Blog Parade Remote Work
It's the year 2002. The ProjectWizards are a network of professional project managers in the start-up phase. During the first job interviews with interesting candidates I learn a hard lesson. I simply can't offer any interesting after-work experience with the Melle location. Another candidate is no less brutal: he has worked in Hamburg, Berlin and Düsseldorf so far. Melle simply does not fit into his CV. My objection that SAP employees don't mind living in Walldorf was simply answered; when we're as big as SAP, I'll be able to invite him for another interview. He stood up and left.
In the following weeks, the idea was born to simply let the employees work from their favourite place. The home office idea for ProjectWizards was born.
Of course, as a young entrepreneur (the term entrepeneur only became modern later) I got advice from all sides on what to do next. But the main focus was this tenor: Close the shop right away. That won't work. So you can't control your people, etc.
Fast forward into the year 2020. In the middle of the Corona Pandemic. Hashtags like #remoteworks and #ShowMeYourHomeoffice achieve top positions on Google and Twitter. On the websites of friendly companies I read such lines "How to run your business from home during the crisis. - and laugh inside. These were the companies that attested to my crash almost 18 years ago.
Yes, we are still "a little chip shop" (one of my favourite quotes). But only because, after my experience at Bertelsmann, I never wanted to work in a corporate group or large company again. The nicest compliment comes from my team. We have corporate affiliations of ten years and more. And with this team we build and sell the best project management software on the Mac and iPad!
If I look at it from today's perspective, I'm in the best possible situation. My wife is also my assistant, my son has successfully completed his studies and lives in Berlin. The company is running and we live in a beautiful house with a garden on the outskirts of Melle. Strange, just now I have the line in my head:
Now I sit here, established, writing on expensive paper.
–– Marius Müller Westernhagen, German musician
But how did we (yes we; because ProjectWizards has never been a single service) get to this point? Was it the abolition of hierarchies and thus an increasingly familiar relationship with the team? Was it the permanent and lived motto to always take health and family into consideration?
Let's have a look at our Round Table (a term that has been used for good reason since the first day of ProjectWizards): I see different age groups, different nationalities and of course different genders - sorry, ladies ;-) But the most important thing is; I don't pay attention to these characteristics at all. I work with people who have certain strengths - and of course also weaknesses. And I try to use them as clever as possible.
An example: Years ago, an employee approached me and said that she wanted to take more care of her son in the afternoon and would therefore like to have different working hours. After talking about the how and the advantages and disadvantages, it was decided. From now on she would work in the mornings when her son was at school. In the afternoon she had free time for her son. And in the evening she would have a few more hours on duty when the child was in bed. Today the son is a young man and of course he does not go to bed at 8 o'clock anymore. But also the regulation has become more flexible in the meantime.
Which brings me to working hours. I always like to say that we don't have fixed hours. That's not entirely true, of course. Our three permanent routines (Management, Development & Service) take place between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. Attendance is of course obligatory. In addition, there may be other meetings where you are more mentally present. Beyond that, it does not matter when you do your work. Provided that deadlines or goals are met, I regularly see how good weather is being enjoyed or how a free appointment at the hairdresser is being used. Or, or, or,... And if you want to give free rein to your need to communicate, write a nice comment in the #away Channel of Slack, our communication tool.
This of course immediately leads to the question about the vacation. I can't remember exactly when it was, but at a team meeting I simplified the subject a lot: "We are all grown-up people and one of our better qualities is the ability to think logically. I am not here to discuss the vacation with you. You're already grown up, from now on you can handle it on your own." And it works. If necessary, a colleague is included in the holiday planning. And then information is sent to the accounting department, because various authorities want to be informed about the holiday situation. I have my team calendar, which keeps me informed about everything important.
The keyword Team brings me to the last point for today: The Team Meetings! One of the elementary events for remote teams cannot and must not be held at the moment. The last scheduled meeting was at the end of April. And of course it did not take place. We were thinking about holding a virtual meeting, but decided against it. It doesn't offer anything like what is important for us. Since we can work very well over the distance, we need an antipole. Something exciting, something to play with and to snack on ;-)
I could write much more on this subject. But at this point I'll just take a break, not just because it's Saturday. Rather I would like to ask the question, what is of interest. Write me on Twitter, LinkedIn or via e-mail.