Dispatches from the Home Office

Dispatches from the Home Office

Since Monday last week, along with the rest of Retarus’ Marketing team, I have been working from home (just like 95% of our company’s staff). So far, everything is working out remarkably well – in no small part because Retarus, as an IT company, is exceptionally well prepared to meet the demands and challenges of this crisis.

Nine out of ten “Retarians” have their own dedicated work laptops and are able to work from anywhere they can get online. This remote work is supported by VPN software which automatically sets up a tunnel to the relevant segment of the enterprise network as soon as the laptop is no longer located within it.

Thanks to Skype for Business, which we are running on-premise from our own high-security data centers for reasons of compliance (the same applies to our Exchange infrastructure), the telephone extension also always goes straight through to where the laptop happens to be located. When the system was first introduced, I can vividly recall some of us cursing the fact that we could only make calls with a headset, but now we are all glad that we are just as easily reached at home as at our office desks.

Since Monday, the whole department has been meeting up every morning for a half hour video conference. Previously, this regular discussion took place only once a week as a face-to-face meeting and the new arrangement seems to give us a whole new feeling of solidarity and team spirit. This is true to the extent that during our call on Friday Roland, the head of our department, spontaneously expressed the view that he has actually never felt as close to the team as he does now – of all times – during the physical separation the coronavirus crisis has forced on us.

Roland also deserves a word of thanks for ensuring that the iMacs used by our two part-time graphic designers Tina and Heloise – not to forget our working student Sebastian – were furnished with the necessary certificates and geared up for the home office. He then took the computers round to their respective homes himself – also not to be taken for granted these days, especially considering that at this time Roland also has to take care of his daughter more than before.

Not to mention all of the other kids: How the members of our team who had relatively recently returned from parenting leave – Sabrina (mother of twins), Michelle and Anna – or Tina with her little one, as well as all the other colleagues with children of school age (who somehow have to bring home schooling, childcare and home office proverbially and physically under one roof) are coping with the current situation, is something I can hardly begin to imagine. My nerves are instead being severely tested by pneumatic hammers, compressors and a whole orchestra of noisy construction machinery from two building sites in the immediate vicinity of my apartment.

Already during the first half hour of fitness for the home office more than 40 colleagues were connected!

I’m nevertheless grateful that in the course of all this construction work, nobody has accidentally severed my internet connection. And I’m really glad that I’ve got a really speedy “super vectoring” connection so I don’t have epic waiting times, for instance when I quickly have to upload five presentations to our official corporate SharePoint for our Director of Strategy. The additional, larger monitor on my desk, which I usually don’t use at all, has proven to be an extremely useful and sensible purchase, especially from an ergonomic perspective.

The weak point in the furnishing of my home office, which I have already been able to identify after the first week, is the lack of a proper desk chair. At the moment I’m sitting on my Swopper. It’s actually great for my back, in which I previously suffered a prolapse, but for a full 8-hour working day it is almost too healthy! In general, I think that in the home office one has to make an effort to regularly stand up and walk around a bit every now and then. Starting Monday, our fitness trainer Nina is offering video workout sessions for those having to work from home, so that we don’t all totally fossilize due to the corona crisis. I’m looking forward with excitement and will try to join in as regularly as I can.

My Monday starts as always, except during the school holidays, with an hour of English training. Our teacher, Martin, had no technical difficulties switching over to using Skype for Business at short notice. In last week’s lesson we wasted no time in getting to grips with the topic of COVID-19 and its potential impact on our economy and society, with the aid of a recent article from the World Economic Forum.

The material for the video English lesson arrived via email the evening before.

For me, the discovery of the week was definitely Slack. As we hadn’t previously been using a departmental team chat platform, I spontaneously set up a workspace for the Marketing department last Sunday. We have been using the tool to coordinate the tasks that require collaboration between colleagues. And following a few relatively spontaneous campaigns over the past week, I have to ask myself how we ever managed to get by without a collaboration tool like this. I’m already rather sure that even after we have returned to our regular desks, we will continue to use Slack or something comparable.

Another fairly challenging task lies ahead this week. At the start of April a new colleague, Majkel, will be joining our campaign management team. We now have to consider the technical and organizational aspects of his onboarding process to ensure that he will feel as welcome and well-integrated in the team as he would hopefully have felt if we had not all been exiled to our home offices. In this, we are entering exciting and thus far totally uncharted terrain.

The internal communication by our crisis team has been sincere and has taken place on a regular basis, which is great. Each employee knows where they stand and what they have to be mindful of – barring unknown or incalculable situations. And, it generally feels great to know that especially in such a crisis situation our company is showing the depth of its solidarity and pulling together for the benefit of our customers, to ensure that our messaging services continue to function at least as reliably as always during the coronavirus crisis. At least.

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