The often-quoted “new normal” in the world of work has only just begun: in the first year of normalisation following the pandemic, significant changes are once again occurring in how work is organised – knowledge-based services have truly arrived in the world of hybrid work. A study by AGV Banken shows that the greater autonomy on the part of employees is bringing primarily relief; the quality of mobile and hy-brid work is above average.
Introduction: work organisation reloaded – in just one year
The Covid pandemic not only triggered the biggest field test of mobile work of all time, it also brought about a quantum leap in modern work organisation. In the years during the pandemic, a significantly different world of work became established. Mobile work is used widely, wher-ever possible, and it has become the norm for many employees; the crucial technical and corporate culture obstacles to mobile work have been removed. Accordingly, attention in work health and safety has recently been mainly focused on what impact the increased extent of mobile work is having on health, job satisfaction, ledership and work organisation.
But to ensure that modern office and knowledge work continues to be organised well, in a way that promotes health, we already need to start looking beyond mobile work. With the pandemic coming to an end, there has been a return to normal everyday life and it is becoming in-creasingly clear how we will really be working in future. The severe restrictions imposed to prevent infection no longer apply, and freedom of movement has returned. This means that the office is once again becoming an important place of work. At the same time, companies, executives and employees have amassed a great deal of experience in mobile work, which is influencing how the new world of work is de-signed and evaluated – and this is causing aspects such as autonomy, trust and individual responsibility to become even more important. Al-most two thirds of the employees in the private banking industry are already (largely) free to decide where they work, within the constraints of operational feasibility and specifications – an amount unthinkable a few years ago.
Correspondingly, in the past year there have once again been signifi-cant changes in the work organisation of many companies and in the way many people work. While it had been assumed that the “new nor-mal” had already become largely established following two years of mobile work resulting from the pandemic, this is now proving to be mis-taken; there has been too much movement in the ratio of office to mo-bile work within just one year, towards a more balanced mixture which is preferred in many cases – welcome to the hybrid world of work with all its new and varied features, which are more than just the sum of stationary and mobile office work and which require a much more nu-anced assessment than previous forms of work.
At the start of 2023, as many as two thirds of the employees in the pri-vate banking industry were working at least occasionally in hybrid work structures – that is in teams collaborating from different locations. For this reason, the present study does not address the impact of mo-bile work in isolation, instead also providing an in-depth analysis of what hybrid work means for work quality, satisfaction and health. This means that it is not only one of the first investigations in knowledge-based services with this focal point, it also provides initial hard data on the impact of mobile work in the post-pandemic phase. The repre-sentative results come from the 14th wave of survey data that the Kan-tar social research institute has collected on behalf of AGV Banken since 2010. The present study thus enables informative comparisons to be made between mobile and hybrid work today and before or dur-ing the pandemic.
At the same time, the results are representative of the work quality in knowledge-based services overall. Earlier studies in the private bank-ing industry have shown that the main findings can also be applied to office work in other sectors. Accordingly, the present results can serve at least as an indicator of the development of mobile and hybrid work forms in the economy as a whole.
The main findings – an overview
The present study has produced the following major findings:
Level of mobile work more than double: Since the beginning of the pandemic, the level of mobile work has more than doubled. According to the Digital Index published by the initiative D21 (Germany's largest non-profit network for the digital society, consisting of business, politics, science and civil society), in Germany in 2022, across all sectors, 38% of employees worked mobile at least occasionally; in the private banking industry the rate is almost twice as many at present (73%). This makes banks one of the sectors with the highest share of mobile work.
Mobile work not only at home: While working from home may be the most common form of mobile work, work is often, and increasingly, performed from other locations, such as in offices situated close to home, on business trips, with relatives and friends or in holiday resorts (for “workations”).
Potential for mobile work currently exhausted: The share of employees in the private banking industry who never work from home and who work in the office every day has remained at a constant level since 2022. This is a clear sign that the potential for mobile work is currently exhausted.
Convergence between demands and reality: The desire for mobile work and the actual amount of mobile work are currently higher than before the pandemic and are also considerably more closely aligned. In the private banking industry, 87% of employees would like to work from home at least once a week, and 67% are able to. This process of convergence between wishes, operational necessity and feasibility is set to continue, given that things are still changing at a dynamic rate.
Extensive opening up of mobile work: Mobile work has penetrated all areas of work, increasingly also activities involving customer contact. Mobile work is used wherever possible; the companies endeavour to fulfil the demand for mobile work across all employee groups where this is operationally feasible. The main reasons for mobile work not being possible have remained virtually unchanged: 7% of employees say that the work they do does not permit this, 7% say it is not possible in their field of work and 7% say they are not interested in mobile work.
Additional demand for flexibilisation: Despite the expansion of mobile work, many employees want even more flexibility in the distribution of their working hours, such as time blocking options, changing from daily to weekly maximum working hours or the option of working on Saturdays as part of a 5-day week.
The beginning of the hybrid age: Knowledge-based services, and therefore the private banking industry in particular, have definitively entered the age of hybrid work forms. Working as a team from a variety of locations is a normal part of day-to-day work at least occasionally for two thirds of bank employees, and for half it already occurs (very) often. After the significant boost in mobile work during the recent years, the office is therefore experiencing something of a renaissance – albeit under different conditions, as a place in particular to meet up with people, for informal conversations and creative processes, but also for more focused work, in case mobile work is not an option.
Increasingly greater differentiation of work: The hybridisation of the world of work is bringing about a large number of new combinations of mobile and stationary office work. The impact of mobile work therefore depends less on the precise amount of mobile work performed, and much more on the individual level of flexibility, the activity itself, the field of work and the environment (team, management, corporate culture). There is thus always a demand for more nuanced solutions that allow executives and teams to harmonise the many different needs of the employees with the corporate objectives. This has so far been successful on the basis of diverse experience in companies and thanks to responsible approaches being taken.
