Nice and flexible
This is how working at a distance and dealing with constantly changing demands succeeds
The world of work has been changed substantially by the coronavirus pandemic. Working at a distance and digital meetings have become commonplace. They have done so to everyone’s benefit—as is shown by two companies from Adlershof.
The capacity to adjust to change can be vital to survival. This has been a central tenet of biology as well as management literature but often sounded like an abstract notion. This changed with the COVID-19 pandemic: Everybody had to give up settled habits and completely reorganise their everyday (work) lives going forward. At one point, more than a quarter of employees in Germany worked from home. Not everybody had a study with a lockable door. Many had to make do with a cleared table somewhere in their flat, where they attempted to meet the demands of their professional and private lives. Improvisation then gave way to routine—and the realisation that some adjustments and flexibilities were also beneficial. This is also shown by the examples of two companies from Adlershof.
At Sapiram, a company providing learning management systems and digital learning software including for political education and the transition to clean energy (Energiewende), many have been doing remote and mobile work since it was founded ten years ago, says the company’s owner, Carl Lauer. “We cooperate with freelance staff in countries like Belgium, Ukraine, and Italy.” Because of this, it was logical to work together from different places, i.e., meeting to talk about projects using video conferencing. Customer contact was still face-to-face quite frequently. “Due to the pandemic, remote working has become much more accepted,” says Lauer.
And so, his vision of taking on more international projects became a reality. Meanwhile, Carl Lauer has moved his main workplace to Abruzzo in Italy. “The sea, the mountains, and potential customers aren’t far either,” he says. However, he will keep the branch in Adlershof. For remote work to succeed, it is even more important that all participants communicate well to avoid misunderstandings and to effectively bring in own contributions. “I want to lead by example to help along the development of a cooperative way of working based on trust.”
But Carl Lauer also cares about the social improvements that have been made possible by digitisation and effective remote work: In the Italian village he has moved to, he hopes to create new skilled jobs through his innovative professional and volunteering activities.
For Bernd Haase, too, trust is essential for shaping the changes his company, Biotechrabbit, is going through—towards his 45 employees and vice versa. The company produces proteins and complete PCR formulations, which are used, among other things, for COVID-19 testing. “We were one of the first that started delivering to Wuhan two years ago,” says Haase. It was the begin of a time of extremes: high demand, increased production, completely different customer acquisition. “I didn’t have to travel to potential customers anymore, they came to us.” Until today, business meetings are done digitally. “This is much more accepted in our industry compared to others,” he adds.
Working from home was hard to do at Biotechrabbit. High-purity proteins cannot be produced on a kitchen table but require the highly trained professionals to come to the lab. From the outset, staff was continuously tested, and the work processes were organised to minimise contact. Employees received distance recorders so that, in an emergency, they would know if they had been close to somebody who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Our team did an incredibly good job and is still doing so,” says Haase. The company head rewards this with special payments and by creating an inspiring environment to retain and motivate his staff: This includes modern lab technology and robotics at a professional level, and, at the personnel level, it means trust-based working hours and team budgets, which the groups can use to make the way they work together more pleasant. “Flexibility is key when you’re trying to cope with constantly changing demands,” Haase is convinced. With years of experience, including working for American companies and a stint at Silicon Valley, he sees Germany in a better position than the cliche might suggest. “People here might take bit longer to see the good side to changes,” he says. “However, once they see it, they are all the more determined to make something of it.”
By Ralf Nestler for Adlershof Journal