Presence versus remote? While many company bosses dream of a presence culture or gently push their employees into remote nirvana, VAIVA offers all colleagues not only the “you” but also the self-determined “and”: All employees are allowed to flexibly choose when and where they work. In the first interview, Ben and Gerald tell us why they usually prefer to work in the office and give tips on how people who prefer a quiet working environment can also feel comfortable in the office.
Today is a very sunny, warm day. Is the air conditioning the real reason why you are in the office?
Ben and Gerald at the same time after a short break:… No!
You both told me before the interview that you prefer to work in the office. Where does this preference come from?
Gerald: It started for me during my studies at university: I went to the library to study. I can concentrate on my work at home, but I just don’t like it that much – because there’s a lot of distraction there: the family is there, the children are there. In the apartment is the TV, the Playstation and my private computer – there can be hustle and bustle.
I find it more pleasant to separate business and private life. For me, the way to get there is not an issue: I am home in 5 minutes… I could even walk (laughs).
Ben, why do you prefer to work in the office?
Ben: Concentrated work is also possible at home. For me, it’s not so much the distraction at home – but rather to keep working concentrated. When I work from home, I sit in front of the computer from morning to night: it’s harder for me to take the time for a real break.
That’s why it’s also better for me not to take my professional life with me into my private premises. During the corona pandemic, this was challenging: Because not only beautiful things happen at work – if you constantly have these things in front of your eyes, then also in your private life, it becomes really difficult.
And additionally: I am full of vim and vigor when I have to get on my bike to get to the office.
You tend to work more in the office, others much more remotely: Is there only an “either/or” among colleagues when it comes to this question or do you experience many employees who also switch between working models?
Gerald: It’s all a mixed. There are colleagues who have become very accustomed to working from home due to the corona pandemic. As a team leader, I also have to motivate employees to come to the office: Motivation increases for a good reason – for example, an on-site workshop or a joint lunch for the team. But there are also people who are in the office again and again anyway. But as often as I’m in the office, there are very few people. This means that we have a good mix that includes everything: from “almost only in the office” to “almost only remotely”.
Ben: There are also many colleagues in my team who actually work exclusively from home. We manage to do this pretty well as a team – even though I’ve really only seen a few colleagues on the screen in 2D for years, which I think is a shame. In the appointments that take place virtually, the conversations are really only about work – that may be efficient, but at some point it becomes a bit distant on a social level.
Many people who like to work from home appreciate peace and quiet. Do you have any tips on how such people can create a good and productive working environment in the office?
Ben: I sat in a 12-person office for a few years – I had problems there too: Because when it was full, it was already quite noisy. So I bought noise-cancelling headphones, which really helped. After the corona pandemic, it was actually unusual for me to sit in the office with five people and have conversations at the same time. But I don’t have a problem – I often sit up there alone at the moment (laughs).
Gerald: It’s the same for me… Now, of course, you have your office right in front of the coffee kitchen on the 1st floor – so it’s a hotspot for everyone. If I have a “full house”, I book room 116 so that I don’t disturb anyone on the phone. This also has the advantage that I am forced to stand in the room and not just sit.
Quite spontaneously, from the gut: What was your best experience in the office during the past weeks and months?
Gerald:… when almost all team members were on site for a workshop. I was very happy to see everyone again.
Ben: Generally, when there’s more going on here in the office. What I definitely notice is that if I take two to three hours with colleagues for an on-site meeting, these meetings are often much more productive. In a team call, you need a certain amount of time to talk to each other and understand each other at the right “level”. Even when the camera is switched on, you don’t constantly stare into the other person’s face and see their facial expressions – and gestures.
In other words, body language is actually missing in the purely virtual exchange?
Ben: Yes, and the virtual dialogue is also difficult! It has become more difficult to speak, especially for and with some people who may have a Bluetooth speaker in front of them: Because you interrupt yourself more often – and no one can do anything about it, but “blame” is purely technical.
But what I do like is that if I have an appointment relatively early in the morning, I can simply keep it from home. These freedoms are a win!
Ben, you just mentioned when you work from home for an early appointment. On what other occasions do you dare to work remotely?
Gerald: Due to private appointments. For example, when I go to my parents’ house, I usually leave on Friday lunchtime. It’s good if I can work from home in the mornings on this occasion: It’s quiet for me anyway, because the children are at school and my wife also works a lot in the office – so I’m undisturbed. That’s what I often did during the corona pandemic: working from home in the morning, in the office in the afternoon.
Ben: My house ghost is usually quiet, he’s only active at night (laughs). That’s why I don’t have to escape any background noise, but it’s actually the case that I tend to work from home when I have early appointments in the calendar. And, of course, I also work remotely when I’m not in the Ingolstadt area.
For me, I simply have the claim: When I’m here in Ingolstadt, I also use the office. If I didn’t live here and had a journey of 80 to 90 kilometers, then I would also consider whether to come to the office or not.
In the end, you both said that you were happy when there were more colleagues in the office. We offer breakfast once a quarter in Gaimersheim, and even more often in Wolfsburg. Do you have any other ideas to create even more motivation to come to the office?
Gerald: I don’t know if you need more. As I said, a team workshop is a great opportunity – or, if there is a special topic, my experts and I also meet on site. I think the breakfast is great, the summer party is a hotspot that is attended by many people who live further away. I don’t know if we need to do much more. I think it’s appropriate. If the work requires it, it is customary for people to work on site anyway.
A question for you as a team leader: Actually, it would also be possible for the desire to come from the team itself for everyone to come together on site?
Gerald: Yes, definitely. The impulse also comes again and again – especially from colleagues who are there from time to time and then just say that they would like to see everyone again. Then we try to organize it.
Ben: But it’s also often the case that you’re very scattered in the projects. Such project days have existed and still exist, for example, in Nanoradar, where people meet voluntarily once a week. I agree with you, Gerald, that you don’t have to do more. It would be a shame for the office space – and also the excellent equipment here – if you lose all the people to “remote working”. But that’s the trend…
Actually, no.. many companies are trying to turn back the clocks.
Gerald: Indeed, even in large companies, they try to bring people back into the office.
Ben: yes, you try. But people often enjoy working elsewhere. Many people appreciate the flexibility instead of a rigid 9-to-5 rule. If the weather is nice and the calendar allows it, then you just take a three-hour lunch break. This freedom is gladly used.
The opportunities at VAIVA are unique – both working remotely, but also the option of working in the office …
Gerald: Especially since it offers us growth potential without having to rent more space. That’s where we offer something very good. However, this is also a sensitive issue for colleagues on the test benches, as there is a lot of equipment on site. As a manager, you have to make sure that the work on site is distributed fairly.
Ben: We’re sitting in the meeting room right now. But what I want to say: I love this huge, height-adjustable desk at the office. I would never put the desk in the apartment because it takes up too much space. The equipment in the office is unbeatable.