Mobile and hybrid work disburdens: Mobile and hybrid forms of work have a very predominantly positive and stress-relieving effect on employees. The frequently hybrid working employees in the private banking industry give above-average ratings for all major aspects of work quality, in particular their own efficiency, the mix of mobile and stationary work, the achievement of goals and the workflow, but also the major team indicators such as sharing experience, meeting culture, team organisation and accessibility. Even aspects that were difficult in the case of mainly mobile work during the pandemic (such as communication and collaboration in critical project phases or creative processes) predominantly pose no problems in hybrid work structures. There is potential for improvement above all in the incentives for being physically present at the workplace.
Above-average satisfaction and health: People engaging in mobile and hybrid work have above-average levels of satisfaction and health. Mobile and hybrid work forms have a particularly positive effect on the mental health of the employees. A positive development was also found: experienced mobile workers who more frequently worked outside of the office before the pandemic felt above-average levels of stress before Covid; today they actually suffer from stress and exhaustion less than mobile work newcomers. This means that work organisation and corporate cultures have evidently changed since the pandemic and now offer mobile and hybrid workers a less stressful environment.
No increase in working hours: In the private banking industry, overall working hours have not risen in recent years despite the abrupt increase in mobile work, and working hours for frequently mobile and hybrid working employees are actually declining – also because the amount of overtime in this group has been on the decline for years. The separation of work time and private life is thus evidently being implemented successfully; additional recording or monitoring of working hours does not appear to be necessary.
Better distribution of working hours: For many years, a corporate culture has been developing in the private banking industry that increasingly respects the boundary between work and leisure time; there has recently been a considerable decline in the amount of work taking place outside of normal office hours. This applies in particular to employees with frequent mobile and hybrid work. This suggests a significantly improved distribution of working hours in this group in an environment in which trust is increasingly a defining feature. Supervisors clearly accept more frequently the more free working hour distribution of their employees, and the employees are clearly handling their newly acquired autonomy with increasing responsibility.
Expanded reachability less of a strain: The work-related expanded reachability outside of standard office hours has recently considerably decreased for frequently mobile and hybrid working employees. Overall, reachability is indeed slightly above the average in this group, but the mobile workers found it less stressful than the other workers – evidently because accessibility is often also a resource for them (for instance because contact during free time is rare or easy to control, requires no follow-up work or is seen as legitimate).
Better balance and boundaries between work and private life: Frequently mobile and hybrid working employees rate not only the balance between work and private life as positive more than average. In comparison with the non-mobile workers, they can also switch off more effectively and rather tend to not have private issues on their mind during work. This suggests overall good work organisation and responsible interactions between executives and employees.
Autonomy with outstanding importance for work quality: In the hybrid world of work, autonomy is definitively becoming the superlative driver for job satisfaction and health – particularly because more flexibility in terms of location goes hand in hand with more time flexibility. In the private banking industry, the level of autonomy of other sections of the workforce has risen significantly in past years, in particular among mobile and hybrid workers: almost 90% of them rated their decision-making leeway positively, and almost two thirds of all employees can now (mainly) decide for themselves whether they want to work from home or in the workplace, within the constraints of operational feasibility and specifications. Overall, this results in high satisfaction, health and motivation. This means it is less the specific structuring of the work environment or the equipment provided that determine the quality of mobile work, and more the amount of additional flexibility for the employees.
Work environment and instructions considerably better: Mobile and hybrid workers in the private banking industry rate their external working conditions (light, noise, temperature, room size, technical equipment) as significantly better than those who only work in the office, and they feel better in their workplace. This suggests not only that equipment in mobile workplaces has significantly improved, but also demonstrates improved instructions from the employer, which are rated very predominantly as positive by employees. The functionality of the technical equipment is also given good marks by the employees, so they are by no means experiencing “technostress”.
High team quality: Mobile and hybrid workers in the private banking industry experience collegiality in their teams to be above average. Frequently hybrid working employees in particular have consistently given team spirit and co-operation better ratings since the pandemic. The risk of a lack of social inclusion – in particular with regard to increasingly hybrid forms of work – thus seems to be low overall. One thing that stands out is that non-mobile workers now give their collaboration in the team below-average ratings. This may be connected to a change in the flow of information in hybrid worlds of work.
Good marks and increasingly better conditions for executives: Managing decentralised teams was, and still is, a challenge, but it seems to be successful overall. Mobile and hybrid workers in the private banking industry rate the work of their managers better than the non-mobile workers. On the other hand, the executives found their work during the pandemic harder than before: during the Covid pandemic, the managers first had to organise and design the transition to mobile work and then the transition to hybrid forms of work – a process that is not yet over. It is apparent, however, that the start of the hybrid age is making work for executives significantly easier. Although the mixture of remote management and personal communication does increase the amount of coordination and control needed, it very clearly simplifies a whole series of complex management tasks given the renewed greater physical presence and improved communication.
Significant learning effects: Three years after the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, mobile work has now grown up. This is the result of considerable learning effects: not only are more activities and fields of work suitable for mobile work than was thought, the technical possibilities and the equipment in mobile work have also considerably improved. And most parties involved now have a very different view of things: many executives are more willing and able than before the pandemic to control teams in decentralised structures, delegate responsibility, trust employees and respect boundaries between work and private life. Many employees are more willing and able to organise themselves and assume more responsibility. This results in a comprehensive change in the work culture that is by no means complete, and is set to continue over the coming years; the “new normal” will constantly change.
Mobile work: outside of company workplaces, but not field service or telework
There is not as yet any general definition of mobile work. A consensus is emerging, however, that it fundamentally refers to activities performed at the employees’ request partially or regularly, often (but not necessarily) with electronic equipment, from any location outside of the company workplace – but with some appropriate exceptions: activities or forms of work that have always been performed outside of the office because of their individual nature or on instruction from the employer, such as activities on the customer’s premises, in field services, on trip or comparable activities, as well as on-call duty, stand-by and telework* pursuant to German Workplace Ordinance are not part of this catalogue. On the other hand, occasional work from home is a form of mobile work.
