Two months ago, we decided that we’re all going to work from home until the situation with COVID-19 improves and we feel safe enough to come back to the office. The decision was made quickly, transparently, and with a logical underlying reason. Given that we’re already in the mindset of self-leadership, New Work, and Orga 4.0 at Testbirds, this kind of change is pretty easy for us to handle.
The new normal – working from home – works very well at Testbirds. We’re still productive and efficient and we haven’t lost contact or communication. On the contrary, it somehow seems that we’ve grown closer now that we’re staying apart. We’re proud that our company culture thoroughly supports quick changes and provides solutions in times like this.
A few weeks ago, Kathrin Doering, Head of Human Resources at Testbirds, spoke about “Home Office as a Reflection of Company Culture” in the podcast Krisenheld. In this blog post, we want to revisit this topic and share our experience, our mindset, and some concrete details that we’ve found work well when working from home office.
Self-Leadership and Trust – Key Success Factors for Home Office
Trust is a big part of our company culture. At Testbirds, our focus is not on where we work, but on the work being done.
With a base in self-leadership, we focus on four main areas: decision making, responsibility, evolutionary organization, and transparency. We call this cultural principle Orga(nisation) 4.0 and it’s not a static tenet, but rather a mindset of believing that responsibility is shared among all team members. We know that every employee has the best intentions in mind for the company and that they’re still an individual human being, with individual needs, that sometimes have nothing to do with work – and we support this.
More concretely, at Testbirds we follow and uphold these standards:
– flexible working hours
– the possibility to work from home at any time
– the responsibility for our own roles and personal development
– we are all human and sometimes need time for ourselves, our families, or other personal matters
– self-management in the sense of deciding autonomously how we prioritize tasks
– the mentality of “getting things done”
These pre-established structures made it easy to switch our operations to home office, without any major interruptions to our daily work, communication, or overall workflow. However, this smooth transition was only able because we continuously uphold the “New Work” state of mind – even more so since we started social distancing.
How to Maintain Orga 4.0 In Home Office
1. Transparency: we are straightforward and honest
Whether it’s the latest company-wide announcement or smaller interpersonal topics, we believe that honesty and clarity not only fosters reliability, but also gives a feeling of security.
For example, all decisions regarding changes in the current situation are very clear (e.g. we ALL switch to home office, there is no in-between). They’re also communicated transparently and at the right moment. Clarity and structure can help enormously in uncertain times like now.
Also, we’re very open about the fact that, of course, there are unproductive periods during home office – and that’s okay. Many Testbirds employees have kids at home, so it’s completely normal that this leads to times where people aren’t able to dedicate 100% of their cognitive capacity to work. Sometimes, they might just need to make sure that their kid doesn’t fall off the tower of furniture that’s been sneakily built in the living room.
We encourage family time. As already stated, our focus is not on where and when we work, but on the actual work being done. And honestly, we all cheer up when there are little incidents with kids during conference calls, because those moments are funny and they make work human and just so much better.
2. Social responsibility: we are committed and take action in social projects
We didn’t start being socially committed just because Corona started, but we certainly felt the urge to intensify our actions in the last few months. Helping society in difficult times like this is not only self-evident for us, but it creates the common feeling of being useful. We supported the #WirvsVirus hackathon, which you can read everything about here. We also work on pro bono projects for non-profit apps and software.
Another cool thing – and I say this from an employee perspective – was the Easter present we received from our founders. I fished a postcard out of my mailbox from Philipp, Georg, and Markus, on which they announced an imaginary voucher for 15€ to be redeemed by buying something of our choice from a local business and adding it to our expenses. This way we all contributed to the #supportyourlocal movement. I loved this idea. Knowing that the company I work for is supporting the greater good, even if it’s just little things, gives me motivation and a feeling of unity.
3. Communication: we stay connected and keep talking, even if it’s only bullshit
On a normal day at the office, many situations are not work-related. You might meet a colleague at the coffee machine and end up spending half an hour talking about a new Netflix show. You can’t stop cuddling one the office dogs and end up googling dog breeds with your manager, instead of writing that important email.
Interruptions like these are completely normal and also absolutely fruitful, in order to create a positive work environment and company culture. The interruptions bring positive vibes, a feeling of unity, and can also work as sort of a relief in between the productive (and sometimes stressful) periods in a work day. That’s why these leisurely interruptions need to continue even when working from home. It makes working from home (more) normal, it motivates, creates optimism, and positively influences productivity as well.
At Testbirds we’ve established a few traditions for the sole purpose of keeping our company culture alive and staying in a good mood. For example, most teams have short daily group calls without an agenda. We mostly chit chat about nonsense and send an endless amount of memes. We also have an open “virtual kitchen”, a continuously running meeting (every day, the whole day) where you can drop in at any time. Maybe someone else is there too and you can have a little break for conversation, just like you would in the real office kitchen.
In our social channel on Teams, we do funny little competitions and Tasks of the Week, like “write a limerick” or “share your funniest story from Testbirds”, where the winner gets to choose the next Task of the Week. Putting in this effort for a more dynamic and social working-from-home environment has been well-appreciated – there will definitely be some new ideas that we keep when we go back to the office.
What Learnings About Company Culture Can We Derive From Our Time in Home Office
During this time in which we’re all a bit more challenged to be flexible and proactive, it’s a good opportunity to examine the status quo of our company’s culture, level of trust, flexibility, and adaptability. For Kathrin, our Head of Human Resources, it’s important to look very carefully into the sentiment of the employees and teams, in order to identify areas where we can further improve as a company in terms of Orga 4.0. Kathrin also says it’s important to point out positive developments that can be derived from home office and should be continued when things go back to normal at some point. Primarily, communication and social responsibility are aspects that Testbirds wants to refine.
We’re still staying at home, although we’re all looking forward to the time where we can gradually start going back to our offices and be physically present. Until then, we’re staying happy and healthy and proving that efficiency and humanity are not of contradictory nature, but rather act in highly valuable synergy.