Companies urged to facilitate remote working

Tschentscher and representatives of chambers sign agreement on occupational safety amid corona
19 January 2021
City Hall Hamburg

Firms in Hamburg have been urged to allow their employees to work remotely and to remain mobile wherever possible after Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, Anna Gallina, Senator for Consumer Protection and representatives of chambers and associations signed an agreement on remote working. The appeal came during an online conference Thursday amid worrying coronavirus infection levels and as politicians mull a possible extension to the lockdown beyond January 31, 2021 and measures to contain the spread of the virus. Working from home should be the rule and employees should only be required to work in the actual company for valid reasons.

Remote working to be rule not exception

Gallina termed the agreement a "strong signal" to companies, adding, significantly reducing physical contact in private alone will not reduce infection rates. Clearly, occupational health and safety standards must apply when working from home also, Tschentscher stressed, adding: "Remote working should be the rule not the exception amid the coronavirus pandemic. I urge all businesses to support the appeal by the German government and the states to 'Stay at Home'." Hjalmar Stemmann, President of Hamburg's Chamber of Skilled Crafts and Small Businesses, welcomed the appeal, saying that remote work "protects workers in the skilled crafts who have to travel to their businesses or customers".

Regular communication crucial 

Apart from Gallina and Tschentscher, the signatories to the agreement included leading representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Crafts, the North Business Association (UV) and the Hamburg Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB). Regular and proactive communication between companies and their employees is crucial to remote working, delegates stressed during the online meeting. Companies must ensure that employees have suitable equipment for remote working. Occupational health and safety concepts and rules on social distancing must be adhered to, if remote working is not possible. The Office for Occupational Safety and Health will carry out more on-site inspections to ensure that companies are complying with the regulations. 

Good examples of remote working 

Several good examples of remote working were presented during the conference. Around 2,500 of Beiersdorf’s employees are working remotely at present, the company said. Parents in need of a short break are availing of the "remote kindergarten" where their children are entertained. Other exemplary ideas include joint yoga classes or the so-called virtual "Lunch-Roulette".