* In Germany, teleworkplaces are VDU workplaces permanently set up by the employer in the employee's private area, for which the employer has agreed weekly working hours and the duration of the setup with the employee. A teleworkplace is only set up by the employer when the employer and employees have specified the conditions of telework in the employment contract or within the framework of an agreement and the necessary equipment for the teleworkplace with furniture, work equipment, including communication facilities has been provided by the employer or a person commissioned by him in the private sphere of the workplace employees is provided and installed.
Hybrid work: combination of stationary and mobile (computer) work
Based on the definition of mobile work, hybrid work is a combination of stationary work in the office/company workplace and work outside of the company premises in the form of mobile work or computer work from home and/or from any other location (e.g. at friends’/relatives’ houses, in satellite offices of coworking centres, on business trips) and/or (alternating) telework. Hybrid work therefore covers both work at different locations and work under different contractual conditions. For collaboration in teams or departments, hybrid work means the integration of different locations and processes where the employees can work both individually or in small groups at different times and simultaneously as an entire team. This ranges from the joint virtual editing of documents to meetings on company premises with additional participants incorporated via digital channels, for example by video conference, chat or phone.
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History and spread, extent of mobile work
When the office learned to move
The option of being able to work away from the office at least occasionally is a long-desired wish of many employees – above all because they can save time, receive more autonomy, work more flexibly and with more focus and better reconcile their work and private life. Mobile office work experienced its first larger boost in the 1990s, when the use of laptops became widespread. With the triumph of smartphones and tablets in the early 2010s, mobile work began spreading with greater speed – and switched to turbo when the Covid pandemic began in March 2020. Today, 38% of employees in Germany work from home at least occasionally – before the pandemic the percentage was only 15%. And in knowledge-based service sectors like the banking industry, over two thirds of employees now work more frequently away from the office. The level of mobile work has thus more than doubled during the pandemic. → Graphic 01
At the same time, mobile work is more than just working in your own home. It is commonly carried out in other places, such as in offices close to home (satellite offices belonging to the company or coworking centres), on business trips in the home country or abroad, but also at the houses of relatives and friends or at holiday resorts, with employees not only being on holiday but also on agreement with their employers to add a work phase to be start or end of their time away (“workation”). Roughly 12% of employees in the private banking industry engage in some mobile work outside of their home environment, for example on customers’ premises, on trips or in offices close to home; over 40% work in other European countries some of the time, and almost 10% outside of Europe. → Graphic 02
Accordingly, the question of good design of mobile work falls short even today if it is restricted to the home environment. Employees’ wishes have long extended beyond this, and it can be expected that the manifestations of mobile work will become even more nuanced in future.
The situation today: balanced mix of mobile and office work dominates, mobile work potential currently exhausted
In the private banking industry, the percentage of people who occasionally work from home has grown steadily since before 2020 and had already reached one quarter when the pandemic broke out, which then caused the number to more than double all at once. Today, 67% of employees at private banks work in their own home at least once per week, and 73% at least occasionally. → Graphic 03
At the same time, amongst mobile workers we see clear structural changes towards predominantly hybrid forms of work within the past year. In February 2022, 37% of employees in the private banking industry stated that they work from home always or every day; in early 2023 the figure was only 17%. Conversely, the amount of workers that “only” work from home several times a week has risen by almost the same amount, from 21% to 38% in the space of one year, and this also corresponds to the share of people working in the office several times a week. → Graphics 04, 05
The facts show that the office is by no means dead. In fact, it is experiencing something of a renaissance – albeit under different conditions, as a place in particular to meet up with the team, for informal conversations and creative processes, but also for more focused work, where mobile work is not an option.
On the other hand, the amount of people never working from home (27%) and working in the office always or every day (33%) remains at the same level as the previous year – following significant changes in the previous years. This is a clear sign that the potential for mobile work in the private banking industry is currently exhausted and no major changes are to be expected unless there are noticeable changes in job profiles and/or technical possibilities.
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Structural data: opening up of mobile work
Experience during the pandemic has shown that mobile office work is possible in more fields of work and activities than previously thought. While mobile work was primarily a domain for employees in central functions before the pandemic, it has now penetrated almost all fields of work, and increasingly also activities with customer contact. → Graphic 06
This is also confirmed by the situation for people new to mobile work, i.e. employees who only started mobile work when the pandemic began. Slightly above-average growth can also be seen in corporate banking, in private banking and in retail banking without customer contact; overall, the newcomers are distributed relatively evenly across all fields of work. → Graphic 07
Furthermore, there are, however, significant structural differences between experienced mobile workers involved in mobile work before the pandemic and newcomers who joined at the start of the Covid pandemic. The experienced mobile workers are on average somewhat older, and are more likely to be non-pay-scale employees and work in executive positions; they also have more flexible working hours and work from home more than the average. Among the newcomers, on the other hand, the amount of pay-scale employees and non-executives is higher. → Graphic 08
We are thus seeing an extensive opening up of mobile work: the pandemic-related changes enable mobile work for more younger people (and people newer to the company), women, non-executives and pay-scale employees. The companies are very clearly making efforts to fulfil the demand for mobile work for as many employees as possible, across all employee groups – often through technical and organisational innovations. This results overall in a levelling between the individual employee groups also in relation to the frequency of mobile work. Although mobile work is still slightly more common among activities that are more greatly valued (and thus structurally also among men), there are no major differences, in particular not between employees with and without management responsibility. → Graphic 09
On the other side, it is clear that certain activities are (still) not suitable for mobile work. Where this is the case in the banking industry, this is mainly because of regulatory requirements, data security/confidentiality, maintaining personal (consultation) services for customers and the necessity of specific infrastructures that cannot be realised in mobile work. This involves in particular personal consultation for private and business customers, commercial transactions and back office work focusing on (credit) processing, securities settlement/custody and document processing. → Graphic 10
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Demand for mobile work, obstacles: ongoing convergence process
There was a strong demand for mobile office work even before the Covid pandemic: at that time, more than two thirds of employees in the private banking industry wanted to work from home at least once a week – but this wish was fulfilled for only one quarter of them. Today, demand and reality are both at a higher level and – relatively speaking – they have grown significantly closer: 87% want to work from home at least once a week, and 67% are able to. → Graphic 11
One third of bank employees would like to work from home always or every day, almost 40% want to do so several times a week, 20% less often and 7% not at all. Little has changed in this structure recently, as a comparison with the previous year shows – but there have been changes in reality, with a significant move towards hybrid forms of work. This results in changes in particular for those who would like to have mobile work especially often (always or every day): their wishes were exceeded in 2022 – clearly for reasons relating to the pandemic. With hybrid forms of work becoming established, the amount of especially frequent mobile work halved in the space of just one year, however, and no longer fully covers the demand for this configuration. Inversely, the amount of hybrid work has stabilised at the level that employees want.
