“Working from home office benefits the whole family.” This is one of the theses from a survey conducted by Roland Berger GmbH and the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach in 2016. Many of my friends think that it will be great to start working directly in the home office after parental leave. That I will have more time for the kids when I don’t have to commute back and forth. Does this thesis hold true in 2020? I will check it out for myself with some excerpts from my diary here.
At Siemens, I connect people, internally, to know who has worked with which university on which topic, and, externally, to find suitable academic partners for projects. What will it be like in this time of Covid19, with virtual meetings, empty universities and offices, and a general home office?
September 15, 2020 – Day one of my New Normal
06:30 am: The alarm clock rings, for the first time after my parental leave: My first working day after 15 months. From the bathroom mirror, a tired but joyful and fully motivated woman in her thirties is watching me, looking forward to the first meeting with colleagues she hasn’t seen in so long.
Before I can start, I not only have to get myself ready for work, but also the breakfast for two small children. We all try to be ready on time and not to spread too much cereal all over us and the carpet.
Getting ready for work – the first challenge!
08:00 am. Together with their dad the kids are on the way to kindergarten. I also start my way to work. Today it leads through rough terrain, I must cross an ungated level crossing. In our apartment, new building blocks are always delivered by the Duplo train from the children’s room to the living room. I’m not allowed to cross a bridge that hasn’t been completely built yet, my son says: “You can’t put that away, Mom. It is not finished yet!” I sneak past dangerous tigers on the further way. The wildcats and their other fluffy colleagues have been living in the kitchen for three days because they are always hungry – just like my family.
My way to work has changed completely compared to my last day at the office.
I had taken the crowded subway. Other commuters and students had sat and stood next to me, each on their way to the office or school. When I had arrived at my office at Siemens, I had taken the elevator to the 6th floor before I could open the door to our open-plan office with my ID card.
But now everything is different: although I am back at my workplace, I am still at home. It feels strange and lonely to sit alone at my dining table, checking emails and getting a coffee from our kitchen. That’s different to our situation in March this year: My boyfriend was the one working in the home office and me – still in parental leave- I was entertaining the kids. But there is hardly any time for sentimentalities. My first team call of the day starts and more will follow.
It’s good that some things haven’t changed despite Corona.
09:30 am. We start the new week together. As already before Corona, the Monday Morning Meeting was a fixed date for the TUR (University Relations) team to keep each other up to date.
The big topic today is our upcoming CKI (Center of Knowledge Interchange – Siemens strategic partner universities) Manager Meeting. Quasi our annual “family reunion”, where all global team members from Siemens and the CKI universities come together to get to know each other better, exchange ideas, and discuss new ideas for the coming year. I was really looking forward to this meeting and was a little disappointed that it will now take place purely virtually. However, I quickly realize that my colleagues have already arrived in the “New Normal” in such a way that I can look forward to the virtual meeting almost as much.
Time jump: End of October – The day after the CKI Manager Meeting
As every year, the highlight session was held by the 8 CKI universities. It is always exciting to hear what is and has been going on at our partner universities. I didn’t know beforehand that a project from an idea competition with students from the TU Munich had brought it so far that a prototype was implemented at Siemens.
To prepare ourselves better for the challenges of the “New Normal” and to improve the networking of customers and collaborations via virtual formats, we organized parallel workshops during the CKI Manager Meeting. They went very well, and I’m curious to see what else emerges from our Expert Exchange workshop. We agreed that both, the university, and industry benefit greatly from the experience and knowledge of the other side, and that a real physical exchange can probably never be completely replaced by a purely virtual one. I learned that in the UK they have a very interesting model called “Knowledge Transfer Partnerships”. Maybe it is worth to think about how to duplicate something similar for our German partner universities?!
I will see which experiences I can use, which the global team has already gained in the last 6 months in virtual collaboration with universities, students, professors or even startups. I must take a closer look at the results from the Virtual Formats workshop.
And I note the dates for the next CKI conference at RWTH Aachen University in November and December and the Siemens Talk at Graz University of Technology. This year I can participate virtually in many more events and save travel costs and especially travel time, which is always tight for me.
Back to the first break in my home office
12:00 am. Lunch break. Let’s see what the fridge has to offer today. At the beginning of the week there are fortunately still leftovers from the weekend. I must get used to that now. There is no canteen that offers me 4 different dishes and a salad bar every day, cooks for me and washes my dishes again. How will it be to eat alone every day? During the lockdown in March with daycare being closed and my boyfriend also working from home, we always had family lunch breaks. But now? I’m thinking about making virtual lunch dates for one or two days a week.
After the lunch break
1:00 pm. Putting the dirty tableware fast in the dishwasher and then on into the next tuning round: This time it concerns the idea competition SUSHI, which is to start in the coming year. The Software-defined Inverter Team wants to address students all over Europe and develop ideas with them about which hardware they want to network via SUSHI.
I will take over the communication with universities, professors, and students and check which channels and formats we could still use outside the academic environment. Last week we had a Student Tech Talk organized by the Human Resources Department. “Maybe that would also be an idea for this project,” I think. Speaking of sushi, should I order sushi for tomorrow in my home office?
Home office meets reality – or meeting my new friend
1:36 pm. The doorbell rings: our DHL mailman. I write “our”, because meanwhile we greet each other on the street when we don’t meet at the apartment door. A package for me and two more for the neighbors. He asks if I could accept them. This is new: I used to pick up our packages from the neighbors, who were home much more often than we were. Now I usually get our parcels delivered directly and the neighbors come by to pick up theirs.
So, while I stow three boxes next to the door, I say goodbye to the SUSHI round and do a quick reporting in UNICO3. The siemens-wide database for university collaborations has been with me since I joined the UR-Team in 2014. Back then I thought databases were antique and rather boring. But UNICO3 proved me wrong: I learned a lot about Siemens’ work with universities worldwide, but at least as much about database design, usability, and user interface design. And that, together with the right colleagues, any topic can be fun.
Now my second job begins
2:30 pm. What? Already 2:30 pm? I completely forgot the time and must leave to pick up the children from daycare. I’m surprised how well the first day went and how good all the topics made me feel right away. I really missed being part of “my” team. Sure, I would love to see everyone “in real” and spend a coffee break together besides work or have a spontaneous conversation in the hallway or across the desk. That will have to wait a little longer. Until then, I think we all work together very well virtually. Maybe some meetings and appointments will even be faster or easier now that everyone is sitting in their offices, kitchens, or living rooms. We will see…
As I pack my backpack for an afternoon on the playground and quickly pocket a few cookies, I think: “Maybe Roland Berger is right? Maybe the New Normal in the home office is an opportunity to combine everything in a new and flexible way – and ultimately to have more time for both work and private life?”