‘It will be difficult’: Foreign workers react to end of homeworking in Denmark

'It will be difficult': Foreign workers react to end of homeworking in Denmark
Four business people outside The Iceberg apartment building in Aarhus. Photo: Kim Wyon/Visit Denmark
With Danish workplaces advised this week to return to 100 percent physical attendance, we surveyed readers on how it will affect them. This is what they said.

The Local’s readers were split between those who are looking forward to a return to office life and those who have learned to prefer homeworking. 

“It will be difficult. I have been in a few days a week for meetings and found it very exhausting. There will also be more distractions than working from home,” complains Raj, who moved from the UK to work in Denmark, and returned to his home country for the entirety of the pandemic. 

“I am honestly anxious about being with so many people, sad that I will waste so much time on transport, and will also miss the quietness and the focus I had at home,” said one anonymous respondent from Romania. 

But others seemed to be raring to return to a busy, packed office. 

“Seeing people face to face, having a whiteboard handy, asking for a minute for a question at someone’s desk is just the best for productivity and team building,” said Fabrizio Bianchi, who recently moved to Denmark from Sweden. 

“It’s nice to see colleagues in person, socialise over lunch, that kind of thing. As an extrovert, I really like going into the office, working from home is lonely,” says a woman who moved to Denmark ten years ago from the US. 

Brett Chappell, an American who runs a start-up with mostly Danish staff, said that he felt homeworking had not worked as well.

“I cannot help but underline the importance of being able to meet and brainstorm in person. Introvert or extrovert, we all need to be together, and being in close physical proximity allows for greater understanding of subtle behavioral clues,” he said. 
Does homeworking have a bigger impact on foreigners?  
Several respondents said that they felt that foreigners working in Denmark were particularly badly affected by the shift to homeworking, with one underlining the importance of worklife for integration, although the American woman pointed out that “it‘s probably more a matter of introvert vs. extrovert than native vs. foreigner”. 
“Having less exposure to locals makes it tricky for foreigners to learn about the country. Homeworking conversations tend to be limited to work throughout the week,” said Raj. 
“Beginning work in a new country with the added effect of a pandemic was difficult. More so in a country where it is difficult to make friends,” said Louie, from New York.
“When you are foreigner, you do not necessarily have a lot of friends or your family with you, so it can make it very difficult in terms of loneliness,” said Gwenaëlle, from France. 
One anonymous respondent also pointed out that many foreigners in Denmark work in non-graduate jobs that have not been possible to carry out from home, meaning they have either been furloughed or had to work anyway. 
However, several others said they had enjoyed being able to return to their home country, or another country in Europe, and work remotely, often taking advantage of a significantly lower cost of living. 
What has been the worst aspect of homeworking for foreigners? 
“Being stuck home all day. Especially during the winter where it is so cold, wet, and dark,” Louie said. “Your home supposed to be a sanctuary but was feeling more like a prison.”
“Literally no breaks in between the virtual meetings. There were some days where I’ve been sitting by my desk, locked in my room, for 9 hours straight,” complained once respondent from Poland. “There were no possibilities to eat lunch nor to go to the toilet. People thought that as you’re working remotely, it means you have plenty of time and can easily be available 24h / day.” 
How many offices actually are returning to 100 percent physical attendance? 
Very few it seems. Only two of our 15 respondents worked for companies that were insisting on employees returning to the offices full time.
Several said their companies had had homeworking systems in place even before the pandemic, and most others seem to have now brought in a “hybrid policy”, with employees expected to come in for a few days a week. One has a Netflix-influenced “no rules” culture, where employees can do as they like so long as they are productive. 
But the respondents said that they believed that some companies will eventually move back to compulsory, full-time attendance. 
“I believe companies led by executive leadership with a more traditional mindset will be eager to return to traditional work,” said Andres, from South America. “However, I do believe other companies that observed how productivity and output was not negatively impacted during the pandemic will allow a hybrid or fully remote setup.” 
“I’m afraid that at some point my employer will expect all employees to be physically present at the office, and will not tolerate remote work,” said the Polish respondent. “This will be explained as ‘taking care of the team spirit’, ‘integration’ and ‘bonding. In my opinion, it will do more damage to the organization than any benefits it brings.”

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