Both developments show that companies and employees are currently involved in a convergence process, with an attempt being made to find a balance between demand, operational necessities and feasibility. Given the recent significant changes, it can be assumed that this process is not yet over – especially considering that the companies are making clear efforts to make remote work possible for more and more activities and constellations.
At the same time, it can also be seen that the potential for activities and fields of work that are suited to mobile work is currently largely exhausted – this is shown by the fact that, like in the previous year, a good quarter of employees (27%) do not work from home. This is primarily because this is not possible in the particular activity or field of work; here also, the amount has remained unchanged compared with the previous year. But no less than a quarter of those who do not engage in mobile work (7% of all employees) also say they have no interest in working in their home environment. There is clearly a correlation with the distance from the workplace: those not interested have a significantly shorter journey to the office than the rest of the workforce (on average 54 minutes versus 71). An obstacle that has now become practically insignificant, on the other hand, is inadequate technical infrastructure in mobile work; only 3% of those not involved in mobile work cite this as the reason. This points towards equipment for work away from the company premises having improved across the board. → Graphik 12
Furthermore, highly dynamic changes are occurring not only in the choice of work location. Despite the expansion of mobile and hybrid forms of work, many employees want even more flexibility in the distribution of their working hours. This affects, for example, the option of keeping the weekly working hours the same but splitting them across four weekdays, which is currently the subject of much discussion. This time-blocking is already an option for 15% of employees in the private banking industry, for just under another third this option is very important and another third considers this at least helpful. → Graphic 13
Nevertheless, this type of model raises a number of questions – such as whether the employees would tend to reduce their working hours in a four-day week, which would result in a considerable worsening of the current labour and specialist worker shortages. This also raises the question of what impact a consistent time-blocking with the same working hours would have on health, performance and efficiency – and whether the real aim behind the desire for a four-day week is to be able to engage in time-blocking occasionally. The debate does show, however, that there is a fundamental wish for further flexibilisation and for more leisure time quality.
This is also suggested by other indicators. For example, roughly three quarters of employees have a positive opinion of changing from daily to weekly maximum working hours, which is already possible in most European countries apart from Germany. And no less than a third of employees in the private banking industry support the option of working on Saturdays as part of a 5-day week.
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Pros and cons of mobile work: insight gained from the pandemic years
During the pandemic, mobile work was often mandated by the employer for reasons of infection control, and office work and mobile work retained a very monolithic relationship to each other – and could easily be compared in this situation. AGV Banken therefore asked employees in the pandemic years 2021 and 2022 what the pros and cons were of mobile work compared with stationary work in the office. Today, this question can no longer be asked in the same way, given the significant shift towards hybrid work. The survey findings from 2021 and 2022 do provide valuable insight into the differences between mobile work and classic office work, however; it therefore makes sense to include them in this study.
The key statement from the past surveys is: mobile work has a predominantly positive and stress-reducing impact. The employees rated the main work aspects (considerably) better for mobile work than for stationary work in the office, in particular reconciling work and private life, flexibility, efficiency and decision-making leeway. But all stress factors, target setting and management work were ultimately given mainly better ratings in mobile work than in classic office work. At the same time, it is clear that collaboration in critical project phases, leadership, creative processes and informal conversations were harder to accomplish in mobile work. → Graphics 14, 15, 16
One thing that stood out was that there were repeated (in some cases significant) improvements in 2022 compared with the previous year, in particular with regard to the autonomy of employees, but also in the reduction of stress factors. This suggests significant learning effects for all parties involved even during the pandemic.
A similar development can be seen among the executives; more information is provided in section “Leadership”.
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Extent and quality of hybrid work: significant increase, largely positive ratings
Knowledge-based services, and therefore the banking industry in particular, have definitively entered the age of hybrid work forms. In early 2023, half of the employees in the private banking industry already worked in a hybrid work environment very often or often, two thirds at least occasionally and three quarters at least rarely. Only a quarter are never involved in an environment with various work locations. → Graphic 17
The question asked for the first time, as to how the employees would rate work in the hybrid environment on a scale from “excellent” to “bad”, can be answered in summary very clearly: they gave largely positive ratings for all key aspects of work. An impressive 90% of employees rated the efficiency of their own work as excellent, very good or good. 87% are satisfied with the mixture of mobile work and work in the office, and almost as many with the achievement of targets in the team and the workflow. Other key team indicators were rated positive at a rate of over 80%, for example sharing knowledge and experience and the meeting culture. The team organisation including the organisation of (non-)reachability and response times evidently also works very well in the hybrid environment. → Graphic 18
Even aspects that were rated as somewhat difficult in a comparison of mobile and stationary work (see previous section) are only problematic for very few employees in hybrid work structures – for example communication and flow of information (79% positive ratings), collaboration in critical work and project phases (77%) and collaboration in creative work processes (74%). → Graphic 19
This is clearly also related to efforts made by the companies: more than two thirds of bank employees feel they are supported well by the employer in self-organisation and time management and in work organisation (for example by means of training).
