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New normal: How the coronavirus has changed the way we work

New normal: How the coronavirus has changed the way we work

Home office and video meetings: The coronavirus has given impetus to the digitalization of work and has become a driver for innovation and renewal. Even before the pandemic, nearly 20 percent of employees in Germany worked from home at least occasionally according to a study by the University of Mannheim. A survey by the digital association Bitkom, which was launched in mid-March 2020, showed that almost half of the working population (49 percent) is now working – as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis – entirely or partly from their home office.

Eucon too will continue to make its work model more flexible. While more than 30 percent of employees already worked from home in whole or in part even before the lockdown, this share will continue to increase after the positive experience in the coronavirus year. "In future, up to 70 percent will work from home on a daily or full-time basis," stresses Sven Krüger, CEO of the Eucon Group. "We have found that it is working well and is a win-win situation for everyone. Our employees spend less time commuting and can organize their private lives more flexibly, while we save resources and protect the environment at the same time".

Balance between office and home

Under the pressure of the COVID-19 crisis, new digital processes and working methods have emerged. "As a digitalization company, we naturally have a head start in terms of our infrastructure and a culture of digital collaboration. Even before the crisis, we were well-prepared and accustomed to being a reliable partner for our customers, including remotely," says Anne-Claire Oosenbrugh, Director of Human Resources at the Eucon Group. "During the lockdown phase, we noticed that additional remote work was not a barrier – on the contrary. The increasing work from home has consistently functioned well: We have even been able to improve our performance and efficiency. Now we have to find a new balance between office work and remote work.

With the breakthrough of mobile, digital work, senior executives in particular need to adapt. For many, this entails finding new communication formats, relinquishing control and building trust. It also means selecting new forms of organization, giving employees more responsibility and involving them in decision-making and innovation processes.

Today we know that digitally supported processes offer many advantages. According to a recent study by Versicherungsforen Leipzig GmbH, a majority of the employees surveyed hope to be able to retain their newly gained flexibility even after the crisis. This means that digital customer proximity will become even more important: If the home office becomes the new normal, intelligent and networked processes will be even more of a necessity. Customers today expect seamless and digital interactions. In addition to the important personal contact, companies are forced to be at their side remotely as well – to avoid costly business trips, tedious paperwork, long waiting times and effortful running around. What is taking place is therefore an internal and external transformation.

Outfit office buildings for flexible working

Flexibility can only be ensured if the necessary infrastructure is available. If more and more employees are performing their work from any location thanks to digital technologies, office space, for example, can be used differently and more efficiently. At the same time, it is important to ensure that employees who only come to the office occasionally always have a station that is suitable for their work.

In addition to the business side of things, employee satisfaction is a prime factor in the shift towards more flexible working. "It's about giving them the trust and resources they need for mobile working," says Sven Krüger, CEO of the Eucon Group. Technologies play an important role here in promoting interaction and collaboration between employees, while digital communication tools offer fantastic opportunities for virtual teamwork – from home as well as from the office. Not only do they make it possible to jointly edit documents regardless of location, they also make it efficient and paperless.

Experience shows that virtual team meetings, which have increased in the course of the growing remote culture, take up less time than face-to-face meetings. This is because they are organized more efficiently and purposefully from the outset, so that physical distance does not become a barrier in the first place and everything runs smoothly. This in turn saves time and pays off in terms of employee satisfaction, because it gives them even more flexibility.

But this calls for a few rules and, above all, discipline. "If more work is done from home, structures must be adapted and workflows must be conceived of differently," stresses Anne-Claire Oosenbrugh. "Meeting rules have always existed at Eucon. But we have now redesigned them specifically for the new digital meetings.

Promoting cohesion and exchange

The digitalization push does not stop at recruiting, either. In the future, it will be less relevant in the selection of applicants where the employees work from. This makes it much easier to find software developers, experts from the trade or product managers, for example. Eucon has continued to invest during the coronavirus crisis and has hired 21 new employees since the lockdown. The company  pivoted to conducting job interviews digitally.

Despite all the enthusiasm, working remotely can also be isolating. That's why it's important to create many opportunities for the team to come together and promote cohesion and togetherness. It is also important to create a virtual substitute for spontaneous encounters and social proximity. To achieve this, Eucon is in constant exchange with its employees. By means of video telephony, managers are still present and can be contacted by their teams at any time.

A recent survey among Eucon employees showed that 61 percent would like to see virtual social meetings. A video channel allows everyone to stay well-informed when large townhall events are not possible. Recently, 10 and 20-year employee anniversaries were honored. Because of COVID-19, the celebration could only take place in a small group – not as is customary at the annual summer or Christmas party. A video on the intranet and a real cake for the colleagues who came to the office the following day ensured that everyone could take part a little. There is nothing like closeness and personal exchange – real or virtual. It all depends on a good mix so that everybody can work at any place and time, efficiently and with joy. To achieve this, the various work locations – whether office, home office, virtual space or sometimes even the café – must be optimally connected with each other.

Written by Barbara Greissinger, Head of Corporate Communications, Eucon Group