Insights into the home office

The current home office situation is new to many and has both its advantages and disadvantages. Which side prevails depends on many factors and is not the same for everyone. Due to the closure of the day-care centres and schools, some employees are currently living with a double burden and are trying to reconcile their everyday working life with their family situation. So some questions arise: How does the normal working day look like and can it be continued in the home office in the same way? Does the contact to employees and customers work the same way as before? What about project work and is the myth true that you really work more productively in your home office or that you are more likely to be distracted? This blog post is intended to clarify all these questions and show the different views of employees in different positions.

Marketing

From a marketing point of view, home office is much associated with constant exchange and this now takes place either by mobile phone or as a video conference. Therefore Microsoft Teams has become a much used program.
Despite video conferencing, the morning demands on one’s own appearance have not necessarily increased. Who is sitting in front of the computer in a video conference with jeans? Nobody sees it anyway. Even hairstyle and make-up cannot be seen clearly enough with a headset and camera in perceived SD quality to waste a lot of time on it. The distribution of the working time has also shifted significantly, because there is simply no travelling time. Everyone who has a slightly longer way to work will surely agree with me on the following point: The journey to work is much more pleasant. You do not arrive at your desk annoyed by the traffic, you do not have to fill up with petrol beforehand or, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, you do not have to get up two hours earlier.
When entering your presence in the calendar for the next week, there are actually only two thoughts that come to mind: don’t arrive too early, and when will colleague XY be there to make arrangements, some of which are firmly planned, and some of which occur in between. Without a child you are much more flexible.
In the meantime, the home office allows you to concentrate on your work without being interrupted. I manage more at home felt than in the same time in the office. In return, the personal exchange with colleagues, even on more private issues, falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, you hardly see or hear any colleagues with whom you previously had a nice daily conversation, because the areas in which you work simply do not require daily arrangements.
Of course, you could still call each other occasionally and have a coffee together remotely, but you don’t necessarily get that idea when you’re lost in your own work routine. Chatting with colleagues is more flexible and I personally do it much more often, even during the evening, than before.

IT consulting

Jochen:
„For 10 weeks now I have been working exclusively in the home office. Since I always had the possibility to work from my home office without any problems before, it was no organisational change for me. A few years ago, we were also able to test working from home over a longer period of time during an office renovation lasting several weeks.
Since my project work for the customer is done 100% remotely, the change from the office to the home office is not noticeable here either. Appointments continue to be made using various meeting tools, which were used for them even before the quarantine, and work via remote access is just as possible after slight initial difficulties as it was before the home office.
Only the cooperation in our TRIO team has changed. The monthly team sessions as well as smaller appointments are now held in digital meeting rooms and not in our conference rooms as before.
The biggest difference for me is the lack of interaction with colleagues outside the own project team. The conversations on the terrace during the lunch break, the short conversation at the coffee machine and the friendly smile during meetings in the corridor. In other words, all those contacts for which you don’t set up an appointment or video conference, but which play a large part in the feel-good factor in the company.
The absence of the daily bike ride to and from work through Braunschweig’s city centre is also clearly noticeable. Both the daily exercise in the fresh air and the clear separation between work and leisure are missing. In general, in the home office the boundaries between work and leisure time blur very quickly if one is not aware of it. I personally tend to take longer and more frequent breaks in the home office, either to cook properly instead of just getting something from the snack bar on the corner or to go for a walk to compensate for the missing daily commute to work. Thus, the work often continues into the evening hours, where under other conditions I would already be at the end of the day.
For me, it has clearly proved to be a good idea to retain some of the usual office routines, despite the freedom and possibilities that home office offers, in order to achieve a clear separation between working time and leisure time.“

IT project assistance

Nathalie:
„Since the range of movement in the home office is much smaller, I started the day with a round of yoga in the morning, which can be compensated for by the fact that I don’t have to travel to the office (from Wolfsburg).
Not much has changed at our client’s place – apart from the fact that the appointments are now all done via Skype. But this works surprisingly well and gives you more flexibility by eliminating travel time between meetings. Basically, I focus more on the essential tasks in the home office. However, communication with colleagues, which always took place in the office on the side, suffers most from this. Although we have set up a virtual break room for our team, which is also used regularly, personal contact is the aspect that I particularly miss in the home office. However, as I’m not the only one who does it this way, I’m sure that we will only appreciate the work in our team even more in the future and that the team cohesion as a whole will be strengthened by this exceptional situation.“