The employees rate training provided by the employer and undisrupted work largely positive (two thirds), but with potential for optimisation. The biggest potential for improvement is in the incentives for being physically present at the workplace. The majority (56%) rates this as positive, but no less than 42% of employees consider them only acceptable or bad. This indicator shows that the transition to the hybrid world of work is only beginning and that a fundamental change is needed in the way work organisation is thought about.
Job satisfaction and health: above average for mobile and hybrid workers
The rating of job satisfaction in the private banking industry has been high for many years: over 80% of employees are regularly extremely satisfied, very satisfied or satisfied with their work. The pandemic years have done nothing to change this. There have been more pronounced fluctuations recently, however. Satisfaction actually rose further during the peak of the pandemic in winter 2020/2021 despite considerable burdens, because a “we can do it” mentality came into play with high motivation. Conversely, in early 2022, after two years of pandemic-related restrictions, a certain level of exhaustion had spread, with satisfaction dropping slightly, but remaining on a high level. With the normalisation of work and living conditions in early 2023, job satisfaction has also risen again, achieving positive ratings at pre-pandemic levels (84%).
It is evident that people engaging in mobile and hybrid work have above-average levels of satisfaction and health – a phenomenon that was already noticeable in previous years across all sectors. For example, a research report on the spread and impact of mobile work and working from home produced by the Federal Employment Ministry concluded the following already at the start of the pandemic in October 2020: “Overall, positive experience […] with mobile work and working from home quite clearly outweighs the […] negative experiences”. This has not changed since in the private banking industry; today this applies in particular for those with frequent hybrid work (88% of whom are satisfied with their work) and for employees working from home always or every day (87%); on the other hand, this only applies to 79% of non-mobile workers. → Graphic 20
The picture is similar for how the employees rate health: since many years, four out of five employees in the private banking industry rate their health as excellent, very good or good consistently – and once again the mobile and hybrid workers stand out positively. → Graphic 21
This applies even more strongly for mental health, which has improved on a high level overall within the space of a year. The workers who feel best are those involved in hybrid work: 85% of them feel physically fit; this is 4 percentage points more than the average for all employees and 11 percentage points more than for non-mobile workers. → Graphic 22
There are thus no signs that increasing mobile work impairs employees’ mental health – on the contrary, it promotes health.
This is also confirmed by the findings regarding certain health complaints that are essential for mental health. If you compare the frequency of stress, exhaustion and overburdening since early 2020 (before the pandemic) and now, the same pattern can be seen for all three complaints: before Covid, they occurred at significantly above-average rates for mobile and hybrid workers, but they are now all below the average in these groups – while employees who do not engage in mobile work are now affected at above-average rates. → Graphic 23
The absolute level of stress in the various groups has developed correspondingly: for frequent mobile or hybrid workers, stress is much lower than before the pandemic, while stress has increased for the non-mobile workers. → Graphic 24
It might thus be likely that this inversion is related to the changes in structure for mobile workers; one possible theory could be that newcomers to mobile work, with much less stress, could have joined the group of mobile workers (with above-average stress) that existed before the pandemic. But this assumption proves to be incorrect: in actual fact, the newcomers suffer from stress and exhaustion more often than experienced mobile workers, as shown by the latest survey from February 2023. In turn, this suggests that work organisation and corporate cultures have instead changed since the pandemic and now offer experienced mobile and hybrid workers an increasingly stress-free work environment.
This is also illustrated by a comparison between working from home and in the employer’s offices. Even in past years, a large majority of mobile workers stated that working from home meant less stress overall for them than working in the office/company premises; in early 2022 the rate was already over two thirds (68%). This high level was exceeded further in early 2023, and is now 72%; on the other hand, only 9% answered that this is not the case for them. → Graphic 25
The greatest reduction in stress arising from working in the home environment was experienced by those who work from home always or every day and employees without any leadership responsibility. By contrast, executives and also employees with childcare obligations experienced less reduction in stress as the result of working from home than the average.
The findings on the amount of presenteeism (working while sick) were also interesting. This phenomenon is much less pronounced among mobile workers than among employees who do not (or cannot) engage in mobile work – and slightly less for experienced mobile workers than for mobile work newcomers. The above-average presenteeism is – like in previous years – the result of other factors, such as limited decision-making leeway in work or private care obligations. It seems here that the daily quota of gainful employment and family work seems to favour more frequent presenteeism. → Graphic 26
Working hours and reachability
No expansion of working hours and improved distribution in mobile work
It is sometimes said that mobile work tends to result in an expansion of working hours, for example because there might be a lack of social control and because employees could often take on too much (“interested self-endangerment”) when they have more freedom in organising their working hours. The current figures in the private banking industry say otherwise, however. On the one hand, overall working hours have not risen in the sector in recent years despite the abrupt increase in mobile work. While the volume of work moderately increased at the peak of the pandemic in 2021, it has now returned to pre-Covid levels. Above all, however, the total working hours for frequently mobile or hybrid working employees has actually been on the decrease since the outbreak of the pandemic. → Graphic 27
Things look slightly different for the “perceived” working hours. In early 2023, 45% of mobile workers in the private banking industry said that their working hours were (slightly) higher working from home than in the office/company premises; this is six percentage points more than in the previous year. 29% said that this was (partially) not applicable, two percentage points less than the year before. → Graphic 28
These figures say nothing about the extent of perceived higher working hours, however – and this seems to be very low. This is supported not only by the overall working hours having remained largely unchanged over past year, across all employees. Even for mobile workers, whose working hours had been significantly above the average for years, the actual overall working hours (including overtime) have been converging with the average working hours for years. → Graphic 29
One of the reasons for this is that the frequency and the amount of overtime among mobile and hybrid workers is lower than the average and the amount of overtime in these groups has been on the decline for years. → Graphics 30, 31
Overall, it thus appears that the time boundaries between work and private life for mobile work in the private banking industry are working successfully; the findings do not indicate any need for additional recording or monitoring of working hours.
