Planned well in advance or quick and dirty? An interview with Jens Weller, Managing Director of toplink GmbH, explaining how companies can master the challenges of working from home. toplink is a sponsor of the eco birthday campaign 25 Years of eco – Internet with Responsibility.
Mr Weller, in the current situation, more and more companies are sending their employees to their home office. Can they be as productive there as in the company?
In the best case, yes, of course. Generally, a company determines its organizational and administrative requirements for working online in advance. Then the technical solutions are selected and implemented, and employees are trained accordingly. However, the current situation is exceptional. In international comparison, Germany has had a low percentage of home office workplaces. Many companies have neglected to deal with the topic enough and are now faced with the problem of having to introduce online work fairly quickly.
What are the factors for success? In what ways should the course be set in advance?
Companies should first consider the question of what they want to achieve with a virtual work environment. Then they should look for ways to realize these objectives. The possibilities are extremely diverse. For example, there are solutions that can be implemented quickly for those companies that mainly want to maintain working capacity in a crisis, such as in the current situation. Strategically, however, I recommend first introducing a planning process in order to achieve more. Aiming, for example, to improve employees’ work-life balance, increase flexibility, perhaps also reduce workplaces in the office.
How can companies meet the necessary technical requirements?
That follows from the objectives defined in advance. We often recommend solutions that are available as decentralized services from the cloud. The selection of a service should focus on user-friendliness. It’s not about having as many features as possible, but about being able to use essential features easily. Then employees will be happy to use it. Solutions that are simple, functional, and stable meet the most important requirements.
What forms of collaboration are possible online?
In principal, working in the home office is a possibility for many employees. To do so, they need to be able to use their applications independently of the office. Accounting, order processing, sales, communications, and other departments can then work as usual regardless of where they are. A sufficiently high-speed Internet connection is, of course, a prerequisite.
What needs to be considered for online project work to be successful?
Online project work is not fundamentally different to other project work – the only thing missing is physical proximity. Project leaders often expect the virtualization of projects to simultaneously result in an improvement of processes. Yet that will not necessarily occur. It also takes cultural change. Team leaders need to be able to evaluate team members’ work without walking through the corridors and looking directly over colleagues’ shoulders. Adapted solutions need to be found for some processes, such as those that require the four eyes principle. All of these points need to be considered in advance, from workplace to workplace and from application to application.
How does one prepare employees for the home office?
Usability is the key. Communication and collaboration should be easy. The better the software, the less need there is for training. There are very good tutorials by the developers of many standard applications, which can be found easily online.
What about conferences and trade fairs with more than 50 participants, does it also make sense to have them take place digitally?
In the current situation, I would say if the alternative is to cancel a trade fair or event completely, then a virtual event is better than none at all. It is difficult at the moment to find formats that can replace conferences and trade fairs entirely. But there is a need for appropriate solutions, and that need will now grow considerably.
Which tips can you give companies that now want to quickly create new possibilities for working online?
Of course there are solutions that can be made available quickly, with which companies that suddenly have many employees working in the home office can maintain capacity. Even in times of crisis, however, managers should take the time for more fundamental considerations, in order to create long-term improvements for their companies. The current situation is a technical catalyst – companies will profit from the new possibilities of virtual work in the long run.
Mr Weller, thank you very much for the interview!
Read the article “How the Home Office Works in the Times of Corona” by Jens Weller from toplink on dotmagazine.
For further advice on dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19, see the eco Focus Page here: https://international.eco.de/eco-focus-on-covid-19/