Remo Suter is quite busy. With his wife, four children and a young dog, he lives a little away from the big city of Basel. #WorkFromHome with Remo.
Remo, how do you reconcile all this?
(laughs) It's not always easy. The working days are longer because I have more interruptions. I try to make time for the family during the day when something important is on the agenda. But when I want to be 100% undisturbed because I have a virtual meeting or make a phone call, I announce this so that everyone knows about it. This works very well.
What has changed for you and your team?
That we no longer meet in the office, take spontaneous coffee breaks and "joking around". We enjoy our work and you can see that in the breaks. That is missing a little bit. The personal touch in the physical encounter. Currently we can only take our breaks virtually. In terms of work, not much has changed. We were already in a good position before the Corona crisis and were able to work from home, which many in my team also took advantage of. But whether voluntarily one or two days a week in the home office or by law all the time - that is quite a difference. Nevertheless, thanks to the freedom of my employees to work from home from the very beginning, the unforeseen change did not catch us so cold. We were able to continue working productively from day one, because they are used to working independently and on their own responsibility and to implementing customer projects remotely. All in all, I find it really cool how quickly my team has adapted to the new situation, is motivated and works efficiently.
Virtual coffee breaks?
Yes. The proposal came from the team. Twice a week we "meet" via teams for virtual coffee breaks. Participation is voluntary and compulsory. What I noticed is that the desire to try out new tools and functions has increased in this situation. In addition, I am no longer dependent on free meeting rooms in the office. Has also something positive.
Does the ceiling never fall on your head?
Since I live in the country and have a large garden, I can go for a walk and get some fresh air outside. Not everyone has that privilege. If you sit in an apartment and have to give up your hobbies like climbing, fitness training and other things, it's probably harder. I always have an open ear for my employees and try to pick them up so that the ceiling doesn't fall on your head.
And a positive message?
Due to the virus, one of our customers got into the situation that he had to set up a new "service system" on an ad hoc basis in order to be able to process thousands of requests in a structured way. Within a few days - weekend included - we were able to provide him with a tailor-made solution. This project has confirmed to me that we are well positioned, have a great team on board and everyone is ready to go the extra mile.
A pitch-black panther and a small tiger creep around Sascha's legs. He sits highly concentrated in front of his screens and works remotely on a customer project. His work from home is technically easy for him. Since onboarding at Ontrex, he spends one or two days every week in the home office. Now, however, home office is mandatory and the apartment he shares with his partner and the two four-legged friends is the only place he can spend all his time.
Sascha, how are you?
I feel all right. I am used to self-discipline at work from home and I could even improve my "Work Life Balance". Not in the form of going out and pursuing my actual hobbies, but because the commute to work is eliminated and I can be very flexible every day. I simply try to make the best out of the situation.
Cool attitude. What else is your impression?
In my opinion, we have taken a big step towards even more flexibility and on the way to digitalization. After an initial, short start-up period, it is much easier for us and our customers to replace meetings that were previously held in person with virtual ones and to use modern media and tools. The online meetings are very efficient and decisions are recorded and documented in writing just like in physical meetings. In general, the whole team works on a high performance level and is very adaptable. This is also confirmed by our customers and is a nice compliment and another motivator for me. What I and certainly many others miss is the social aspect. In other words, spontaneous exchange when meeting in the office or at the customer's premises.
It seems to me that your home office is a "Place of Pleasure"
Yeah. I like working from home. I also have a bit of luxury, as I have a dedicated office as a separate room for myself and I have a good infrastructure. I can well imagine continuing to work from home more often. Of course, at Ontrex I always have the opportunity to go to the office and meet the team. With this knowledge in the back of my mind, I think it will be easier. And..... I have a supervisor who really cares about us, strengthens us in our work and trusts us, which is not a matter of course for me either and I really appreciate that.
How do you organize your day?
From morning till night (laughs). I get up as if I were going to the office and try to stick to a regular daily structure. I don't have a 9to5 job and just work until what is important is done. And I don't even care if it gets late in the evening. This free division of labour is very valuable for me.
Speaking of breaks, you're our coffee junkie...
...busted! And I have to admit, coffee consumption in the home office is definitely higher than in the office. The coffee machine is so close to where I work, it keeps smiling at me. I can hardly resist.
Other than the coffeemaker. Do you have any advice for others?
I can only recommend to take the "paperless office" seriously and to digitize what is possible. It's not only environmentally friendly, but also very effective, especially for changing locations or jobs with a high travel component. I got used to this way of working a few years ago and to this day, especially in the current situation with the lockdown, it has brought me nothing but advantages. So I can access digitized information securely and quickly from any device, I don't carry anything around with me, I can't lose / misplace anything, I can work with different people on documents, I always have the latest version and so on and so forth.
Gero Stautmeister is our calm and thoughtful Security & Compliance responsible for us internally as well as for our customers. He keeps a cool head even in critical situations and acts quickly, solution- and detail-oriented. Even from home, in his small office oasis.
Gero, security & good performance are very important when so many employees work from home. There was a lot going on for you too, wasn't there?
Yes. For example, we brought forward a planned VPN/firewall project and implemented it immediately so that people could work securely and with good performance from their home office. Many employees, especially our package engineers, work permanently remotely on our servers. So that our customers benefit from the usual and above all fast service and highest security even in this time of crisis, there must be neither bottlenecks nor security gaps. Therefore the project implementation right at the beginning of the "crisis". During this phase, a few long working days were necessary. But they were entertaining, interesting and brought good results.
In what way?
For example, leaner processes, lower costs and even greater reliability. In addition, apart from a short time window during the implementation phase on Good Friday, we were able to work without interruption and even won a customer project in the Managed Services area. Concept, demo, presentations and implementation plan - we were able to present everything remotely in good quality and are now already in the implementation phase.
Can you imagine working only in your home office?
Without any personal contact to the team? Definitely not. Rather a mixed form. Home office, if desired, combined with a "team jour fixe" in the office. I can well imagine that. I work very efficiently here at home. Maybe it would be different if the kids were still small and let their energy flow. My boys are out of this age and having lunch with them and my wife is something I really enjoy. In addition, I can get on my bike earlier in the evening because I don't have to commute.
Okay, you get a new chair with a bicycle seat in the office :-) ...
...That would be something different and would surprise me, just as I was positively surprised how quickly virtual collaboration and communication works and that some staff even took their own money to buy a better webcam, for example. All in all I am convinced that this kind of cooperation will establish itself in the future, because some advantages are emerging. Less costs, less congestion on the roads, more flexibility and in the end also more satisfied employees, which has a direct and positive influence on the customers. At least in our industry this is possible. But the thing is, without any physical contact with my team and other Ontrex staff, something elementary would be missing.
Although about 90% of Ontrex employees work from their home office, the remaining 10% are also taken care of in the office. Sufficient social distancing is no problem with the under-occupancy in the office and disinfection and masks are also available.