Regarding working hours models, we see two clear tendencies: the percentage of employees with fixed working hours has been declining for years. And the more mobile work employees do, the more flexible they can be with distributing their working hours; more flexibility in terms of location goes hand in hand with more flexibility regarding time. Over half of those who engage in frequent hybrid or especially frequent mobile work have highly flexible working hour models (trust-based working hours or flexitime with no fixed core working hours) – more than twice as many as in the group of non-mobile workers. → Graphic 32
At the same time, the (frequently) mobile and hybrid working employees consider their working hours especially appropriate: roughly 90% of employees in this group are satisfied with their working time arrangements – compared with 75% of the non-mobile workers. → Graphic 33
In parallel, a corporate culture has been developing that increasingly respects the boundary between work and leisure time; in the private banking industry, the amount of work on workdays between 6 and 8 p.m. has declined by a quarter in the past ten years, and even the amount of weekend work, which was low to start with (more frequent Saturday work currently affects only 8%, and Sunday work only 3% of bank employees), has significantly dropped recently. → Graphic 34
This applies in particular to employees with frequent mobile or hybrid work. Before the pandemic, working at unusual times was still pronounced in this group, but it has now reached normal levels. → Graphics 35, 36
These findings suggest an overall significantly improved distribution of working hours in mobile work in an environment in which trust is necessarily an increasingly defining feature. Executives clearly accept more increasingly the more free working hour distribution of their employees, and the employees are clearly handling their newly acquired autonomy with increasing responsibility.
This is confirmed by cross-sector studies. Back in the first phase of the pandemic (October 2020), the research report on the spread and impact of mobile work and working from home produced by the Federal Employment Ministry concluded the following: “Despite the extensive transition to working from home, the large majority of employees do not work longer hours at home than they did before the Covid pandemic.” While the report does identify that employees with care obligations (children or relatives) work at different times than before the pandemic at above-average rates, it also provides the interpretation that mobile work gives this group additional time flexibility that can help to reconcile work and care obligations.
Extended reachability: in mobile work more often a resource than a source of stress
The topic of extended reachability was a focus of occupational health and safety even before the Covid pandemic, in particular with the smartphones and tablets becoming widespread in the early 2010s. Since then, it has technically been possible to be reachable everywhere and at all times – at least in theory. In practice, however, it quickly became clear the companies and employees were using these options with increasing responsibility, and the employees were by no means reachable constantly (i.e. around the clock). Instead extended reachability took different forms, and had different impacts.
In the private banking industry, the amount of extended reachability had tended to be on the decline since the mid-2010s until the first year of the pandemic, and was generally at the same level as the economy as a whole: in 2021 almost 21% of bank employees were (very) frequently reachable; across all sectors, 22% of employees said that they are reachable for business matters even in their private life, as shown by the 2021 working hours survey of the Federal Agency for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA).
In the past two years, work-related reachability has increased slightly overall in the private banking industry – however specifically not in the case of mobile and hybrid workers (who actually experienced a slight drop), but interestingly among non-mobile workers, who experienced a considerable increase (starting from a low level). → Graphic 37
The causes for this development are not immediately clear and require in-depth examination in the years to come. It is clear, however, that how reachability is dealt with for mobile and hybrid workers is currently stabilising at a level that does not trigger any need for action.
Mobile and hybrid working employees are still slightly more often reachable overall than the average employee, especially those who work from home always or every day. This is not surprising, as mobile and hybrid forms of work require slightly more coordination, given the limited level of informal communication – and this seems to be the case even outside of usual working hours. → Graphic 38
However, the mobile workers consider the expanded reachability less stressful. In any case, it should be borne in mind that the vast majority of the overall workforce in the private banking industry – significantly above 70% – do not feel at all stressed because of reachability. Within the reachable group, 62% do not feel stressed by e-mail contact outside of standard office hours. For frequently hybrid working employees the figure is 68% and for daily mobile working employees as much as 72%. Phone contact shows a similar structure. → Graphic 39
This may be because mobile workers also consider the extended reachability a resource at an above-average rate. This is in particular the case when contact is rarely made outside of standard working hours, is easy to control and predictable, brings advantages (such as appreciation for supporting colleagues or reducing own stress), no complex follow-up work is needed or if contact is seen as absolutely necessary (and thus legitimate). All these factors demonstrably contribute to reachability being considered a resource and not just a source of stress; this was the finding of AGV Banken in a 2018 study on extended accessibility, and also of occupational research, the results of which can be found in guidelines produced by Statutory Accident Insurance for Administrative Occupation (VBG) on extended reachability.
Compatibility of work and private life: significantly better balance in mobile work
A good compatibility of work and private life is highly regarded in the private banking industry. Three quarters of employees rate reconcilability positively, and the values have remained at a very stable level for years. Given the significantly increased location and time flexibility in mobile work, it is no surprise that frequent mobile and hybrid workers rate the balance between work and private life as positive more than average; among those who engage in mobile work always/every day, the rate is actually 83% – almost 20 percentage points more than for the group of non-mobile workers. → Graphic 40
While the frequent mobile and hybrid workers considered the compatibility to be slightly better before the pandemic than at present, they rated the balance between work and private life significantly more positively than the non-mobile workers. Furthermore, mobile and hybrid workers are able to keep work and private life separate at above-average levels: in comparison with the non-mobile workers, they can switch off more effectively and do not have private issues on their mind during work – as they can keep professional problems out of their private lives much better, and private problems out of their professional lives better. → Graphic 41 This suggests overall good work organisation and responsible interactions between executives and employees.
