The Federal Central Tax Office with its headquarters in Bonn has mastered the acute corona crisis with flying colours. In contrast to many other organisations, the authority, which employs around 2,200 people at four locations, was able to maintain its efficiency almost entirely even after the contact ban. At a stroke, 95 percent of the workforce switched to the home office. That this worked so smoothly is due to perfect preparation.

This was preceded by the decision to be a modern and attractive employer, enabling employees to work from home and on the move. Teleworking was previously possible in exceptional cases, e.g. for severely disabled employees or those who look after children or care for relatives. Mobile working should, however, be open to everyone, for example, in order to be able to work on concepts without being disturbed, to save long journeys and generally to improve the work-life balance. The Federal Central Office purchased over 2,000 laptops for its employees. Workshops, in which managers and employees jointly considered how best to organize mobile working, were held in all 65 work units. A comprehensive security and data protection guideline was issued with regard to the sensitive data that the federal authority handles on a daily basis. When the pandemic finally reached Germany in March and shut it down, everything was perfectly prepared.

But the federal authority did not only take precautions in terms of organization. In terms of occupational health and safety, it is also taking innovative approaches to actively promote the health of the workforce, including in the home office. We spoke with Brigitte Vossebürger, Vice President of the authority.

When you think of a public authority, you don't immediately think of pioneering roles in the digitalised world of work - why did that work so well for you in the Corona crisis?

We assumed a pioneering role, but we also benefited from the coincidence of time. As early as 2019, we started converting all our workstations to the option of mobile working. We equipped all employees with the necessary IT technology, issued security guidelines and organised work in such a way that it is possible to work from home. Then came the Corona crisis and we were well prepared.

Why did you decide to rethink your work even before the crisis?

It is important to us that our employees are satisfied, that the work-life balance is right. We also want to be an attractive employer, since competition on the job market is fierce. That is why we wanted to give our colleagues the most flexible work possible. The issue of sustainability is also an important one for us: many colleagues are often stuck in traffic jams, buses and trains are overcrowded and now we can contribute to equalisation. And of course we are also considering what the consequences are here on our campus in Bonn: What happens to the rooms, do we perhaps need less in the future? How will energy costs or paper consumption develop? We will see many more effects of this change.

Let's talk about company health management: Before the Corona crisis, you too had made use of offerings such as health days or health courses, but suddenly that was no longer possible.

Thanks to the technical possibilities we had created, we had no problems moving measures into virtual space. The main prerequisite for this was a communication system that could be used to conduct seminars. Of course, there is no more back school right now, but there are courses for mindfulness and other things that are important now: How do I get through the crisis resiliently? Or tips for nutrition or how to deal with children in crisis. We are currently holding our virtual "BZSt-run", which is also a great format! Here in Bonn we have company runs every year, which were also cancelled, so we have moved this to the virtual space. Teams register and complete the marathon course - no matter if walking, Nordic walking or running. And the most active team wins. We used to take part in the company runs with 30 or 35 runners, but now we have 500 registrations, which is a mad influx.

Did you find these changes a great challenge? You have to look after the health of your employees, but now you have less "access" to them ...

...which, of course, is a new path we had to take. Due to the technical possibilities, especially communication via webcam, many things are possible, but it is also clear that you need a very committed team in health management. People who are interested in developing ideas and new things. We have a great team there, also supported by the social medical service. I think we are doing very well.

What feedback comes from the employees?

I get calls from colleagues saying, "I'd love to be part of that!" The health management team has a lot of feedback and detailed questions, and the measures have had a great impact on our field sales force: We have many auditors who are hardly ever on site, and they have taken full advantage of our measures. They are actively participating and I am particularly pleased that these employees feel so positively about this, we are also hoping to strengthen the team.

Let's look to the future: What else do you have planned in terms of new work and BGM?

During the crisis we had to cut back to 100 percent home office overnight, but at the moment you can work in office again. But many colleagues are still at home and only come when necessary. We want to expand our concept further: in 2019 we had originally planned to introduce a quota system for the home office, and we are currently rethinking this. We want to create an overall concept, which will also include room planning, canteen occupancy and many other aspects. In BGM, we are planning mini-podcasts, which will involve short physical activities during the working day - and we will keep thinking about further measures.