Development

Josha:
„As a developer, moving to a permanent home office proved to be a greater adjustment for me than I first thought. I thought that now I could finally create a pleasant sound environment with good music without having to wear headphones all the time. What an ergonomic advantage! In the same way I could use my own desk with the private peripherals. However, it soon turned out: music isn’t everything and I don’t really want to wear out the nice keyboard that quickly. But these were only small details that could be changed with little effort.
The technical level didn’t pose a problem either: The various developer tools don’t care where the computer they run on is located. Web-based programs such as bug trackers and code repositories can often be accessed via the public Internet, while VPN access, which has always existed, helps with internally accessible programs. Other programs are not needed for the work, which makes many things much easier. The real sticking point, however, is that you no longer see your colleagues all the time. Even with developers, who are sometimes wrongly labelled as loners or loners, direct contact is important. Communication is easiest when you can see your counterpart, recognize gestures and detect even slight changes in pitch. Even selective listening, i.e. hearing individual voices out of a jumble of voices, simply does not seem to work in a web conference. All this makes working together a bit more difficult and requires getting used to and discipline during digital meetings.
However, despite all these difficulties, I’m still surprised at how smoothly the transition from on-site work to home office went. There was no measurable loss of productivity. I could imagine working from home more often in the future, but I would like to have the opportunity to see my colleagues on a regular basis.“

Project Management

Miriam:
„A typical day at the home office will look different for everyone. I must admit, it has changed in the 8 weeks that I have been working from home.
In the beginning I still got up at 7 o’clock, took a shower, put on “normal” clothes, had a banana and tea for breakfast and sat down at my computer in the office. Every now and then the internet broke down, the VPN didn’t want to work like you did, but on the whole working on itself worked very well. In itself, home office was nothing new for me and my direct colleagues with whom I worked in the team. The only thing that was new was that we all worked from home office at the same time and not just 1 or 2 people and the rest were in the office. A normal working day that started at 8 o’clock and ended at 16:30.
But… if we are honest, there wasn’t that much evening activity. Netflix was also exhausted at some point, and so the decay slowly began, or rather: a restructuring of the daily routine and a better use of the technical means.
Meanwhile the typical home-office day looks a bit different at Corona times.

8:30: The mobile phone alarm clock rings. The good thing about it is that you already have the mobile phone in your hand and the lock screen tells me what problems the colleagues in early support had – thanks to the teams. A sweater is briefly put on, which – if someone wants video chatting – does not look like pyjamas. Before going to the bathroom, the computer is booted. While brushing the teeth the tea is being made. Shortly, water is put on the face and hair is combed, check the e-mails. Ready – must be enough.

9:00: Stand-up with colleagues. Only sound – no picture. Although they all claim that they are no longer in bed, I assume that the fewest are awake longer than me. Well ok – maybe the colleague whose children in the background have been regularly creating a good atmosphere for 8 weeks. No kindergarten, no primary school – every day the pity grows. After about 10 minutes of actual stand-up we talk about the daily madness to keep some team spirit. Most of us then say goodbye with the words, that they would make themselves something to eat first.

9:30: Stand-up with the customer via Skype. The ceiling is falling on their heads too, but we are holding our own. Tasks are done. And why not, social life does not exist anymore. As a farewell gift, one is wished a “Stay healthy” and no longer a nice rest of the day’s work.

10:45: A colleague from the team writes in the group chat that he is once an hour for shopping. At some point we started to log out of the team when we are “unplanned” out of the office for a longer period of time. That saves waiting for answers that will come in an hour. He should leave quietly, because there is nothing to do with friends and family in the evening anyway, we all work at the most possible and impossible times. Monday morning in the stand-up I often hear sentences like “Saturday evenings at 11 pm I fixed the bug xy.”

13:10: In a good mood and with wet hair, as I just had a fresh shower, I am sitting at the computer again. Afternoons are rather boring in times of Corona. Everyone feels like working in the morning. E-mails come in, telephone conferences are held or somebody calls you. But it does have the advantage that you can manage other tasks that you wouldn’t have been able to manage so quickly in offices with 6-8 people. Software documentation or operating manuals are suddenly finished in one afternoon and no longer written over 3-4 days.“

Conclusion:

In summary, it can be said that everyone has come to terms with the situation and is taking advantage of the benefits that the home office situation brings to them personally. Productivity does not seem to suffer from the situation at all.
Nevertheless, everyone misses the office life a little bit, because home office was never a permanent state before and colleagues were still frequently seen. The fact that this is not the case at present bothers everyone, no matter what department they work in. The monotony that the crisis brings to everyday life after work doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to appreciate daily work from home as much as one would have done in normal times.

Madeleine Reinwald
Marketing
Madeleine's passion is the combination of design and technology.
As a content manager she is responsible for the design in marketing, but also for the technical connections to the specialist departments.