In our latest article, “Onboarding process during the Covid-19 crisis”, I had the opportunity to share my experiences of the orientation phase as a new colleague while working from home. Covid-19 has changed the way we work at vjoon, not only for myself but for all vjoonees.
When the development around the virus and its consequences came closer and closer a few months ago, quick decisions had to be made for the protection of all employees during this exceptional situation. It was decided that the majority of the company should work from home. In the meantime, with few exceptions, we are back in the office and a certain amount of normalcy has returned.
But how did the sudden transition from a regular office environment to a new working life at home happen? And how did we handle the issues of distance control, meetings, and general hygiene back at the office?
“It was predictable that a solution would have to be found,” a colleague told us. Insofar, there had already been some initial considerations and preparations within the company. The response to the situation was therefore quick and consistent. Within a few days, the decision to switch to working from home as much as possible was implemented accordingly. Virtual Private Network (VPN) access was activated if it had not already been set up – after all, some vjoonees had used the option from time to time before, too.
In the past, our work model has primarily provided flexibility, for example for appointments with craftsmen or when taking care of smaller children, but was not designed for continuous operation. For hardware heavy divisions such as the support and development departments, gradual solutions were found to keep the operation running. As a result, only a handful of local vjoonees were left on site. They were able to smoothly carry out server maintenance and updates, among other things.
From mid-March to mid-May, most vjoonees were working from their homes. Leaving the office meant breaking out of the routine for all of us. In the office, a lot of things happen in a structured and personal way: Whether it is the morning coffee in the office kitchen, the daily stand-up meeting (an important part of agile software development), or lunch with colleagues, these happenings are lost or different at home. A new, productive structure had to be found in the personal workflow. Therefore, new processes were introduced in all departments, such as daily team meetings in the morning.
The transition to digital communication was seamless in most teams. In some, there had already been one or two “remote” colleagues before Covid, so video calls were nothing new. “We agreed on Skype as our meeting software early on because it proved to be the most stable tool. It allowed all colleagues to network with each other and communicate efficiently. We quickly decided to use video on calls whenever possible, as we noticed that facial expressions and gestures significantly improved the understanding of verbal communication,” says one colleague.
We have been using our own chat client for internal communication for some time now which in many situations replaces e-mail. Thanks to a stable VPN connection, all vjoonees had access to the company network, various software tools, and all important data and were able to work as before. Since we also use our own product, vjoon K4, for various internal processes (for example, for writing this blog article), no changes in procedures were necessary and everything continued to run as usual. This, too, made working from home much easier.
Of course, we have all experienced the pros and cons of working from home: shorter commuting distances, more flexible work schedules, and perceived stress reduction on the one hand, longing for spontaneous exchange with colleagues, frictional losses in the team due to distance, and delays in work processes on the other hand. All in all, however, we have coped well and are glad that we were able to make efficient use of the privilege of the home office during the crisis.
In the course of the positive development of the pandemic in our region, we like many others have come a little closer to normality and almost all of us are back in the office. The return was prepared and carried out with consideration for the health of everyone within the framework of the existing guidelines and recommendations.
We continue to use Skype or GoTo-Meeting for larger meetings, and just in case, every employee was equipped with three vjoon masks. In the office building, we made a number of adjustments in order to maintain the necessary distances and regulations.
Our lunch catering is no longer buffet style, we now receive the dishes in portions. The chairs in the kitchen have been reduced, we have moved desks in some offices and a handful of vjoonees has completely changed offices for the meantime.
Frequently used doors have been fitted with additional handles or are permanently open to prevent smear infections. General hygiene tips have been clearly displayed in important places to increase awareness among all.
Above all: wash your hands, keep your distance, show consideration.
With these precautions and the necessary care of all our employees, we look forward to the coming months with confidence. Should circumstances require a return to work-from-home, we will be able to react with flexibility and continue to provide the usual service. We are very grateful for that and hope that our partners and customers will also fare well during this time.