Thoughts from a home office

In her new Linkedin article, G+J chief executive Julia Jäkel talks about her experiences with home office.

I’ve written down what occurred to me about working in a lockdown. Not set down in stone, but merely open impressions where I would like to know: do you also feel the same?

1. A home office rewards trust

The video peek into the colleague’s kitchen, the waving family members, the crisis camaraderie – this all brings us closer together. Everybody sees it as a benefit. However: where closeness didn’t exist before it’s not going to start growing now. To achieve closeness, personal encounters are just as irreplaceable as large company events, town hall meetings (we call them Flurfunk – chatting in the hallways), and team meetings. From my own experiences at G+J I know that they are the cement of mutual understanding. And this creates confidence. It’s much harder to build this up digitally. I therefore believe: to productively and sustainably work from a home office – only those will succeed who have already experienced a modern working culture before the crisis: who trust their employees, who have confidence in them, who delegate authority.   

2. A home office promotes the courageous

Those who will profit from the new normal are above all those who had already invested in this new form of cooperation before the crisis. Because it takes years to tear down old departmental silos, to encourage cooperation, and to create an awareness of the big picture. It is now evident that all of this is an indispensable prerequisite for functioning digital communication. If one hasn’t already set up a culture that transcends teams then it’s too late; the teams are stuck in their own little bubbles.

3. A home office needs sensitivity

Yes, video conferencing can be super. It disciplines, gets quickly to the point, and gives discussions a structure. But be careful – this channel also offers a special stage to those who already have (too) much to say: bosses and extroverts. But what about the smart but quiet members, the reserved ones? Those individuals who we kept a special eye on, who were subtly encouraged to contribute? We have to be very careful that the microphones of these colleagues don’t remain silent.

4.  A home office needs more human relations

You read it everywhere: digital working overcomes hierarchies. At home, we’re all equal. Is this really so? If I think back over my communications during the last week, I realize that I’m communicating with some colleagues much more often than before. This makes me happy and I view it as a personal gain. However: I’m not talking at all to many others. I realize that my contacts in our publishing house have become more hierarchical, without my wanting it. Far too seldom do I meet the colleagues who I perhaps accidentally met on the hall and from whom I also got unexpected information. We have to actively resist this (I am massively doing this, now that I have recognized the situation), and this will always cost energy. Otherwise, our work wouldn’t become more participative, but hierarchic – and that would be truly absurd.

The window is open – use the opportunity!

A few days ago I was stuck in traffic – for the first time in ages. What, stuck in traffic? The air was clearer, the birds were chirping, the streets were free. And now it’s back to normal? Something became clear to me: by itself, nothing is going to get better. This also is true for our work. We have to hold tight to what is good if we want to make our work easier in the long run, to make it more human. It’s up to us!

And this offers us a huge opportunity: during the last weeks people have closely followed how companies are behaving in a crisis. Many firms have supported their employees, were considerate and caring – and this will permanently strengthen their relationships.

What are your experiences with working in a lockdown?  What to throw, what to keep?

Click here for original post of Julia Jäkel on linkedin (in German language).