March 2020: the month our everyday life has turned upside down. In order to protect its employees, Siemens decreed that everyone who could work from home should do so. At the same time, governments all over the world commanded lockdowns for our social lives. From one day to the other, we were forced to stay at home. Blessed those who own a house with a garden outside the city – hard times for those who live in big cities that come with small apartments. A truly scary, apocalyptic feeling quickly spread along family, friends and everyone you talked to via phone or conference call: what does this all mean? How long will this last? How endangered are we really? Gratefully, after staying at home and not seeing friends and family for a while, this massive uncertainty disappeared, lockdown measures were eased and eventually our social life came back to a bit of normal. Work life did not. But how does this affect our worklife in all its facets? Working hours? Remote calls and conferencing all the time? Working desk and space? Missing colleagues & coffee breaks around? Eventually, our mental health? It’s an all subjective matter. We realized we have two totally different experiences and views on this. Perfectly fit to be shared here with you.
Max’s point of view:
“Covid-19 enabled me to slow down – by focusing on the essentials”Maximilian Hummel
First of all, I should highlight I am all new at Siemens and only just joined the company in August. However, at my former job, we also started working from home in mid-march. Since we did a lot of collaborative and creative teamwork which we usually did together in meeting rooms and in workshop styles, the first days and weeks were indeed demanding. Brainstorming, conceptual discussions, sharing spontaneous ideas – everything that had happened in a “natural” and agile way before, now had to be planned and shifted into fixed time frames and virtual meetings. If there hadn’t been a lockdown, we surely were so annoyed at some stages we just wanted to meet in a meeting room or even stop the project right there, right now. I’m glad we couldn’t. We got used to it and adapted to a new way of working: instead of going back and forth, instead of consistent overthinking, instead of waiting for others’ outcomes, our effectiveness and efficiency increased a lot: responsibilities, tasks and deadlines for each and every team member were discussed together in the virtual meetings (in critical project phases up to 3 times a day) so everybody knew exactly what they had to add to their to-do list.
This might sound like a lot of pressure to some, but I love this step-by-step outcome-oriented mode. I was used to continuously working in a “overwhelmed by mass and complexity of work” environment – Covid-19 and virtual working helped me find a new way of being focused at home. Not to forget all the commuting that suddenly dropped out: I was used to getting up the second my alarm went off, a meticulous getting-ready-for-the-office-flow, dependent on on-time public transport: a lot of everyday hassle before work had even started. Same applies for the evenings: keep an eye on when to finishing up the day, think about what errands to do on the way home, decide between sports, meeting friends, quality time with my partner or having a lazy evening watching Netflix.
All of this suddenly smoothed through Covid-19: I now sometimes stay in bed for another half hour to read news and have the first coffee. I can combine groceries shopping with my lunch break. Enough time in the evening to combine two of the mentioned activities above.
In a nutshell: I now make use of the previously wasted time. And it feels good. Just when I joined Siemens, the board just announced the “new normal” paradigm incl. the 3-days-at-home regulation: a real blessing for me. I however do know this is a very “non-children-household” view upon 2020. Shoutout to all the mommies and daddies out there, you did an extraordinary job in these extraordinary times.
Claudia’s point of view:
“Covid-19 made me feel like working from dusk till dawn”*Claudia Stenten
“Covid-19 enabled me to slow down”. Hearing those words from Max I almost screamed: Whaaaaat? It’s exactly the opposite for me! First, when we were asked to stay home for our safety, I was not worried at all. On the contrary. I like being in the home office and I made use of the option at least once a week before the pandemic. At first, it was a bit like a new adventure. Nobody really knew what we were getting into. Many things were started to stay connected, like the “what’s on your desk” challenge. I liked this spirit of optimism. For me, that changed after two or three weeks. The urge to stay connected virtually, to coordinate things without being able to walk past a colleague’s table, led to an overflow on all channels.
Suddenly my calendar was filled from morning to evening. Or more like from dusk till dawn. The “morning” got earlier and earlier. After all, you don’t have to drive to work, right? And the “evening” got later and later. I mean, there’s nothing else to do during a lockdown, anyway! And who needs a lunch break? You can work and eat at the same time. In office times, it was very rare that someone would send me an invitation for a meeting over lunch. Probably because everybody went to the canteen at 12 o’clock sharp. In addition to all the meetings, there was this constant bombardment of messages and calls on Slack, Circuit, and later Teams. And I felt the expectation having to be super responsive. Going to the bathroom? Sometimes nearly impossible.
I agree with Max. I love the fact not having to commute. I realized, though, that the way home gave me the chance to tune out. To leave the work at the workplace. That wasn’t easy when your workplace is your living room table (and you don’t want to put away your equipment every day). I don’t want to deep dive in all aspects, but for me Covid-19 felt like a speed-up more than a slow-down.
So, what’s my conclusion after five months at home (doesn’t if feel like ages)? Would I prefer going back to the pre-pandemic way of working? It’s a definite NO. I personally think that’s not even possible. And nothing we should strive for. But there is a difference between having to work at home five days a week and having the choice to do so once in a while. Meanwhile, I’ve learned to take better care of myself, meaning I’m more self-disciplined and take breaks, I’m not sitting at the living room table anymore (I’m lucky to have the option), and it also helped talking to colleagues about techniques how to better deal with the situation.
I’m pretty proud how Siemens has handled the whole crisis. And I’m even prouder that the company pretty quickly decided to give us permanently the option for mobile working. Which is good! Because the real bottom line is: With all the downsides I would have struggled more with the idea of going back to the office for five days a week.
*Just to be clear: I did not really work from dusk till dawn. I exaggerated a bit here and there to get my feeling of speeding up and not slowing down across.
Isn’t it funny how differently we perceive and deal with things? Whom of us two do you feel related to? We are curious to hear what your 2020 experiences are!