How far will the lawmakers go to protect home workers?

In our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, we look at Germany’s intention to legislate to give employees the right to work from home – and at human-centric design principles to support their wellbeing in the office

As the economies around the world pivot once again towards remote working amid a second wave of the pandemic, Germany is reported to be looking at ways to give employees legal rights to work from home as they choose and to regulate working hours and conditions in the home.

These legal reforms, outlined by the German government’s labour minister Hubertus Heil in an interview with the Financial Times, are designed to reinforce worker’s rights at a time when there is confusion over who should work from home and who should be compelled to return to the office. New legislation will also stiffen boundaries between personal life and work, which have been eroded by the enforced experiment of working from home in recent months.

‘Will other European countries follow Germany’s lead in protecting workers in the home?’

Will other European countries follow Germany’s lead? Spain has already approved new laws to make employers liable for work-related costs. France, meanwhile, is leaning on legislation it has had in place since 2017 which limits the extent to which employees are obliged to answer phone calls and emails outside the office.

Legislators, employers and unions will inevitably debate different dimensions of the issue. Germany’s proposals have been criticised as likely to encourage companies to outsource more jobs overseas. But there is growing consensus that such an enormous shift in working life will demand that lawmakers respond rapidly to emerging conditions on the ground – and don’t just bring up the rear.

Sticking to a light diet

One of the big lessons of the pandemic has been a growing recognition of the need to adopt a more human-centric design approach in the workplace, particularly in relation to our senses. The latest WORKTECH Webinar on 1 October featured Wouter Boxhoorn of lighting company Signify and biophilic design expert Oliver Heath in conversation with Jeremy Myerson of WORKTECH Academy. It was a dialogue that explored how office buildings can promote employee health, wellbeing and productivity.

Both experts advanced the view that natural light plays a fundamental role in our health and wellbeing. Oliver Heath explained that, much like we need a balanced nutritional diet, we also need a ‘light diet’. He demonstrated that most humans in urban areas spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, but we also need exposure to natural light and connections with nature.

‘We need a light diet, like we need a balanced nutritional diet…’

More often than not, we tend to connect with natural light when we are away from our desks or on holiday. ‘During the working hours, our light diet is significantly depleted,’ Heath claimed. Coupled with the constant use of smart technology and screens, our natural biological rhythms are off-set which leads to an unbalanced light diet.

Wouter Boxhorn of Signify reinforced the light diet argument by explaining the science behind a comfortable light level when we’re in an the office – and the visual, biological and emotional contributions of light. He showcased NatureConnect, Signify’s latest immersive technology innovation, and the discussion went on to discuss the importance of adopting biophilic design principles to alleviate stress at work .

Oliver Heath described three constructs of biophilic design: direct contact with nature (water, trees, plants, light), indirect contact (evoke sense of nature with materials), and human spatial response (energising, relaxing and restorative environments). Catch up with the WORKTECH Webinar here:


WORKTECH Tokyo goes virtual

Finally, we’ve turned our WORKTECH Tokyo 2020 conference into a virtual event experience, bringing Japanese attendees a stellar line-up of international expertise which is conveniently accessible over the course of 72 hours from the comfort of their own homes. The virtual event is running from Wednesday 7 October at 08:00 with content available to view for 72 hours until Saturday 10 October at 08:00. Find more details here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. This edition is posted 7 October 2020.
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