially in ‘traditional office jobs’. New models such as working from home, flexible working hours and workation are not feasible in sectors where presence at the workplace is indispensable (including care, retail, catering, waste and disposal management, ...).

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