Decision-making leeway: autonomy with outstanding importance for quality in mobile and hybrid work
Ergonomic and occupational research has shown that action and decision-making leeway have a positive impact on job satisfaction and the health of employees. In the private banking industry, this is supported by the key indicators for job satisfaction and health: employees with very high independence and responsibility are not only satisfied with their job and their working hours at above-average rates (each significantly above 90%) but also with the compatibility of work and private life (84%). Nine out of ten employees in this group rate their (mental) health positively. In the small group with low decision-making leeway (share: 19%), the reverse is true: in this case, a maximum of 60% are satisfied with the aspects mentioned. → Graphic 42
At the same time, it is clear that high autonomy is not at all associated with increased working hours or greater stress arising from accessibility – on the contrary: in the private banking industry, employees with high decision-making leeway do less overtime than the average workforce; they work in the evening less often and feel less stressed by contact outside of standard working hours. → Graphic 43
This applies to mobile and hybrid workers in a special way: they have significantly above-average autonomy in choosing their work location and in how they distribute their working hours. Across all employees, 82% in the private banking industry rate their decision-making leeway positively. This high value increases again considerably as the amount of mobile work increases; for frequently hybrid and always/daily mobile working employees, the rate is 4 and 6 percentage points higher. This means that autonomy gains an outstanding importance for the quality of mobile and hybrid work. Inversely, only 75% of non-mobile workers rate their independence and responsibility in the job positively – still a high value, but significantly below that of mobile work. → Graphic 44
It is evident: The greater the amount of mobile work, the more autonomously the employees can decide where they work; for frequently hybrid working employees the rate is 69%. Employees in higher-valued activities (executives and non-pay-scale employees) can decide where to work with slightly above-average frequency (each around two thirds). Other employee groups have significantly caught up in comparison with the previous year, however: a year ago, only 50% of pay-scale mobile workers could choose where to work, but the rate is now 60%; for non-executives, this value has increased in the space of a year from 54% to 60%. → Graphic 45
Overall, the level of autonomy of other sections of the workforce has risen considerably in recent years – without being considered stressful, as is shown by the above-average satisfaction figures. Most of those who currently engage in mobile and hybrid work are thus taking more responsibility and are also more able to do so – as they are evidently learning: self-organisation in working from home is found easier by the employees affected, causing no problems or only minor problems for 80%, almost ten more percentage points than in previous years. Inversely, only 11% claim to find self-organisation difficult. → Graphic 46
Regarding the various employee groups, it is noticeable that parents and executives find it slightly more difficult to organise mobile work themselves; the former have parallel care obligations when working at home and the latter have to organise not only themselves but also hybrid working teams. Nevertheless, a positive development can also be seen here: one year before, self-organisation was found to be (partially) difficult by 20% of executives, but today the rate is only 17%; for parents, this value dropped from 27% to 20%. Overall, the overwhelming majority of employees can organise themselves increasingly well in mobile work. → Graphic 47
This is undoubtedly to a large extent the result of “learning by doing”, which was indispensable during the pandemic and in many cases turned newcomers into mobile work pros. But also the support and instruction from the employer regarding good and healthy mobile work is perceived much more strongly and rated more positively now than in previous years. At present, 69% of employees who work in a hybrid environment feel (very) well supported by their employer in self-organisation and time management. And almost as many (66%) say that they feel well-supported by their employers in work organisation in a hybrid environment. → Graphics 48, 49 This suggests that the employers have significantly increased their efforts to share with their employees the required skills for well-organised mobile work.
In this environment, new ideas clearly flourish better than before. The increased autonomy of the employees is not restricted to work location, working hours and self-organisation. Frequently mobile and hybrid working employees also experience above-average levels of freedom to try out innovative approaches. It seems that the necessity of the pandemic years has created a virtue: mobile work promotes inventiveness even in an environment that has normalised. → Graphic 50
Work environment: better rated in mobile work than in workplace work
In the discussion of healthy organisation of mobile work, the issue of external working conditions (light, noise, temperature, room size, technical equipment) is also a focal point. The theory is often put forward that working conditions in work from home in particular are inadequate. Mobile and hybrid workers in the private banking industry have an entirely different experience, however: over 75% of them rated their external working conditions positively and said that they felt comfortable in their workplace – significantly more than in the group of people who only work in the office/company premises (70%). → Graphics 51, 52 This suggests an overall good work environment and equipment, particularly in the home environment.
The wide-ranging support from the employer evidently also plays a role here. Almost all employees in the private banking industry can make use of employer offers for healthy organisation of mobile work, and these are rated overwhelmingly positively – especially by people who frequently engage in mobile and hybrid work: over 80% of them rate the offers of their employer positively. → Graphic 53
The functionality of the technical equipment is also given good marks: 84% of those frequently engaging in mobile or hybrid work say that the technical equipment for working from home generally functions without any problems; only 7% say this is not the case. A significant development can also be seen here: just two years ago, only 44% reported disruption-free technology, and 30% were frequently affected by disruptions. This shows a considerable professionalisation in a short period of time. Accordingly, the level of “technostress” is currently at the same level as in the office/company workplace, and can therefore be considered negligible. → Graphic 54
Another indicator of the quality of the external working conditions is the amount of physical complaints, in particular headache, back ache and limb pain – bearing in mind that these do not necessarily have physical causes (for example arising from inadequate ergonomics), but may be psychological. Regardless of this, a positive development can also be seen here: the complaints mentioned are not only at slightly below-average levels for frequently mobile and hybrid working employees, there has also been a downwards trend in this group since the start of the pandemic. It cannot therefore be concluded that inadequate ergonomic working conditions are present in mobile work at above-average levels. Instead, it can be assumed that a combination of situational prevention (improved technical equipment) and behavioural prevention (adjusted work and health behaviour) is leading to a drop in complaints. → Graphics 55, 56
One thing that stands out, on the other hand, is that the complaints mentioned have tended to increase among non-mobile workers in recent years. As it cannot be assumed that the external working conditions in the office/company workplace have enormously worsened, there must be other reasons for this increase, which should be examined in the coming years.
