In 2020, the world of work changed drastically within a short period of time due to the globan pandemic. Terms such as 'Future of work' and 'The New Normal' became more used and have been determining the everyday life of HR departments and employees. Unprecedented flexibility was required, while at the same time employers were required to give the necessary support to their time and enable remote and digital work.
We talked to Cassandra Hoermann, Team-lead Employer Branding & Culture and head of the task force "Home Office" at Personio, how the work situation at the HR software provider Personio has changed and which trends are likely to persist after 2021.
Everyone at home - The "Home Office" Task force “Home Office”
You probably still have this in mind: when the first wave of lockdowns hit Germany in March 2020, many companies were immediately forced to work remotely to reduce the risk of infection. Approximately 480 employees in Personio's four locations were then informed as quickly as possible and instructed to work from home. The relocation at Personio was relatively uncomplicated because the employees are all equipped with laptops. In addition, Personio has always had a clean-desk policy, i.e. everyone leaves their work station at the end of the day the way the found it, so someone else would be able to work there the next day. Nonetheless, a task force was needed at Personio to organize the whole thing so that monitors, chairs or any other necessary equipment were also available to the employees. That way they can ensure that working from home can be made possible in the fastest time possible. Depending on their needs, employees could ask for help with the technical setup at home. Within a few days, the entire business at Personio, and many other companies worldwide, was moved to the living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms of the employees
It was quickly established that working remotely worked well and the initial fear of change was gone. But over a longer period of time, other topics came up for the HR departments. They looked internally for volunteers to support the HR team in developing and implementing solution concepts. Over the course of the year, the task force then focused on topics such as technical setup, leadership skills & team spirit, digital team & motivational events, and a special program to ease the burden on parents among the employees. This has resulted in many new HR measures that have helped in coping with the change and unfamiliar work situation.
Regular Internal Communication is Key
In order to implement these measures, a great deal of communication took place: an internal newsletter is sent to all employees once a week. Also, meeting guidelines have been created to ensure that the increased number of digital meetings is organized and run efficiently. To counter the psycho-social consequences of the lockdown for employees at home, motivational home stories were created that are both informative and entertaining. Furthermore, best practice examples of good teamwork ere communicated and daily stand-ups were conducted more often, a method that actually originated in agile software development and wasn't known by all employees. Therefore, it was explained how to have this type of digital meetings that shouldn't be longer than 15 minutes, in order to discuss the relevant tasks and appointments of the day.
Even when it was time to return to the office, there was a clear structure and communication within the now almost 500 employees at the Munich location when it came to organizing who could be in the office and when. At most, 30% of the employees could be in the office at the same time. Additionally, they were to expand to open areas in the office, and due to the clean desk policy, this wasn't a problem.
During this time, internal communication and employer branding have played a central role in the success of all these new rules and regulations. Among other things, masks were given to the employees and 'welcome back' packages were offered as gifts for all the efforts and increases stress of the employees. The idea behind all of this is to enable employees to work remotely and ensure their satisfaction and motivation despite the circumstances.
Positive Reactions to New Measures
As expected, employees have reacted well to the measures implemented. Every two weeks there was a short satisfaction survey that was distributed, asking whether the employees needed more support, how satisfied they were and what they could do even better. Based on this data, the team alongside Cassandra was able to successively improve their processes and increase the quality of these measures.
Building Stronger Relationships With Customers and Partners Through Digital Networking
Due to the stronger digital connections and improved communication, communication behaviors in the work environments changed considerably. Despite the fact that some studies have shown that employees are more stressed, the new flexibility makes it easier to reconcile job and private life. After the initial reactions of the economy to the lockdown and the decrease in demand across different industries, things started to pick up again in July and August, mentioned Cassandra from Personio. During this time, companies and customers learned that digital tools such as Personio's HR solutions can help digitize everyday work and make it even easier and ultimately more efficient.
Direct collaboration with customers has also become more digital. Even though there was never a classic field sales at Personio, the portfolio of digital collaboration and communication tools was expanded and used even more during this time. Especially in the Customer success Team, this has even strengthened the relationship between the customers and the SaaS provider, since video calls were also conducted and all parties could see each other. At the same time, there is an emotional bond that says 'we're going through this together'. Moritz Rumstadt, Partner Manager at Personio, has also had this experience.
Cameras on Instead of Handshakes
What used to be the formal handshake is now probably the camera of the person being turned on, with colorful and personal backgrounds or the sound of children and pets running around. This emphasizes the importance of facial expressions and gestures when it comes to building relationships and when attempting to communicate successfully. The visual aspects have become a new and integral part of working, even more so now during the ongoing pandemic. Some larger companies often have a 'camera off policy' or technical equipments that isn't as good, and this trend of seeing your coworkers is implemented either poorly or not at all.
The Bottom Line: New, Flexible Models as Part of the Corporate Culture
After all these experiences and measures, what does the future of work at Personio look like? The biggest change from 2021 on will be the hybrid model that Personio will firmly implement in its corporate culture. The company wants to become even more flexible, and is currently trying out many different things and looking at ways to make work more efficient. Although nothing's been decided yet, Personio is probably against a remote-first-policy. It's very important for such a model to define the legal framework before implementing it. For example, how long are employees supposed to work, or whether or not the location of working is stated in the employee's contract. Different EU countries have different regulations, and in the situation in Germany isn't the same in the rest of the EU. Cassandra expects that even with a hybrid solution, it will still be the exception that employees are predominantly working remotely from home. Nonetheless, having the ability to decide when and where one works is a great added value for the corporate's culture.
Positive Side Effects of Working Remotely 2020
In fact, there were further positive side effects of remote work at Personio:
- Notable decrease in sick days
- Increased productivity
- Greater sensitivity for decentralized and digital work, i.e. a great deal of attention to ensuring that all team members are included in video calls
Last But Not Least: 4 Tips for Modern Employers 2021
Finally, Cassandra gave us a few tips for companies on how to successfully reorganize and implement a new flexible work model:
- Self-criticism: As an employer, you should always ask yourself whether you offer your employees sufficient support and enable them to work remotely.
- Feedback: The biggest lever is employee feedback through surveys and 1:1 interviews to determine what the most relevant priorities for the entire team.
- Focus: You can't do everything at once and usually there's a lot of background noise around you. Focus on tasks according to their priority and relevance, then you can implement solutions and measures gradually and optimize them over time.
- Communication: 'You can't communicate too much', says Cassandra. And nothing needs to be added there. :)
We would like to thank Cassandra and Moritz for this detailed and open discussion on the Future of Work and we wish the Personio team all the best!
Personio is an all-in-one HR software solution for startups and SMEs. Thanks to the interface to Circula, employee master data can be integrated directly into Circula. Again, the accounting data of the employees can be transferred completely digitally and without any media discontinuity from Circula to Personio.
Find out more about the HR solution by Personio at www.personio.de.
Or try it out our app with the interface to Personio for 14 days free of charge.