The Hamburg Family Seal and the future of the flexible workplace

During the pandemic, we’ve seen the difference that a flexible, family-friendly workplace can make. Should businesses adapt their working arrangements? Is remote work here to stay? English Business and the Hamburg Alliance for Families have some ideas!

Photo credit: James Besser

Flexible working arrangements

EnglishBusiness believes in offering its staff flexible working arrangements that allow our people to work at their best, in line with company requirements. EnglishBusiness has been a proud bearer of the city of Hamburg’s Family Seal (Familiensiegel) for more than 12 years. The Family Seal is awarded by the Hamburg Alliance for Families (Allianz für Familien) and is an initiative of the Hamburg Senate, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Crafts. Its goal is to continue developing the city so it becomes even more attractive for families – and to ensure that its citizens recognise the value and importance of family. At the same time, the city emphasises that women and men with children, or other relations in their care, are themselves skilled workers who are desperately needed by Hamburg’s economy.

There are a number of competitions and certificates throughout Germany that promote family-friendly personnel policies. However, the costs and administrative efforts they require result in relatively few small and mid-size companies becoming certified.

Since 2007, the Alliance for Families has awarded the Hamburg Family Seal in a bid to recognise the advantages of company policies that support employee efforts to combine career opportunities with family challenges. In 2019, there were 374 Family Seal companies with more than 35,000 employees.


60 percent of employees work for mid-size and small companies

In Hamburg, around 60 percent of employees work for mid-size and small companies like EnglishBusiness.  Companies know that employees in family-friendly situations are more satisfied, call in sick less frequently, come back to work more quickly after parental leave and remain loyal to the company longer.

Hamburg’s Senator for Labor, Social Affairs, Family and Integration Dr Melanie Leonhard has said: “The Hamburg Family Seal awards are a wonderful initiative! The alliance partners have collaborated successfully for 15 years. The city supports conditions that allow parents to reconcile families with jobs. The companies that receive this award provide young families and other caregiving employees with innovative and clever solutions so they can combine their work with their family lives. I hope that even more companies will join these role models.”

The alliance considers family-friendly work policies on parental leave (and return from parental leave), flexible working hours (full/part-time), remote working options and, recently, whether companies demonstrated flexibility during the lockdown, like EnglishBusiness did. Soon after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, EnglishBusiness reconfigured its working model to make it possible for staff to work from home, and the company plans to continue to offer a blended home-based/office-based model into the future. Marlen Schrader, Board member of EnglishBusiness says, “We believe that working arrangements come in all shapes and sizes.”

Photo credit: Steven Libralon

The importance of remote work

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has become even more essential that employees – and not just families with children at home – have a viable option to work from home if possible and necessary.

The McKinsey Global Institute published an insight on the future of flexible work in February 2021. Here is an excerpt:

Perhaps the most obvious impact of COVID-19 on the labor force is the dramatic increase in employees working remotely. To determine how extensively remote work might persist after the pandemic, we analyzed its potential across more than 2,000 tasks used in some 800 occupations in the eight focus countries. Considering only remote work that can be done without a loss of productivity, we find that about 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represents four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic and could prompt a large change in the geography of work, as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities. We found that some work that technically can be done remotely is best done in person. Negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback and onboarding new employees are examples of activities that may lose some effectiveness when done remotely.

Some companies are already planning to shift to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic, a move that will reduce the overall space they need and bring fewer workers into offices each day. The scale of workforce transitions set off by COVID-19’s influence on labour trends increases the urgency for businesses and policymakers to take steps to support additional training and education programs for workers. Companies and governments exhibited extraordinary flexibility and adaptability in responding to the pandemic with purpose and innovation that they might also harness to retool the workforce in ways that point to a brighter future of work.

Businesses can start with a granular analysis of what work can be done remotely by focusing on the tasks involved rather than whole jobs. … Remote work also offers companies the opportunity to enrich their diversity by tapping workers who, for family and other reasons, were unable to relocate to the superstar cities where talent, capital and opportunities concentrated before the pandemic.

Photo credit: Element5 Digital

Remote work and virtual meetings

Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue. EnglishBusiness and its fellow Family Seal awardees have been pioneers of family-centred workplace flexibility for more than 15 years. They provide models for how future workplaces can and must evolve to accommodate workers’ changing needs. What’s more, EnglishBusiness not only talks the talk; it walks the walk*. We help businesses prepare and train staff for the diverse challenges of international business – in virtual or face-to-face communication skills seminars. Contact us today to find out how we can translate our flexible training options and English-language consulting services into cross-cultural success for your company.

*Our Translation Editors and Consultants tell us this means we back up our words with appropriate action.

This post was written by

Brenda Benthien

Brenda Benthien

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