Flexibility and freedom are extremely valuable for many people. This also includes being able to work where and when you want. Opportunities to work from home are almost a prerequisite for the new generation of employees. Usually, we are asked by applicants during the initial interview whether remote work is possible in everyday work. But not everyone is made for remote work and working from home doesn’t suit every company.
After only a few weeks of “Corona-forced remote work”, we find that the changeover took place without any technical problems. The value contributed by the teams is still high or has even improved. There is also nothing negative to report about the cooperation with our customers. But: For an on-location company, a complete switch to remote work means distance at all levels – especially between people.
The spontaneous communication between colleagues is largely eliminated. However, this is exactly where new, creative ideas often arise and our offices are also deliberately designed to promote communication and exchange between teams. At the same time, we can observe that the cohesion of the employees among each other, the ”team feeling“, is more difficult to achieve in a completely remote situation. An important quality of a team is social connectedness. This connectedness leads to genuine mutual support and true collaboration, one of the values that is deeply anchored in our culture. Achieving this social connectedness requires a whole new effort under remote work conditions. Which ones – well that is something we currently have too little knowledge about. But we do know how it works on-location and want to transfer this knowledge to the remote world.
A positive community has an inspiring and motivating effect. Our agile project teams achieve above-average results and outstanding customer satisfaction because they work closely together, even in a small space, and also support each other and spend time together during breaks and leisure time. Some people now feel alone working from home and miss the exchange and input or simply the infectious energy of people around them.
And there are also many employees who don’t see home office as a panacea because they feel that work is being pushed into the private sphere. Looking after children at home and doing telephone conferences on the side – a difficult balancing act. You are under twice the stress and often work into the evening hours to complete your daily tasks. Due to the lack of space, home office employees tend to take fewer breaks and rest periods.
In order to give employees the chance to tell us their concerns, needs and ideas despite the physical distance, we started a survey shortly after the lockdown. Our employees gratefully accepted this opportunity and sent us more than 400 suggestions and ideas in this way. Some of them gave us very personal insights, but there is also a lot of thanks and encouragement in times of Corona. Above all, the survey gave us a good and realistic overview of the mood within the company. A large number of our employees want to get back to the office as quickly as possible and thus return to normality. Numerous other employees have also indicated that they would like to continue to use the possibilities of remote work in the future. If the lockdown lasts any longer, we will conduct another survey to be sensitive to any changes.
Due to the Corona pandemic, we are currently in the middle of a huge, involuntary remote work experiment that is new to all of us and from which we will learn a lot – both the opportunities and the risks that remote work brings with it. But one thing is already certain: remote work is not the answer to all the problems of modern organizations, although we will continue to have a remote component in the future. It is important to take a critical look at the extent to which working remotely can actually contribute to the value creation of a company or even improve it. The current situation, as difficult as it is, gives us the opportunity to explore the new remote work culture in practice. We are prepared to go along this path, which will definitely make us better – open to new insights and mindful of the changes in our environment.