Home office during Corona: What about „Remote-Readiness“

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A view behind the scenes.

Because of the Corona pandemic and the action taken by the government, many companies had to move to "Remote Work" in the short term and shift the daily work routine from the offices to the home office. Also we at eggs unimedia. 

 

In many industries, the digital transformation has created the basis for people to be able to do their work regardless of where they work. Companies that can offer their employees a location-independent and flexible working environment have decisive competitive advantages. The resulting positive aspects are not only productivity increases and process acceleration, but in many cases also a higher level of employee satisfaction. 

 

Companies were ideally confronted with the issue of "remote work" before the global virus outbreak. However, in recent months it has become apparent that a large number of departments and companies were not prepared for this.

 

In March, the German Digital Industry Association (BVDW) conducted a representative survey among 1,001 employees of small, medium-sized and large companies on this topic. This survey revealed that 54% of the companies would not be able to enable employees to work from home at short notice, according to their employees' estimates. 

Möglichkeit eines Home-Office aufgrund des Coronavirus 2020

Bild 1: Möglichkeit eines Home-Office aufgrund des Coronavirus 2020

In the same survey, employees were asked whether they would like to work from home in the event of a possible health hazard, such as the coronavirus. Only a quarter could not imagine this at all or not at all, 17% are undecided and a clear majority of 58% answered this question with "Rather yes" or "Yes, definitely". 

Einsatz von Homeoffice aufgrund des Coronavirus 2020

Bild 1: Einsatz von Homeoffice aufgrund des Coronavirus 2020

Remote readiness", i.e. the readiness of a company to switch from office operation to home office from one day to the next, is not only an economic necessity. It also corresponds to the wishes and expectations of the employees and our zeitgeist.

 

Perhaps we were already ahead of our time, as our employees have had the opportunity to work part of their working hours in their home office for over 15 years. The original idea behind the introduction of flexible home office days was that each team member should have more scope for self-determination and flexibility at work, which should have a positive effect on the work-life balance. We found out for ourselves that a physical presence in the office is not necessary to achieve good results (although we always like to get together at eggs).

 

At eggs the conditions for an immediate and 100% conversion from office to home work were thus given.

 

Even though we at eggs are all homeoffice-tested: The fact that all colleagues were sent to the home office from one day to the next and for an indefinite period of time - was new for us as well. 

 

We talked about this challenge with Stefan Dobler, IT Service Manager and Engin Kurul, IT Service Associate from our IT Service Team. 

 

Stefan, how did the changeover at eggs unimedia go?

 

Stefan Dobler (SD): We didn't have to change anything in the area of IT service, because the systems all already existed to enable home office.

 

Engin Kurul (EK): Even before the first government decisions were made, Michael called for all colleagues to clarify with the respective project teams whether home-based work is possible. When the initial restrictions were decided, most colleagues were already in the home office and I was in the final school phase of my retraining as an IT specialist for system integration. From then on, teaching was organized via Microsoft teams. So there was no big change for me in terms of collaboration tools when I started my permanent job at eggs in May.

 

What were the biggest challenges?

 

SD: The biggest challenge was to give each employee access to the resources he or she needed individually. The access should always work, be available and easy to set up if necessary. The effort for remote support for colleagues (e.g. for access or support for the devices) increased at first due to the lack of physical presence in the office, but with the help of tools like teams it is now easier and faster to manage.

 

EK: I have noticed that many colleagues have taken their keyboards or monitors home with them and have thus set up their home office or added hardware or office supplies (chairs, laptop stands). If there are any problems, we receive requests from the internal IT department via e-mail and process them as quickly as possible.

 

Why was the switch to 100% remote possibly easier for eggs than for other companies?

 

SD: It was easy in that we were already running all the necessary tools before Corona arrived. Home office is also a part of the eggs way of working, it was just used more intensively. There were no systems that had to be additionally installed because of Corona.

