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The ELO magazine with a focus on digitalization

Updated: Jun 28, 2022


[ r e p o s t - ELO Digital Office DE]



“Hybrid work models offer flexibility and are a net gain for both companies and employees”


The topic of remote working is frequently the cause of heated discussions. Nils Mosbach cannot quite grasp why. Instead of simply being for or against, it should be about striking the right balance to create a win-win situation for everyone. In his view, the hybrid workplace is inevitable.


03.05.2022

 

The pandemic has brought us many changes, one of them being a shift towards a new work dynamic. What is so appealing about hybrid models? That they allow employees to retain the flexibility they enjoyed during lockdown?


You’ve already said the keyword: flexibility. Flexible work models empower employees to become good at self-management. Having more freedom means they can achieve better work-life integration with more control over their schedules, both at work and in their personal lives. Simply being able to go for a run at lunchtime, attend medical or other appointments without having to take time off, or being able to work from home while waiting for service technicians who expect you to be in all day – hybrid models have many benefits. And with less distractions, employees are quite often more productive from home. Allowing for greater work-life integration has always been important to us as a company. When the pandemic started, a number of colleagues moved further out of the city to more suburban areas where quality of life is better. Of course, this transition can only work in the long term if workers don’t have to commute on a daily basis. In short, the new hybrid work models offer employees a wide range of advantages.


And the advantages for companies?

More freedom means happier employees, and happier employees are more innovative and creative. These are qualities we want to encourage in employees as well as motivating them to become better self-managers. Lower rent and utility costs are also often cited in this context. And that is something a company like ELO, which is based in the city and is growing by about 15 percent every year, potentially has to consider. But the cost aspect is just one angle. Every company is responsible for ensuring that the quality of the workplace is beneficial for employees. We offer standing desks, big screens, and the corresponding infrastructure, like meeting areas and workshop spaces specifically designed to foster creativity. Most colleagues are unable to replicate this working environment within their own four walls, especially in cities where living space is expensive. Plus, what you gain financially in the short term will cost you in areas such as communication, innovation, creativity, and work culture in the long term. Hybrid models combine the best of both worlds. And that will of course play a big part in our ability to develop and bring to market successful and innovative products moving forward.


It sounds like you’re not entirely convinced about remote working.


In the context of the new work debate, I would say that working from home permanently is not my idea of a good working set up. It may make sense for sales teams, for example, but it shouldn’t be the standard solution for most employees. One of the key insights from the pandemic is that communication has suffered, which in turn impacts collaboration, creativity, and the work culture. The question is how we are going to put those lessons learned into action. For example, someone in each team should be tasked with developing and introducing formats that enable employees to organize themselves better – whether remotely, at the office, or hybrid. This is currently work in progress.


But as a tech company, the process of moving everyone to work from home was likely less challenging than for most companies.


That’s true of course, but we too had to substantially upgrade our Internet capacity and hardware infrastructure. At the same time, not everything that is technically and practically possible makes sense.


So what new work model has ELO adopted to ensure that there are no trade-offs in terms of communication and productivity?


As I said earlier, having people work from home exclusively is not sustainable for our business, but we see hybrid work arrangements as the future. Luckily, our workforce agrees with us on this. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, we sent a questionnaire to employees asking them how much they would prefer to work remotely post-pandemic. A total 24 percent said they would like to continue working remotely one day a week, the majority (55 percent) requested two or three days a week, and only 18 percent said they would like to work from home four or five days a week. Based on these findings, we developed several hybrid work models for roles that do not require a full-time presence in the office.


So how much time do ELO employees spend in the office and how much remotely?


13 percent of the workforce comes in every day, unless of course new restrictions are brought into effect. 23 percent work remotely one day a week, and 40 percent opted to work from home two days a week. Another 23 percent work from home exclusively, but 20 percent of these employees are in field sales, are consultants, or live outside the Stuttgart catchment area.


That sounds like you’ve struck a good balance between offering flexibility without compromising corporate culture and teamwork.


That was a very important aspect for us. These are not only strengths of our organization but also the key to developing successful products. And with a few exceptions, employee feedback is consistently positive. We’ve also invested heavily in our web conferencing technology to increase engagement and promote creativity in virtual meetings. For example, all our conference rooms now have 75-inch digital whiteboards, and the development teams have access to mobile whiteboards so that remote colleagues can join in their daily stand-up meetings.


Have leadership practices changed at ELO since introducing the hybrid work model?


Of course, the basic principles of leadership and underlying concepts have only changed to a limited extent. Leadership is about leading, coaching, and structuring. The focus should be goal-oriented but also balanced. In other words, how do I define specific goals and keep employees committed to attaining them while being mindful of the needs of individuals and the team. One aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is the question of whether working from home exclusively is a risk career-wise – out of sight, out of mind. The biggest challenge with managing remote teams is not the lack or loss of control, but how to clearly define goals. Leadership means ensuring that goals are transparent and clearly communicated, that employees get the support they need to do their jobs and trusting them to work autonomously. Networking, which mostly takes place on an informal level, plays a significant role in career trajectory. That’s why a quick conversation in the hallway or at the coffee machine is so important. It would be hard to find a viable virtual alternative to this. In my view, a blend of on-site presence and remote work is the ideal solution for everyone. And that’s why hybrid work models will definitely become the norm in my opinion, which is exactly we recently created the role of agile and systemic coach. Core to this role will be to oversee the whole process to ensure that it reflects our communication, culture, and methodology structures.


This interview was carried out by Julia Thiem.

Julia Thiem has worked as a freelance journalist and author for many years. She specializes in finances and digitalization and writes for business magazines and daily newspapers, among others.






“Flexible work models offer employees better work-life integration with more control over their schedules, both at work and in their personal lives.”


Nils Mosbach Employed, Managing Director | CTO, ELO Digital Office GmbH




 



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