“Hi, how are you? I just wanted to ask if you are well and see how you are managing home office life!?”, is currently a standard opening line in phone calls with colleagues. After all, most of them are working from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Adjusting to these special circumstances requires flexibility, structure and team spirit. And consider that all of this must be done remotely. Everything in spring 2020 is different – at work, in the city, throughout Germany, and the whole world.
There are two sides to everything. For me this is especially clear at the moment, when I think about the advantages and disadvantages of home office working. Things that are positive also bring disadvantages at the same time. However, I find it makes it far easier to cope with the situation if I concentrate on the positive aspects.
|Drinking coffee at home – not far to the coffee machine and for me it tastes even better with frothy oat milk||Drinking coffee at home – sadly without my colleagues|
|Short distance to work – saves CO2, time, and money||Short distance to work – no change of scenery|
|Efficient meetings via MS Teams or Skype||No casual encounters and meetings with colleagues with whom I am not currently working on projects|
|Choice of lunch is in my own hands||Cooking lunch myself – no widely varied salad buffet from the canteen team|
|More time for sport||Shorter distance to the fridge|
Meetings are held online via video and are generally focused on a single issue making them very efficient. But I miss contact with colleagues and casual encounters in our corridors. Going to the meeting, being greeted with a smile along the way and having a quick chat is not possible at the moment.
On the positive side for me is that I can make the most of the best hours of sunshine for a run right after work. Instead of taking the bus home first, I can simply slip on my running shoes straight away and start running. Exercise and fresh air are really important. It helps me avoid imbalance between mind and body. Running is my way of achieving a balance between mental effort and physical activity. I still miss our company Pilates class with colleagues though. The good news: This will be provided online in the next few weeks! Given that there is space for more people in the virtual Pilates room than the physical one, I can take part on both days of the week as well. That really is something to celebrate!
Running in the urban woodland of Bad Vilbel (near Frankfurt am Main, Germany)
Difficult as this time might be, full of uncertainty and worries, I am also glad that this period of social distancing is at least in spring. In the dark, bleak days of winter there would be fewer options and spirits would be low. I see it as a positive thing that I can at least enjoy nature and the weather on my own or with someone else. After all, we have more time for that as well now.
For me it was quite a change at the start, not getting on the bus at 7:01 a.m. each day to travel to work. From one day to the next the spatial separation between work and leisure suddenly no longer exists. That means that new structures and routines are needed for everyday life.
I use every lunch break for a walk across the fields, which are just a few metres away. Exercising my legs for just a few minutes in the fresh air does me good. Both for my mind and for my body. After all, the Easter Bunny was apparently neither in quarantine nor doing home office and diligently distributed chocolate. That supplies new energy for work in the afternoon.
I quickly got used to the new normal by sticking to my regular working hours. That applies to both the early start to the working day and the end of the working day. To work effectively and not feel that home office work is stressful, it is important for me to make a clear cut at the end of the working day. Then I shut down the laptop and close the home office door until the next morning.
Okay, I have to admit that my home office is not actually a room and does not have a door – but it is a fixed location where my laptop has its place. So, in this case it means closing the laptop. Works well, fortunately.
The track through the fields with a view of the Taunus mountain range on a walk after work.
In spring 2020 the clocks are ticking differently all over the world. Just as everyday life has changed so quickly, it was also possible to take digitalisation forward in the company just as quickly. Within just a few weeks our IT department had prepared the software and hardware to make mobile office possible for every staff member . At this point I would like to say a big thank you once again to the whole IT team!
Where we used to have meeting rooms, the canteen, or the coffee break room, we now have Skype or MS Teams. The latter even offers the opportunity of holding your meetings on a virtual basis from the beach, a sea of balloons or from the galaxy – THAT is something that the meeting room cannot offer, of course.
MS Teams meeting with my colleague Olivier Pousset in Brussels.
Team Spirit international – Take Care!
Interaction, especially with international colleagues, has become more personal. In spite of the distance across national borders, we have all become closer. “How are you?” at the start of a meeting has gained in significance. We talk about the current situation in the various countries, the restrictions in everyday life and life in the home office. “Take care” and “Stay healthy” close out both our meetings and our emails and strengthen cohesion and team spirit beyond the business side of things.
Maybe you already spotted the little ghost in the cover picture. As this is the English version of my blog post I will have to explain the context: In German it is a pun which does not work well in English unfortunately. This little ghost is called “Teamgeist”, which is the German word for “team spirit” and “geist” means “ghost”. Since last year nearly every colleague at Tractebel Germany has a little “Teamgeist” sitting on his desk – reminding them of our team spirit every day. 😊
Time for something new
I badly miss meeting up with friends in the café and going to the cinema and restaurants. This April would have been especially perfect for sitting out at cafés. My corona version of that is coffee from a thermo mug on a bench next to a field with a view of the Frankfurt skyline.
New hobbies and activities are called for! My colleagues are spending their newfound leisure time with learning programming, reading books and sport (naturally alone). Inspiration has caught me and I am starting a new project: I am improving my – admittedly modest up to now – hand lettering skills. Here is one of my attempts with a subtle message at the meta level:
What have your experiences with home office been like, what are you missing and what do you like about it?
And finally, a few useful tips: How to Actually Work…When You’re Working from Home (external content)