 

EK: For exam preparation I often studied with classrooms. As is the case with study groups, conversations strayed from time to time and it turned out that some of my classmates had major problems with the changeover to home office. The situation at their employers was completely new and processes and systems for home work had to be set up first. At eggs, every colleague generally has the right (even without special regulations and pandemics) to work from home twice a week. It is thanks to this regulation that the relevant precautions for remote working were taken years ago.

 

What hardware and software is required in the home office? (also something like licenses, VPN etc.)

 

SD: In principle, a "home worker" only needs one device with the appropriate VPN software. For this purpose we issue a configuration file and, if not done automatically, a certificate from eggs IT, which the employee installs on his own.

EK: It is actually an "all-round carefree package", because every employee is given a notebook by IT on his first day of work, on which the corresponding VPN software (OpenVPN/Tunnelblick) is installed. The configuration files and the user certificate are stored during the initial configuration. In order to enjoy the full office experience, each user is assigned Microsoft 365 licenses and nothing more stands in the way of working in the home office.

 

Which tools and processes does eggs unimedia use?

 

SD:  In general, all general eggs tools (e.g. Jira, Confluence) are accessible via the Internet and without VPN access. Custom resources that are not accessible via the Internet are usually accessible via a Site2Site VPN connection through eggs. The user sets up a VPN connection to eggs and then accesses the customer's resources via a direct VPN connection from eggs to the customer.

 

EK:  Microsoft teams are usually used for internal communication. This makes it possible to chat with all employees, (video-) phone calls, exchange files, publish questions/posts in threads and - most importantly in "normal times" - check what's for lunch.

 

What about accessibility in the home office for customers?

 

SD:  Every employee at eggs has the possibility to stay in contact with customers via Microsoft teams or VoIP. For this purpose, each colleague has a Microsoft license and also his own telephone extension. All you need to do is install the Teams App and/or a client for telephony.

 

Were there any internal processes and workflows that we had to digitalize as part of the home office? 

 

EK:  There were no changes or new introductions with regard to the IT infrastructure and IT services. However, our HR department had to digitize some processes, such as the application for leave or overtime compensation. As an Adobe partner with a specialization in AEM Forms, it's hard to say it out loud. Before the lockdown, we still had forms for these applications that were printed out, submitted and filed. We are currently working on a new digital workflow for sick leave notifications. 

 

How are internal agreements or approvals (vacation requests) made today? 

 

EK:  Leave requests must always be approved by the respective team before they are formally released by HR. In the office, the employees* have printed out their application form for this purpose, had it signed by the project manager*, Tech Lead, Scrum Master or PO, depending on the internal regulations, and then handed it in to HR. The HR department then entered the absence on the internal absence list and booked it in the time management. This process was completely digitalized using a workflow. The colleagues* are provided with a digital form, which starts the application process when they send it. In the first step, the request is sent in the form of a response e-mail to the colleague named by the applicant for approval by the relevant department. If the request is approved by clicking on the "Approve" button, the request is forwarded to HR as a responsive e-mail and the requester is informed that his/her leave has already been approved. HR now checks whether the vacation quota is sufficient, formally approves the vacation - also by clicking in the responsive e-mail - and makes the appropriate entries. At the end of the workflow, the employee*in receives a notification that his/her vacation has been approved (of course, notifications are also sent if a request is rejected, but this is very rarely the case).

Otherwise, Microsoft teams are the be-all and end-all for internal agreements and internal communication as a whole. 

 

Time for a closing word Stefan

 

SD: Requirements on the IT infrastructure and adjustments in the administration can be handled with a little preparation and the available tools. 

But another challenge is becoming increasingly clear: we as humans must also reorganize and adapt to the demands of the future. Each of us is part of a major process of economic and social change. Part of this challenge is to remain a "team", even if we do not come together physically for a long period of time. The exchange with colleagues* in remote meetings is mainly limited to the professional context. Company events are temporarily cancelled, conversations with colleagues at the coffee machine do not take place. Therefore, we have regularly introduced remote events to simply get together again in a relaxed atmosphere. In this respect, there will certainly be a lot more to come and if necessary, our IT service will - as always - provide competent support with the technical implementation.