Back in March I wrote a blog titled “An entire company in the home office”. Time is flying, four months later I am still working from home and it somehow feels like the often quoted “new normal”. I do not like this term too much, but in this case it might fit pretty well. Other than back in March, now the shops are open, I could even go to my gym, if it would not have gone into insolvency (very sad!), and I can hang out again in one of the nice beer gardens in the area as long as I follow some basic rules. Only a few of my colleagues have chosen to work from the office from time to time, but no face-to-face meetings, no lunch in the cafeteria and strict distancing rules. I could have gone back working from the office as well, but I also had to ask myself why. Working from home is maybe not perfect in all aspects, but it has a lot of advantages – and a few disadvantages.
The first obvious advantage for me is to save at least one hour of commuting per day. That is what I am spending in total on the road typically, but I also know that the majority of my colleagues need more than that. With this I am even contributing my small part to reduce air pollution as I have to admit that I usually go by car. Clearly, I can also organize my day more flexibly now. Recently I needed to call somebody to repair something at our home. I always prefer to be present in these cases. So normally this needs a lot of pre-planning from both sides to find a day and a time slot. In this case it was more than easy. I just said: “Tell me the next possible date and time when you are able to come, I will be here”. I know such repairs usually do not happen every week, but I am just using this as an example for my specific case. A lot of my colleagues have small children at home and need to organize their work and private life very thoroughly every single day. Being at home often helps in this case, as long as the schools and childcare centers are open.
An accelerator for digitalization
In my other blog I spoke about, how these weeks and months have been and still are a stress test for technology. I am still convinced that this crisis is a strong accelerator for digitalization. But some things will need some time to be built and implemented. A few other things have been implemented pretty quickly. If somebody would have asked me in January whether a four hour long workshop with a group of 50 people working from home, partly dividing them into subgroups in virtual breakout rooms, would work, I probably would have said: “Continue dreaming”. Today I am convinced that these workshops can be even more efficient in many cases. Besides the fact that we save a few trees not using real post-it paper notes, a virtual whiteboard saves a lot of time in the creation process, you can store it and make adjustments easily, and it is available for everyone at any time in any location. I am simply impressed by the quality of some tools to support virtual collaboration. At this point I would like to recognize once again the outstanding work of our IT team and our agile coaches.
We are still the among lucky ones
I am absolutely aware that as a software company we are in a very lucky and comfortable position compared to a lot of other industries and thousands of small business like my gym mentioned earlier. We do not have any logistic chains and we are not directly affected by this crisis like for example the travel industry. I somewhat hate to say that as I am not a fan of proactively advertising how to even make money from this crisis, but we also already could help customers in this situation with our products. A very large and well-known hotel in a European capital just bought a large license of our software. Why now? They needed to be able to remotely monitor their IT infrastructure, especially their security equipment like CCTV cameras, during the time they had to close down operations.
I mentioned earlier that working from home has a few disadvantages. For sure, because nothing is perfect. First of all, there is not any longer the real difference between your home and your work place. Today, with all the digital devices in our pockets, it is pretty common that we read also the one or the other email at home on the smartphone or a tablet. This often happened in my case also before the crisis as I have colleagues in my team being eight hours behind me. But it does something, at least with me, when I get in my car and I have this time on the way home to switch off. In the home office private life and working life blur into each other. So you need to discipline yourself, if your family does not do that already for you. But what am I missing most? It is the personal discussion, the famous chat at the coffee machine, somebody passing by asking “do you have five minutes to talk”, sitting in a face-to-face meeting feeling the “vibe” of the session and simply patting somebody physically on the back and say “good job”.
We as a company have learned during these days that we can send everybody anywhere as long as there is a reasonable internet connection. The company continues to work flawlessly. For sure we will use these learnings going forward to help us adjust our working models and provide an even better working environment for our employees. In the end, there is one important factor why everything continues to work smoothly or not in such an unusual and critical situation: the employees who work in your company. In our case, this was just another proof point that we have great employees!