Don’t worry, the Mercedes S Class won’t be put together in private hobby workshops and garages in the future. However, the Swabian hard-work mentality will also find its place outside of the company grounds: Most of the employees at Daimler – about 100,000 from a total of 150,000 in Germany – will be able to work mobile. They will have a right to work from home unless there are operational or technical reasons that explicitly contradict this.

This is one of the key points of an internal agreement that was negotiated between the management and the works council. According to this, Daimler employees can decide for themselves when and where they want to work after discussing this with their superiors. Compulsory attendance at the workstation is a thing of the past. But this is voluntary on two counts: Nobody has to work from home, (almost) everybody can work mobile and from home. If somebody wants to take an afternoon off, they can also turn on their computer in the evening or at the weekend, meaning outside of flextime. And they don’t need to drive into the office but can work at home, on the train or even in a café.

The flexible working hours are recorded each day in blocks and settled individually. Wage and company agreements such as for overtime and working hours per week are unaffected by this. Equally, mobile working shouldn’t be abused as a backdoor to more unpaid work and constant availability. The Daimler HR Manager, Wilfried Porth, and head of the works council, Michael Brecht, are both very pleased with the agreement.

Mobile working: The automobile industry sets the pace

For some time, the German automobile industry has shown itself to be a trailblazer when it comes to introducing innovative models of working. Two years ago, BMW and Bosch signed similar internal agreements as Daimler has now done; VW and Siemens came quickly after. In this way, we foster job satisfaction and personal responsibility,” said Karlheinz Blessing, Chief Human Resources Officer at VW, “at the same time, we improve the quality of work and productivity.” Daimler is equally certain: “A good work-life balance is the best motivation”.

The Stuttgart-based corporation has already had internal regulations for mobile working and working from home in place since 2009. However, the new internal agreement now takes into account not only the technical, legal and social developments since then but also experiences and wishes of their staff. The policy now in place was not implemented top-down but was initially discussed and negotiated with the involvement of a lot of the workforce and works council. One year ago, an online survey of 35,000 Daimler employees revealed a strong interest in new forms of work-life balance. 60 percent of the interviewees complained of the difficulties of reconciling career and family life. More than 80 percent saw more flexible working hour models as a solution for this, 55 percent wanted to be able to work more from home.

Mobile Arbeit bei Daimler: Mitarbeiter können selbst entscheiden, wann und wo sie arbeiten

Mobile Arbeit bei Daimler: Mitarbeiter können selbst entscheiden, wann und wo sie arbeiten

This corresponds to the figures from a new study from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). According to this, only 12 percent of workers in Germany – an extremely low value on a European scale – can work from home from time to time or on a regular basis. However, based on estimations of the DIW, more than 40 percent of work in Germany could be done outside of the company. But too often, the employees’ desire for more flexibility and personal responsibility for their time management founders due to rigid regulations, conservative-thinking employers or shortcomings on the technical side.

Results-based instead of time-based

But the question of who works when, where and how long is still only of secondary importance in the digitalized working world. More and more, classic forms of work are coming apart, especially in the office. Physical presence, static workstations, rigid working hour regulations are becoming increasingly redundant in the digitalized economy, if not even counterproductive. Modern, farsighted companies like Daimler and Siemens are thinking results-based instead of time-based and their employees are benefiting from this. To use Helmut Kohl’s words: “What’s important is what comes out in the end,” not the time and place where people work for it.