Whether it’s called home office, remote work or telework — these terms, mostly used synonymously, are currently found everywhere. And the articles talking about how to efficiently work outside your office are just as numerous.
Even though working at Ergosign is not necessarily bound to our offices for some time now, the current restrictions, which prohibit working from a different space other than your home, are new for us, too.
We asked ourselves how our colleagues are doing. What do they learn about themselves and their work? How do they combine family time with working hours? What do they personally pay attention to? Seven interviews gave us interesting and honest insights.
"The current situation makes us stronger, both as humans and teams. The right mindset is essential."
“Of course, not everything is easy. Our customers are insecure and we see respective changes in our plans. Looking into the future, we don’t know what lies ahead of us.
We need to learn how to cope with this uncertainty. Despite all, I’m optimistic. On the one hand, I appreciate the transparent communication of our Head of Site and Managing Directors. On the other hand, I’m grateful for my personal situation which allows me to see the current situation as a chance. I have the opportunity to try new things, both professionally and personally, and it challenges me to leave my comfort zone. That’s not always pleasant, of course. But it makes me grow.
What has also changed: The communication at our site takes place now completely online. But we don’t only meet for internal meetings or project sparrings but also for our common (voluntary) remote lunch. This means that we stay in contact as a team and sometimes even collect completely new insights of each other.”
"The solution of our challenges offers us sustainable opportunities."
“We as Managing Directors face new challenges. Just like our team. Even though Ergosign is lucky to continue to work professionally, we have to evaluate the situation realistically (which means both risk- and opportunity-oriented).
We see that internal and external communication has changed: because on-site meetings have to be replaced by video calls, phone calls and mails, there is a small communication delay. And important, non-verbal signals such as facial expressions and gestures, can go lost in this setting.
On the other hand, I think this situation can positively affect numerous aspects because our teams are learning a lot in a very short time and are adapting quickly. We are looking at the personal and professional organization, numerous changes in ongoing projects, handling a very special social state or challenging private and interpersonal situations.
Looking ahead, I’ll think we’ll see the biggest change in working with our clients: using collaborative tools remotely or organizing workshops and meetings when not everybody is physically present will become much more common. I’m sure we’ll all benefit here.”
"As a team leader I get to know the personalities and abilities of my team even better now."
“Since I don’t see my team members in person every day anymore, it became even more important to talk to each other regularly. Not only about the current project status, but about how everyone is doing and also coping with working from home. That’s why we have organized a team introspective — of course remote — which gave every team member the opportunity to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, the new working situation and also personal effects.
This gave me the opportunity to get to know my team even better and to refine my feeling for who can best work together. It also gives me new insights into what my team needs so that we can work together remotely in a pleasant, stress-free and uncomplicated way”.
"Due to intensive communication, we need to respect certain boundaries."
“To work remotely, we mainly use three tools: Mattermost to communicate with all colleagues and also between units, video calls for slightly longer, personal interactions in our teams and Lunch & Learns (weekly, location-independent remote meetings) to share information company-wide.
Video calls are as important as never before because, in contrast to phone calls, they let us see non-verbal signals. They give me a better sense of whether one of my team members is feeling good or rather bad.
As great as this is, we should now pay even more attention to respect personal space and not pressure people. Not everyone wants to eat their lunch with their team during a video call or always turn on their camera. And that’s totally fine!
For many of us, everyday life is not only affected by working from home but also by taking care of their children at the same time. Sensitivity, empathy and respect are more important than ever. We all have to face this challenge now — not only team managers. We all get to know each other in a new way, on another level and hopefully even better.”
"Structure, focus and positive thinking will keep us mentally healthy now."
“Working from home and also spending most of our time at home is new for many of us and we need to cope with this situation. But this might result in some unhealthy habits: It happened to me that I felt I needed to work more to show that I am still working efficiently from home. But this, combined with the idea that we need to be available and informed 24/7, can be toxic.
It helps us to be aware of where our limits are. Because we can’t control everything. Or save the world from our living room. We are limited to moving in and affecting only a small environment. But that doesn’t need to be bad! Because this enables us to concentrate and consciously shape our everyday life and working day. We can do the things we didn’t have time for and plan our day according to our needs — both temporary and spatially.
I have noticed that I can consciously push my creativity at home! I am not tied to my desk but can change the place from which I work even more freely and relaxed. I can also align my day and my energy even better: When my head is spinning from a remote workshop I can take a longer break at home to distract myself and regain strength. Afterward, I can work on a new task full of energy.
That is the freedom which I notice for myself consciously. I separate my work from my free time, but this does not necessarily mean that I have to work for eight hours straight.
If we focus on using our day consciously, enjoying the freedom and security we have, and being grateful for the possibilities that we have, we — as creative persons — will learn a lot from these times.”
"We are working just like before remote work. But yet different."
“A trainee, a team member with a small child whose day nursery was closed, another one with a toddler at one and one team member who is working at Ergosign for quite a few years: Our team-internal working conditions and the experience at Ergosign could hardly be more diverse.
But although especially those children who need to be taken care of at home influence our everyday life significantly, we all still work together — just as in our office.
Our simple trick: we have set up a permanent video call where we can see each other and exchange information throughout the day. If one of our colleagues needs support, he or she simply joins the video call.
This means that our colleagues always reach someone when they need help even when childcare is taking up time at others. It also increases transparency: everyone sees how others work on problems and get to their solution. My new team members quickly learn a lot. Plus, this means that we can all easily balance our family life and working hours.”
"Our minds leave their silos and change their habitual thinking."
“The situation we currently live in is unique. It confronts us with new problems and challenges and offers the opportunity to surpass ourselves. Because now we need to be more considerate, put ourselves in the shoes of our colleagues and think about needs and personal circumstances.
This also means that we become more flexible, independent and creative and break through our normal thinking patterns. This will change service design projects: we will need less time to break the ice between different units (and their silos) of our customers and can get into solution-oriented project work more quickly — as the enablers we are.
We now also focus more on humanity. Managers shine when they communicate transparently and comprehensibly. Companies and brands which participate in the fight of our current situation are perceived much more positively. Our inter-human communication is shifting and becoming even more digital. Just like the need for services, which were tied to paper and forms. The need for digital services is obvious.
Although the circumstances we face are wide-ranging and sometimes quite radical, our teams are doing good. In digitally-focused companies, like Ergosign, we are given the opportunity to face the situation with a positive, open mindset and to learn more about our work, our environment and ourselves as humans, designers, software engineers, team managers or system administrators.
Let us use this opportunity and be aware of the responsibility we bear.
Update: Since the relaxation of restrictions in Germany and Switzerland at the beginning of May, our colleagues have the opportunity to work in the offices again, in addition to the home office, which had been compulsory until then. For this purpose Ergosign provides the safety measures on site and ensures that all regulations are met. In this process the so-called „Community Rules", the Community Icon Set und the App xDesk were developed.
Note: This article was written in the context of the measures taken at a national and European level in response to the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus. All employees of Ergosign and Ergosign Switzerland are working from home since 12 March 2020 and until further notice.