Stories and thoughts about working from home
Like most people at the moment, almost everybody employed by Klopotek is working from home now, as a result of the actions and precautions started in March 2020 to stop the (fast) spreading of the Coronona virus. Some of our employees are used to it, but for others, it’s a new experience. We asked four people at Klopotek in different positions about their experiences, feelings and thoughts …
In comparison to other companies and organizations, Klopotek implemented ways and means of working remotely a long time ago – in many cases offering this to employees as an option. Do you normally work from home or from other places than an office environment?
Viktoria Menslin, Sales Consultant: “No, I usually work at the office and I enjoy being able to see and talk face to face with my colleagues. But I had taken advantage of the possibility of working from home before, so it wasn’t a completely new situation for me.”
Luisa Nowakowski, Consultant: “I am more of a classic office worker and, previously, only worked from home in exceptional cases.”
Adrian Stähli, Consultant: “The same applies to me: working from home is an exceptional situation for me; I am usually at the office every day.”
Petra Steinfeld, Director: “Yes, I do. After closing the Klopotek Frankfurt Office at the end of 2003, I completely switched to teleworking. Back in those days, I was head of all O2C consultants and later lead a German business unit.
We had no Skype, no video, and no desktop sharing. But we met in a weekly conference call, normally worked two to three days per week at our clients’ sites and came together once a month in Berlin or Munich for a team meeting.
Nowadays, there is less travel for project work, as tools allow having short meetings also with clients remotely without traveling. As I stopped working in the area of project business five years ago, my travelling portion decreased to four to six days a month now, mainly visiting customers or prospects and having board meetings in Berlin or Munich.
So, I mainly work from home and have no other workstation at any Klopotek office.”
What are the impacts of your daily work resulting from the Corona crisis? How did you adapt to the situation?
Adrian: “I got used to the current situation quite well and I’m coping well with it. As far as the daily work is concerned, I don't notice any major differences caused by working from home, apart from the lack of direct ‘offline’ contact with colleagues – which is perhaps the biggest difference.
In this situation, I‘m quite happy to have a decent desk at home, so I can work quite comfortably even in this situation which is rather unfamiliar to me.”
Luisa: “Well, apart from the fact that the hair on my head is getting longer and longer and is slowly blocking my view of the screen, I'm actually coping well with the new situation.
Shortly before the Corona regulations were significantly tightened, I moved into a new apartment, which fortunately has a balcony. The WiFi is good enough to work even out there. However, I don’t have a real workplace with a desk in the apartment, which makes things a bit trickier, but I’m much more flexible in terms of seating positions.”
Adrian: “I wouldn’t want to have to switch with colleagues who have to work at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch in these times.”
Petra: “I miss travelling! My most recent business trip was at the end of February, which means sitting only in my office for two months. And I assume it will take at least another month before traveling to Berlin or to prospects will be possible again. I try to utilize our video options to stay in touch and for having a coffee break with colleagues using the web cam.”
Viktoria: “I think the Corona crisis doesn’t really have a big impact on my work life; much more so on my private life. I believe that the quality of my work hasn’t suffered due to me working from home.”
What are, in your opinion, the PROs of working remotely? And are there any CONs?
Viktoria: “For me, the PROs are that you have much more flexible working hours which comes in handy when you have a child. It also allows me to spend more time with my family, for example I can have lunch with my daughter, and not having to travel to and from work saves a lot of time.
On the CONs side, there is losing contact to your colleagues. I believe that working together is much more fruitful when you see each other and build personal relationships.”
Adrian: “Yes, a huge advantage, which is very relevant at the moment, is that there is no need to commute to work using public transportation. So, the current situation offers a little more flexibility, which is made possible by the time saved.
Also for me, the biggest disadvantage is the lack of direct contact in my office room and ‘across the floor’. Direct contact sometimes makes it easier to address certain topics efficiently. And working from home can sometimes be quite lonely.
As far as contact to customers is concerned, nothing has really changed, because we are used to being in touch with each other remotely anyway.”
Petra: “Working from home makes it possible to run a washing machine while ‘being at work’ and to be flexible when arranging doctors’ appointments, and so on.
But I think working remotely on a regular basis requires a good network in the company, a good relationship with colleagues and superiors. Plus, the common knowledge that is continuously being created at the company has to be accessible, as you have no chance of obtaining information during a coffee break at the office kitchen when you work from home.
And a clear CON is that the visual reception of my counterpart’s body language is – even when using video – not really good. For this reason, I am still a fan of personal meetings and on-site workshops.”
