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Home office and mobile working

What there is for you to consider when working outside the office


What should employees consider in the home office and mobile working?

The term "home office" is on everyone's lips - but what is often meant is mobile working, which is practiced by many companies, also to enable more compatibility. We have compiled a brief overview of the differences between the two and the regulations that need to be observed in each case.

Home office (also "telecommuting") and mobile working - in many companies there is confusion as to what exactly is meant by these terms and what legal regulations are derived from them. In the case of a permanent home office, you work at a fixed workplace outside the company, for example in your own home. The Workplace Ordinance applies here: the home office or teleworkplace must meet the same legal requirements in terms of occupational health and safety standards as the company workplace. Therefore, the employer must equip it completely at his own expense, from the office chair to the monitor.

What many companies practice is mobile working by definition. With mobile working, your employer provides you with a laptop, tablet and, if necessary, a smartphone, so that work performance can be carried out from different locations, i.e. while traveling, on the train, in a hotel or even at home at the kitchen table. What is important is not the location, but the accessibility. Therefore, the workplace ordinance does not apply here, because your employer obviously cannot assess the safety of your kitchen or café chair.

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  1. 1. Working hours - regulated and flexible
    Your employer can also determine the times at which you must be available in the home office. Many companies agree on trust-based working hours so that you can work as you wish, taking into account operational concerns and weekly working hours. The employer is responsible for compliance with the protective regulations of the Working Hours Act: You may not work more than six hours at a stretch without a break. On average, you may not work more than eight hours per day, or ten hours in exceptional cases. And you must rest for eleven hours after the end of work.

    This is not always possible, especially with mobile work: One or two more e-mails in the evening or creating a presentation in the early morning hours are everyday life for many mobile workers. There's a danger of the boundaries being blurred, with work and leisure time becoming one and the same thing.

    However, your employer must monitor rest and working hours as part of its duty of care. Following the recent landmark ruling by the Federal Labor Court (BAG) on September 13, 2022, the Federal Ministry of Labor has presented a reform of the Working Hours Act. To protect the safety and health of employees, the law stipulates that the start, end and duration of working hours should be recorded electronically every day on the same day.
  2. 2. Accident protection - limited in individual cases
    Statutory accident insurance only applies to professional activities in the home office. For example, if you fall down the stairs and break your arm because you had to check the Internet connection in the basement, this accident would be insured. But if you fall down the stairs because you want to make yourself a coffee, this accident would not be insured. In other words, if you work at home, you bear many of the risks yourself. While going to the kitchenette or canteen at work is covered by accident insurance, going to the kitchen at home or to the toilet is an "economic activity" according to the Federal Social Court and therefore not insured.

    Even if you injure yourself while hanging up laundry during your lunch break or preparing a meal, you must turn to private health insurance, because the accident risk emanating from the domestic living area is attributed to the insured.

    Accidents that happen on the road are insured - provided that the activity that led to the accident is factually related to work. According to a ruling by the Federal Social Court from December 2021, the route to the workplace within your own four walls is also insured. Injuries that you sustain on this route are thus considered an occupational accident. The prerequisite is that you can credibly affirm that you were walking to your desk and not, for example, to breakfast. Since the circumstances of occupational accidents can vary greatly, they are usually decided on a case-by-case basis.
  3. 3. Data protection - but secure!
    Important: The responsibility for data protection lies with the company itself. Software and hardware should be provided entirely by the employer, used only for professional matters and, of course, only by the employee. A secure LAN connection is always preferable to an open WLAN. A VPN connection is required for data transfer, and for data storage it is better not to use USB sticks or local hard drives, but to store the data on the company server. If storage on insecure media cannot be avoided, at least encryption should be used.
    Data protection may be more difficult to ensure for mobile work on the road, because when working on the train or in a café, for example, the screen may be visible to strangers or telephone conversations may be overheard.
Where can we find help and advice?

If you are unclear about the conditions of your work outside the office and the possibilities of setting up your mobile workplace, it is best to speak openly with your employer. You can also contact the works council and trade unions.

As a Germany-wide point of contact for information on all aspects of modern working time arrangements, the FOM University has set up the "Zeitbüro FOM" and is available as a point of contact for you.

More informationLinks for further reading

Further information on insurance and accident protection when working at home can be found at the professional associations.


Exact definitions of terms and detailed information on the subject of data protection can be found in the brochure "Teleworking and Mobile Working" from the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information.

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs provides the detailed Working Hours Act for download.

Here you can also find the info brochure "Designing location- and time-flexible work"