World of work: This is how mobile working abroad works

Gerlingen (dpa) Klara Krieg actually only wanted to spend a long weekend in Barcelona.

World of work: This is how mobile working abroad works

Gerlingen (dpa) Klara Krieg actually only wanted to spend a long weekend in Barcelona. Then it was a week. The 26-year-old came across an offer from her employer Bosch that enables mobile working abroad. "I was able to work very well on site," says the business IT specialist, who is completing a trainee program for future managers. All you need is a laptop and a good WiFi connection. Klara Krieg sees many advantages. The time zones are the same, Barcelona has a great climate and there is really good food. And: "I spent the evenings on the beach - that was great for switching off!"

Short-term mobile working from abroad is particularly popular among the younger generation, observes Heidi Schindler, who works for the management consultancy Ernst

And so Bosch joins a ranks of companies that allow their employees to spend a limited amount of time abroad. Employees of the pharmaceutical company Merck, for example, can spend up to 60 working days per year outside of Germany, there are only restrictions in a few countries. With the supplier Continental, up to 40 days have been possible since the beginning of the year, with the software giant SAP it is 30 days. Both hope that this will make them more attractive as employers. Sporting goods manufacturer Adidas makes 10 days possible.

Some companies are currently exploring such possibilities

At Bosch, mobile working has been part of everyday working life for years, and there has been a corresponding group works agreement since 2014. Now, with the new offer, employees can work up to 54 days a year from another country for private reasons. The approach is global, but some countries have had to be excluded because of safety or legal risks, or the number of possible days has had to be limited. The offer is well used, more than 500 applications have already been approved since April this year.

Bosch relies on a flexible work culture that focuses on the result, says Labor Director Filiz Albrecht. The feedback on mobile work abroad is "extremely positive", says Albrecht.

Other large companies are currently examining such possibilities, including VW and Mercedes-Benz. At Deutsche Bank, mobile working is currently only possible in Germany - but the bank is observing legal developments and is waiting for appropriate regulations to allow employees to work abroad. Mobile working is also limited to Germany at Siemens Energy.

There are many legal hurdles

A big issue for most large companies: There is no patent remedy for how mobile working abroad is legally possible. There are a number of hurdles, explains consultant Schindler - from social security and tax law to the question of whether you are even allowed to work in a country without a visa. Data protection is also a problem, for example when employees handle sensitive company data. In addition, there are labor law issues and the question of how companies can ensure occupational safety and working hours.

Many companies therefore limited the duration and the combination of countries and seniority level of the employees for whom it is made possible. "The higher someone is on the food chain, the more complex it becomes from a tax point of view, and the higher the risk," says Schindler.

The topic is not without risk for companies - but employees must also be careful. Schindler says that prison sentences are possible if you are caught in certain countries without a visa. "That means you should actually think about it." In practice, however, she has not yet noticed that someone opened their laptop on the beach in Turkey and someone asked: "You don't even watch Netflix, you work here - are you allowed to do that at all?"

No matter where: Good equipment at the desk is important

Many employees reported that they can work more focused at home because the disruptive effects in the office are rated higher, says Milena Bockstahler, who, as a research assistant at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization in Stuttgart, researches issues relating to work environments. The compatibility of work and private life has improved for many due to the increased work in the home office since the beginning of the corona pandemic. On the other hand, you have to be careful because the border is becoming increasingly blurred.

Very important - whether at home or abroad - is the equipment. Good lighting, a large desk or a good chair where you don't get back pain. From time to time you can work with the laptop at a living room table, even abroad. "But over a longer period of time it becomes difficult at some point and also affects productivity," says Bockstahler.

From the scientist's point of view, there is nothing to be said against a workation, a mixture of work and vacation. "As long as you can draw the line well." This is exactly what Bosch associate Karla Krieg is planning. She can well imagine a month in spring, perhaps in Greece or Spain. "If it's still raining here."

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