Luisa: “For me personally, the little routines that I often wasn’t even aware of, got lost. Making the bed before you leave the house to go to work? No problem, I have until the end of this crisis to do that.
But jokes aside, I think this whole working remotely thing actually brought us closer together, even though we might be – in terms of space between us – further apart. Checking on other people’s well-being that frequently has basically become a new routine.”
Petra: “Many newspaper articles now claim that working from home is the new way of working. While this may be true for me, it has to be added that certainly not everyone is the right person for working from home on a regular basis, most of the time or all the time.
I strictly separate business and private live. In the past by using different landlines, and always by using a separate room and devices. I always start working in appropriate clothes, not strictly formal, but also not wearing sportswear.
I take regular breaks for lunch and mark my business hours in Outlook and also the time when I’m not available.”
Is there any advice you could share regarding ‘working flexibly’?
Luisa: “For me personally, it is very important to keep my work environment as organized and as tidy as possible. Especially in these times of great mental uncertainty, of chaos all over the world and in your own head, I think it is important that the environment that is close to you maintains an impression of normality.”
Petra: “My impression of Klopotek is that we always work flexibly; this is not limited to working remotely. When I am ‘blocked’ at a certain point, I can normally always shift my work, if it doesn't affect the workflow of others or deadlines.
Whenever exceptional circumstances like Corona force me to work ‘flexibly’, I still try to stick to set and determined time frames, as if you mix up private and business life ‘flexibly’, you can’t keep enough distance between these areas.”
Adrian: “Agreed – I definitely also think that it is important not to mix work and private life too much and to keep these two areas as separate as possible when you work from home.
The flexibility you have at home can, of course, also be positive. For example, dealing with a topic that requires some thinking for an hour or so later in the evening in a relaxed atmosphere can be a nice experience from time to time, but work should not permanently be present at home.
Like Luisa, I also like to tidy up my desk after work so that I feel I can end the working day. Especially if you don't have a separate room for working, this is important for me in order to clear my head for other things.”
Viktoria: “I’m not sure if I have any advice. This really felt like an organic transition and I don’t know what the real hurdles are, apart from the rules that have already been mentioned such as ‘change into work clothes as if you would leave the house’ and ‘make sure to clearly separate work and private life’.”
Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but also Slack and so many others, are increasingly used for working collaboratively without necessarily meeting face to face. Is this true for you – and what do you think will the future of working – and working together – look like? Will city offices eventually disappear?
Adrian: “The tools we use at Klopotek – such as Skype or Microsoft Teams for communicating with colleagues; GoToMeeting with customers – offer good opportunities for exchange.
However, they cannot replace direct human interaction. I always feel this very strongly with customers: that it really makes a difference if you get to know a person personally.
But the same applies to contact with colleagues; I wouldn't want to do without the personal exchange in a shared city office.
I think situations like the current one can be incentives to perhaps find a flexible balance between working time at home and working time in the office in the future.
Working exclusively from home would not be an option for me personally. In my view, a well-equipped office is still one of the factors that make an employer attractive.”
Luisa: “Especially Microsoft Teams was and is now even more a good means for us in the TEP area [editorial remark: Title Management, Editorial, and Production] to be in constant exchange with all team members. It offers significantly more opportunities to interact with each other than other programs.
Nevertheless, I think – and I hope, to be honest – that the tools that do a great job of connecting us digitally will soon give way to real exchange again. Call me old-fashioned…”
Petra: “I‘m pretty sure that Corona is currently pushing most people on earth a huge step forward in accepting these tools, but especially for kick-offs or other ‘first time meetings’, the personal face-to-face meet and greet is – and will remain – essential.
And while I think that using tools for working collaboratively are essential for modern business processes, there are privacy and security issues. Making available and storing business knowledge on central server like Microsoft Azure or Zoom must be decided very carefully.
Bottom line, I believe that this development of replacing many face to face meetings with digital tools will continue. As we are witnessing in our projects, there has been a decline in travel in recent years anyway.”
Viktoria: “Well, we have already used digital tools to meet colleagues before, just because – as a global company – we constantly need to speak with colleagues who work in a different office. So this ‘rise’ of tools doesn’t startle me. If people think that this is the future of working, then we have already been working in the future the whole time …
But I don’t think that as an effect of this, city offices will disappear. That’s a ridiculous idea. Would you not want to meet your friends in person anymore? Human interaction might be on pause for the moment, but social contact is very much needed for a healthy life. And that must include the office, since you spend so much time of your life working.”
Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us.