Resources and workload: professionalisation of work and management structures
With regard to resources and workload, a similar pattern can be seen as for other issues: the indicators tend to be better for frequently mobile and hybrid working employees than for the rest of the workforce. Before the pandemic, those frequently engaged in working from home or hybrid work rated resources and also workload and appropriateness of the work targets above-average. This reversed at the peak of the pandemic in 2021: mobile and hybrid work was considered stressful to an above-average extent, although the employees rated their job satisfaction and health as especially good in this “we can do it” phase. With living conditions normalising and the mobile work routine expanding, the pattern from the pre-pandemic period returned. This suggests a rapid and far-reaching professionalisation of work and management structures even in the increasingly mobile and hybrid world of work. → Graphic 57
Collaboration in team: more collegiality in mobile and hybrid work
Before the pandemic, there were no differences in the most important team indicator, team spirit and co-operation among colleagues, in relation to the amount of mobile work. This has changed significantly: frequently hybrid working employees in particular now rate this aspect consistently better and consider it to be above average. For other key team indicators (commitment, appreciation), the typical pattern can be recognised: following a slight downturn in 2021, a stabilisation at above-average level can be seen among mobile and hybrid workers, and thus greater collegiality overall in mobile and hybrid work. This is enjoyable particularly because the risk of social isolation is often mentioned in relation to especially frequent mobile work; this appears to be low, however, particular given that hybrid forms of work are increasing. → Graphic 58
One thing that stands out is that non-mobile workers now give their collaboration in the team below-average ratings. This may be connected to a change in information flow in hybrid worlds of work, with communication among mobile workers functioning better than among those in the office/company workplace in some cases. One factor indicating this is that non-mobile workers rate certain communication aspects in the team and with their managers worse than mobile workers (see next section).
Leadership: beginning of hybrid age makes work easier for executives
Leadership is an important key for good, motivating and healthy work – this was true before and during the pandemic, and even more so in new hybrid work structures. Employees in the private banking industry gave their managers good marks despite all the disruptions of the past years, and continue to do so today. For the executives themselves, the pandemic years involved special challenges, however, some of which still apply and which can provide important insights into modern leadership culture.
Before considering the current situation, it is therefore useful to look back to the pandemic years 2021 and 2022. In these years, AGV Banken not only asked employees overall what the pros and cons were of mobile work were compared with stationary work in the office, but also the managers in relation to certain aspects. Today, these questions – like the questions in section “Pros and cons of mobile work: insight gained from the pandemic years” [internal link to section 6.] – can no longer be asked in the same way, given the significant shift towards hybrid work. The survey findings from the two years do provide valuable insight into the differences between mobile work and classic office work, however; it therefore makes sense to include them in this study.
The key statements from the past manager surveys are: trust has increased, the flow of information has improved, the increased control workload in virtual teams has remained. And aspects that call for in-depth personal communication have improved but remain difficult in fully or predominantly mobile work – for example holding performance reviews, personnel development, recruitment and induction of new workers. → Graphics 59, 60
The start of the hybrid age in the world of work, however, is very clearly making work easier for executives. The mixture of remote management and personal communication does increase the amount of coordination and management needed, but it very clearly simplifies a whole series of complex management tasks given the renewed greater physical presence and improved communication. This is the finding of the questions regarding quality of management aspects that were added to the survey in 2023.
Accordingly, the collaboration in the team, the formulation and achievement of goals and the flow of information seem to work very well (each approaching a 90% positive rating), and this also applies to the delegation of tasks and motivation of employees. An also large majority of executives (84%) rated the holding of performance reviews in the hybrid work environment as positive, and over 80% do not have any problems with the workload needed for management and organisation – an aspect that was rated much more critically under the difficult conditions of the previous years. And at least three quarters of executives even rated the induction of new employees and personnel development positively in the hybrid work environment. Recruitment remains comparatively difficult, but it is still rated positively in most cases (58%). → Graphic 61
For years, executives have given important aspects of their work considerably above-average ratings. At present, 87% of executives in the private banking industry rate their work positively, three percentage points more than the workforce average. At the same time, the key indicators of satisfaction and work environment show that the executives found their work considerably more difficult during the pandemic – and the year 2022 in particular – but that most of the ratings are now once again approaching the high levels of before the pandemic. This comes as no surprise: during the Covid pandemic, the executives first had to organise and design the transition to mobile work and then the transition to hybrid forms of work – a process that is not yet over. The data shows, however, that the personal communication between executives and teams that is now once again possible has a significantly positive impact on executive job satisfaction and performance. → Graphics 62, 63
This seems to also be rubbing off on employees: mobile and hybrid workers currently rate key management indicators as above-average. One thing that stands out is that the ratings are best for frequently hybrid working employees; this applies to both respectful treatment and trusting relationship with management and its function as a role model. → Graphic 64
The advantages of hybrid forms of work are evenclearer for key indicators of management communication. The frequent hybridworkers rate the openness of communication, the team organisation and thesupport with difficulties as significantly above-average, while these aspectsare given slightly below-average ratings by those engaging in mobile workalways/every day. → Graphic 65 The facts show that good management communicationrelies on personal interaction – and hybrid forms of work evidently provideadequate opportunity for this. This also reduces the risk of lack of socialinclusion among employees
For all of this, employers are giving their executives increasing support: a significant majority (57%) of executives feel sufficiently prepared by their employers for managing decentralised/virtual teams, and only 25% say they are not – considerably less than in previous years. → Graphic 66