This little nasty thing called Coronavirus has changed the world in a few weeks. I must admit that still in February I did not pay a lot of attention to the whole story and just filed it under “just another flu virus”. Now as I am writing this, I am basically only allowed to leave my house to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy. And I should go there alone. For sure, I can also go out to reach my office to be able to work. But I am not doing this already for a week now. Why? Because we already had decided to send everybody out to work from home. But wait, everybody? Yes, everybody! I am the Head of Global Sales and Business Development at Paessler AG headquartered in Nuremberg, and for at least 80% of my team this is nothing new. Most of them are distributed around the world working remotely, either from their home office or in coworking spaces. But we also have a lot of departments, where people usually do not work from home, like product development, technical support, IT, marketing, finance, HR and a few others.
A successful project starts with good preparation
Our colleagues, especially in IT and HR, had already done a lot of work during the weeks before the office shutdown, in order to be prepared for moving everybody out of our nice headquarters in the northeast of Nuremberg. That is why we were able to decide on a Friday morning finally to do this step and had everybody working from home starting on the following Monday. There is a nice blog article about that on our website. Seeing how other companies obviously still struggle to implement a working home office strategy for their employees, puts the great job done by our IT colleagues and other backoffice functions in an even brighter light.
Business as usual… almost
After one week of a complete company operating from home, I can say everything goes very smoothly. Face-to-face meetings are now being done online, including meetings with customers and partners, who partly also work from home already. For sure it is not the same seeing the other person just in a little square window on your screen rather than sitting in front or next to you. But meetings up to seven or eight participants are very efficient still. When it gets to larger crowds of twenty or more, it is a bit of a challenge and efficiency goes down. But are meetings with twenty people or more efficient at all? As all schools and childcare centers are also closed, parents working in their home office now are facing another challenge, at least those with small children. The little ones are just simply glad that mum or dad are at home all day and obviously the term “home office” is not yet in their vocabulary. I think everybody remembers the famous BBC News video. You can see a few similar scenes these days during online meetings.
A stress test for technology
Today everybody uses online communication and conferencing software, in business as well as privately. There are countless tools available on the market today. But most of them probably were not really prepared for a situation like this. At least in the first days and in some cases still ongoing, they really get to their knees. Bad video and audio quality, chats are not working and a few more issues. But this is not at all to blame anybody or any company. As said already, obviously nobody was really prepared for a situation like this. And it is consistently improving as companies optimize their products and make them more stable. By the way, any service supporting us not to leave our homes gets to its limits or even beyond right now. Packages from mail order companies need much more time to arrive, food deliveries take hours and just simply forget about ordering something in a supermarket offering home delivery. The best one I could find offered me a delivery date in three weeks from now as the earliest possibility.
Revealing the state of digitalization in Germany
Furthermore, the current situation reveals again, where we are regarding digitalization in Germany. I had already touched that subject recently in an another blog. Very often politicians talk primarily about the availability of broadband connections all over Germany, when it comes to the topic of digitalization. For sure, this is the backbone of a successful digitalization strategy. Looking at the online conference video quality of some of my colleagues living outside of the city, it becomes very obvious that there is still a lot of work to do. But it becomes even more obvious that the so-called “Digital Pact” to digitalize the education sector in Germany does not work at all. In May 2019 the German government allocated 5 billion Euros for that. Until today only 200 million Euros were requested by the federal states. Four states did not even request anything so far. That is why a lot of children and adolescents are killing time at home these days with video games and in social networks rather than studying in front of their PC or tablet, chatting with their classmates and teachers. Sometimes it needs extreme situations to trigger action.
Stay safe and healthy!