The entire population was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic (Corona). Whether it is the restrictions, in the way we live our lives or the changes in our professional life.
That is why we are now looking at the changes in the working environment and the insights that result from them.
When in February 2020, reports increased about a possible new viral disease that threatens the entire world, and thus will also affect us in Germany, nobody thought about the consequences. Many analysts and economic experts were aware that it would have a negative impact on our economic life.
However, the consequences for the IT sector were not so clear. Many freelancers and consultancies had predicted various scenarios. These scenarios ranged from a time without any projects to a project increase. However, it was not expected that the working methods would change significantly and even that a new acceptance would develop.
Looking back on the pandemic, which has already lasted five months, it gives a more transparent overall picture of the situation and allows conclusions to be drawn about the past time or prospects for the future.
The new acceptance of the home office
For years, IT specialists have been demanding a higher proportion of home offices. Especially in the area of external consultants, but also for developers, who certainly have longer distances to travel. The background to this demand is of course on the one hand the personal restrictions, such as the daily commuting distance, which have to be minimized. On the other hand, the known conditions on the project sites, such as a noisy working environment, which make focused work difficult. This quickly leads to irritation, especially for developers, as their work requires a high degree of concentration.
It is therefore not unusual that developers and technically working external employees like to include this requirement in their job offer or contract.
Sometimes, however, companies have only partially agreed to such agreements. In most cases, one to two days were approved or tolerated in a non-regular cadence. With regard to their own employees, this freedom was often not lived out. This inevitably led to unequal treatment of external and internal employees.
In addition to the unequal treatment within the organization, other reasons were also frequently cited. These are mainly communication and cooperation within the team.
This is made more difficult in the current remote working phase by the lack of investment by companies in digital communication channels such as screen sharing, internet telephony and presentation facilities. Internal security policies often rightly prohibit the use of free and non-hosted solutions, but there are no or only poorly usable alternatives.
Covid-19 changed all that!
To keep operations running and to complete projects, exceptions to the restrictions became acceptable. Companies that had previously allowed internal and external employees to work more frequently from their home office and were technically prepared for this, naturally have a knowledge and success advantage here. Due to the contact bans imposed by the pandemic, this had to be implemented immediately everywhere.
It is interesting to note that the fears of many companies and organizations regarding employee productivity have faded into the background.
Agile working methods at distributed workplaces
In the age of agile software and product development, the understanding of the control of performance and working time has changed. It is not about doing one’s work for eight hours without interruption, but about the quality of the work done.
In the agile working world, the product is put in the foreground and not, as every employee does his work individually.
This can be done from different workstations, such as from the home office, as well as from the project area. Especially since many tools and aids are provided via the Internet, the place of performance has become negligible. The focus here is on the technical provision of the tools and their security protection.
It requires well usable VOIP or group chats / conversation tools, as well as a possibility to organize the work together (JIRA/ Confluence or similar tools). Furthermore, a good organization of group events is essential to coordinate the work. With the exception of the tools, which must have secure and stable connections, everything else is already available in organizations that work in an agile way. Time-boxed meetings are still the last resort in terms of good agile working. Nevertheless, it must be possible for two employees to meet at any time in a digital café or meeting room to discuss and work out specific technical or other content.
Will the home office displace the classic business?
In the age of Covid-19, this question can temporarily be answered with “yes”, considering the current situation. The health of the employees (whether internal or external) has priority over any business activity. Especially the coming together of many people, not only can lead to a health problem of individuals, but of many.
But as soon as the Covid-19 situation becomes manageable, things will get interesting. We have learned that our professional life so far is exposed to real dangers. The disappearance or mastery of Covid-19 does not mean that a return to the previous daily routine will automatically come into effect.
It has become clear that home office, properly used and supported by companies, can be just as good a place to work as, for example, the office space. In fact, the quality and motivation of work is much higher in some places, leading to greater satisfaction and productivity of the individual. Conflicts that occur in the workplace due to proximity or directly observed behavior occur less often or not at all in the home office. The costs incurred for the provision of workstations do not disappear, but are replaced by a higher effort in the technical implementation for the home office. Nevertheless, the cost structure changes and can be reduced over time (e.g. reduced need for less office space).
The uniform treatment of employees, internally as well as externally, is also maintained, which in turn has a positive effect on the mood and cooperation.
Nevertheless, there are also reasons for a project space or an office. The presence of many specialists and decision-makers in a central location allows for different access to information in case of unforeseen events. Also the infrastructure of the company’s project space, especially in the initial phase, can lead to improved collaboration, getting to know each other, planning, working out solutions and architectures, but also coaching.
A good mix of home office and project space will in all probability be the solution for a good project after the pandemic. The pandemic has proven that distributed working does not lead to a frequently claimed loss of quality and control. We all have to rethink in order not to lose touch with the rest of the world in Germany, where a more relaxed attitude towards the home office has been the norm for some time. But it has also become clear that without modern agile working methods, this is much more difficult, and that, in addition to the digital transformation, which is running too slowly, there is also a catching up in working methods. The “agilisation” of organisations and the implementation of an agile transformation is therefore indispensable and goes hand in hand with the digital transformation, as well as the maintenance of the value chain during and after the pandemic.
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