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Flex-time, Part-time, Sabbatical

SAP Employee Urte Thölke on Flexible Working Hours at SAP

Sarah Grewing 03.03.2016
According to various studies, Generation Y values a good work-life balance a trend that can also be seen at SAP. “Career entrants and young professionals often ask about options for home office work, or flexible working hours in general,” says Urte Thölke at SAP’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Office. “But we have noticed this trend throughout all the generations working at SAP. Nowadays, employees talk more candidly about their needs.”
Work-life balance at SAP

The mother of two grade-schoolers makes use of SAP’s various options herself: “Currently, I am working 28 hours a week in order to have some time with my kids and support community services in my home town. On top of this, my SAP team members are spread all over the world. With colleagues in the U.S. and counterparts in Asia, my position requires a certain level of flexibility – and SAP provides the necessary framework to support that.”

“One-size-fits-all” arrangements are outdated

SAP’s options for flexible working hours differ from one subsidiary to the next, based on differences in labor law, insurance regulations and cultural identities. “Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of flexibility,” Thölke explains. “Firstly, there is flexibility in relation to time, which includes flex-time work, part-time work and sabbaticals. In addition to that, there is flexibility in relation to location: working from home either occasionally or permanently, based on a fixed contract. We are constantly looking for ways of expanding our flex work portfolio for our employees in various locations.” Flexible working with regards to time and location is on the up in every field, as Thölke – who’s responsible for cross-generational collaboration – outlines. “We do see differences between positions, but they can’t really be nailed down to specific departments or job descriptions. In order to achieve and maintain a better work-life balance, true flexibility needs to be defined by both the job requirements and the employee’s personal needs. In fact, there are bucket loads of factors that influence the best approach: the current job requirements, team structure, personal preferences, and many more besides.”

Flexible work requires a mutual trust between employee and employer

Of course, modern technology plays a major role when it comes to flexible working hours and locations. And who would know that any better than one of the world’s largest software corporations? Thölke: “There’s a whole range of devices and tools SAP’s employees can use to simplify their (flexible) working day, share information, and commute with colleagues all over the world, from laptops and smartphones to Skype and even internal communication platforms, like SAP Jam.”

These financial investments are worthwhile for both sides. “When business and personal needs are aligned, we see greater dedication from our employees,” Thölke says. Stress due to commuting and traveling as well as carbon emission can be reduced. Overall, SAP’s employees are happy to talk about how they enjoy the extra flexibility and improvements to their work-life balance – as officially acknowledged by the recently received Otto Heinemann Award.

“Nevertheless, flexible work options require a mutual trust between the employee and the employer. The absence of closer monitoring on the part of the management team places greater responsibility on employees to take care of their work and divide their working hours and time off wisely. Flexible working has always been part of SAP’s DNA – and it always will be. But we are constantly adapting it to suit the changing requirements of the future working environment.”