A few weeks ago we presented you 8 tips for working in the home office, today a colleague reports how the move to the home office went for the factor ten. In return, our colleague Martin Köhler tells us about his experiences of moving to and working on a customer project from his home office:
“Today I want to report on how I experienced the move of a customer project into the home office. What is special for me is that it is a project in another city. So I usually arrived on Monday morning and returned Thursday afternoon.
With the increasing Corona numbers in Germany, our team in the project realized that we would have to expect to switch to remote work in the form of a home office. The customer already expressed this by pushing the introduction of Collobaration software. This made reasonable audio and video conferences with screen sharing possible. So I went home on Thursdays and was not sure whether I would get back on the ICE train next Monday or not.
But then everything went faster than planned. On Fridays I got a call from the project manager and there was an order “If your presence is not absolutely necessary, work from home”. And so I spent Monday instead of the ICE and at the customer’s desk at home – finally sleeping in on Monday. In the project there were very few people (from us as well as from the customer) on site during the week. One week later, practically nobody was on site anymore.
The changeover worked surprisingly well here in the project. Of course there were still a few problems until the new tool was really ready for use by everyone. Legal questions about how we, as external parties, could use the tool also had to be clarified. But after a short time, we were all able to work with it very effectively remotely. Nevertheless, there were a few things that posed special challenges or made it work especially well.
For example, in the second week of remote working, I went to our branch office and borrowed a keyboard and docking station to be able to connect the laptop properly to my monitor. Working on a laptop screen for a long time is no fun and ergonomically not sensible. But crawling under the desk every time to change the cables from the desktop PC is just as meaningless.
Since we usually spent 4 days at the project site, many of us had project apartments there. In order to avoid that the contents of the refrigerator have already invented fire during the next – so far not foreseeable – stay, our team of the travel management arranged that the cleaning service disposes the contents of the refrigerators completely.
As essential during the daily work we have found out that we have a simple chat (in the form of slack), about which we can agree. In this chat we can also make the usual small talk. Interestingly enough, this has even led to increased productivity in some places, because now there are topic-related channels, such as one for all developers. If questions arise, we can simply ask them in the appropriate channel. So we no longer have to walk down the hallway and look for someone to talk to about it. This provides more transparency in many places, as it is now easier to ask things in a larger, appropriate group. In the past, the favourite contact person at the desk opposite was usually asked.
In order to replace team cohesion and conversations at the coffee machine, there is a regular appointment called “virtual coffee machine” where we can have a casual conversation. Even if project topics come up from time to time, there is a lot of small talk that is not relevant to the project. It’s also perfectly okay to make small talk a few minutes before and/or after the Daily. Even if the meeting takes longer.
For me as a developer, it’s convenient that I can develop on the side in meetings where I only have to listen to what’s going on because topics that are relevant to me might be discussed. It keeps me informed about what’s going on, without me feeling that I’ve wasted time in meetings.
The onboarding of new project members was and is especially challenging. So the project has taken several new people on board during the time of remote work. That wasn’t always easy, because personal contact is completely missing and we can only get to know each other over the phone or occasionally via video conference. But thanks to good will and motivation from both sides, the new employees also bring real added value to the project.
All in all, I can say that the move to the home office was much easier than I thought. There were also far fewer frictional losses than I feared at the beginning. And it’s great that “The Team” is repeatedly highlighted as a positive feature in our retrospectives. We manage to maintain a team spirit even when everyone is working remotely and we are very proud of that!
Martin has been working at Faktor Zehn as lead developer on a customer project since April 2018. His main focus is the further development of the Faktor-IPM inventory software.