Covid-19 proved to be an accelerator for some pre-existing employment trends. Working from home is just one example. Before the pandemic, remote work was considered a minority practice – often frowned upon by management. During the pandemic however, work-from-home numbers soared, and in the USA for example, these reached around 20% or 18 million workers. This is triple was it was before the pandemic, and by 2025 experts predict this number will rise further to 36 million!
In Switzerland, “work from home numbers” were also high during the pandemic. And in 2020 over 1/3 of employees worked from home at least some of the time. However, the percentage figures varied depending on industry sector, with ICT leading the way, and which recorded over 75 % of workers as being home-based during the same period.
But what started out as a government ruling, in order to restrict travel and personal contact during the height of the pandemic, has now developed further into becoming an accepted employment standard. And the resultant trends include demands from workers, as well as steps that companies continue to take, to facilitate the work the from home phenomenon.
Worker trends in Switzerland
- The economy in Switzerland is divided into three sectors: services, industry and agriculture.
- The service sector makes up around 72% of Swiss GDP. This is followed by industry at 27% and finally, agriculture at 1%.
- The service sector includes banking, finance, insurance and other services such as ICT. This sector and many of the roles within it, could be conducted remotely.
- The legal situation in Switzerland with regards to remote or teleworking however is still not clear
- According to the Swiss Employers’Association there is still not a legal right to be able to work from home.
- However, employers are also bound by law to protect the health of their workers, and if neither a safe workplace or teleworking option is available, then an employee can legally stay at home on full salary.
- In reality, however the situation is not so clear cut:
- Many workers that were used to working from home during the pandemic, now expect to be able to work at least part of their work week from home.
- Generation Z is now entering the workforce and their attitude to work and career is vastly different to previous generations, such as the “baby boomers” who are now slowly retiring. Some challenges:
- remote work options are classed as being a standard contractual option for generation Z.
- flexible working hours, wellness options as well as career training solutions etc., are being used by employers to entice talented young workers.
- Generation Z worker loyalty, and longevity is low compared to previous generations, as career and lifestyle take the forefront.
- In 2001, less than 1% of Switzerland’s employees worked more than half of their working week from home. During the first pandemic lockdown, 50% of workers worked from home. However, experts are now predicting that in 10 years, at least 40% of employees in Switzerland will work from home.
- The above will no doubt have a fundamental effect on many related factors such as office real estate, worker commute times, employee support infrastructure, such as restaurants and shops etc. Some of these trends are already becoming visible in Switzerland with pop-up, self-serve lunch food kiosks for example to reduce costs and simplify the offer.
While remote work was accepted and then promoted by some companies during and after Covid-19, some of the same companies have now reversed their decisions, preferring “in-person” employees.
- On such company is IBM, which was an early adopter of remote work and has since reversed its policy, citing “the need for a team to be in the same space to be successful”.
- Google also now actively discourages remote work on the basis that “chance encounters between colleagues can improve performance”.
In Switzerland, some trends take longer to establish. Remote work is perhaps one such example. While working from home during the Pandemic was obligatory for many, working remotely (at least part of the week) is now considered a “flexible benefit”. Something that Swiss employers can offer to potential employees, who now invariably expect this as a standard option anyway.
Employers, engaging workers who work remotely, can have benefits for the company and Switzerland’s decentralised economy and efficient infrastructure have already led many people to live away from their place of work, so the scene is already set for more people to work remotely.
- Lifestyle and location preferences of workers tend to remain throughout life. When engaging remote workers, companies are able to cast their recruitment nets much further afield. As a result, the number of home-based workers in Switzerland is increasing. This option is particularly important for companies in Switzerland today, given the low unemployment rate vs the number of open jobs advertised.
- Foreign companies looking to expand their business internationally are able to engage remote home based workers in Switzerland. This could be for specialist skills reasons, or as part of an international business expansion strategy.
- Surveys conducted after the pandemic show that the majority of workers would prefer a hybrid model of working. Only 12 % want to work in the office full time and those workers under 30 years of age signalled that they prefer remote working. By offering a flexible approach, companies in Switzerland will definitely appear more attractive – especially to the younger generation of workers.
- Switzerland has a high service sector element to its economy and the banking + finance, insurance and ICT sectors lend themselves well to the remote working model. It should be remembered however, that 99.9% of Swiss companies fall in the SME category – making at least some worker presence in the company a requirement each week.
- While many workers felt stressed at the beginning of the work from home order during the Pandemic, having to be constantly online, participating in non-stop virtual meetings and missing the 1-2-1 interactions with colleagues – the trend for working from home has remained and is growing.
- In Switzerland the economy includes a high service sector element, suitable for remote work. However, given that a very high percentage of companies in Switzerland are classified as SME’s, flexibility on part of the worker and the company is often required.
- The trend to work remotely is here to stay and for Switzerland, the numbers of people working remotely will only increase going forward with experts predicting almost half the working population will be working remotely at least for some of the week in 10 years time.
- Lessons have been learned by both workers and companies from the pandemic. Working remotely at least some of the week, now seems to be an accepted practice, at least in those companies where a physical presence is not a requirement.
Accurity is SECO licensed with a 20+ year enviable reputation as a trustworthy, reliable and transparent partner for companies of all sizes including SMEs, contractors and recruitment agents. We also work with cross border workers living in France and working in Switzerland – as well as those living in Switzerland and working remotely for foreign companies. Our core services include Employer of Record or EOR for contractors and international and domestic clients wishing to engage contractors. Our pricing system is fair and transparent. We are based in Switzerland and have excellent local knowledge and connections. Contact our team to see how we can help you.