FELD M’s Best Practices and Guidelines in Times of Corona
on 08.04.2020 by Dr. Ramona Greiner, Dr. Matthias Böck, Dr. Felix Köbler
We described in our previous article “Embracing Black Swans – How FELD M deals with Corona-induced challenges” why FELD M has already created good conditions in the past to deal well with an exceptional situation like this. Now we want to share our best practices with you on how we currently deal with the corona situation.
Alone, but not lonely – How we not only maintain but even strengthen our sense of unity
- We communicate consciously! When we work from home, we should communicate more and more directly with each other. Rather ask once again if everything was clear in the e-mail, ask directly for concrete things and not just “How are you?”, start your internal call by telling something about yourself, how you are doing right now or what you have already experienced today. In the office this happens automatically, in an unconscious way, but when we all work remotely, we all have to admonish ourselves a little bit.
- We (always) turn on the camera! This way we all feel a little bit closer. If you feel uncomfortable with it, you should explain at the beginning of the call why using the camera is not possible at the moment.
- We keep our colleagues up to date on our projects! What are you working on right now? What is the status of your project? If you need help or you have noticed something, please contact the colleagues directly. This is the only way to prevent misunderstandings and possible conflicts and helps us to see ourselves as a team and not as a group of lone fighters.
- We have breakfast together! Every morning from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. there is a team meeting where everyone can dial in to start the day together with the colleagues and having coffee and breakfast together. It’s a great way to start a conversation and you don’t lose sight of the nice people behind the professional colleagues. In the last few weeks this has developed into a virtual coffee kitchen where colleagues can meet spontaneously.
- We treat ourselves with an after work beer! We regularly arrange to meet for a nightcap via video conference. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the successes of the day together and to end the working day in a relaxed atmosphere.
- We have important slack channels! We have a channel where we are exchanging news about Corona, of course a channel for memes, gifs and all kinds of funny messages, but also channels with reading recommendations, music tips and training or education opportunities. This way we can exchange information in a goal-oriented way on the one hand and on the other hand we always find enough inspiration so that we don’t get bored. In our Parents-Channel we exchange ideas and experiences from our everyday life with the family at home, e.g. how to get through important video conferences even without putting the children in front of the TV, or simply to cheer each other up, as it is a challenge for all of us.
Well-working requires Well-being – Our tips for efficient, healthy and happy remote work
So fresh and so clean! – Place of work
- Change your place of work! At home we have a whole range of work places: Office desk, dining table, garden, balcony or terrace. Depending on the task, you should use these options and change your workplace.
- Make it nice for yourself! Set up your workplace so that you feel comfortable.
- Keep order! We can work better at a clean and tidy workplace. Try to keep it tidy all day long and clean up your home office every night – or even put the computer away completely to separate work from home.
- Make sure you have fresh air and enough oxygen in your rooms! Energy-saving tip: In cold temperatures, it’s better to give the windows a quick airing rather than permanently tilting them.
This is the Rhythm of the Day – Working Time
Working time management is certainly one of the biggest challenges of the home office. However, it is extremely important to have a few fixed rules to bring a healthy rhythm into the day.
- Communicate your working hours! This will help you to manage mutual expectations with your colleagues and to master the balance between private and professional life.
- Define break times and stick to them! Ideally, breaks should not take place in front of the laptop and if possible in a different environment. Equally important is an appropriate amount of time for little breaks in between meetings or tasks.
- Create to-do lists if necessary and prioritize the upcoming tasks! This way you will never lose the overview and checking off the tasks will make you happy.
- Be aware of your unavailability! As important as it is to be available for customers during the day, it is also important to switch off during breaks and in the evening. If you divert your calls to your private phone during your working hours, don’t forget to deactivate call diversion during your downtime.
- Agree on the rules of the game with your family or roommates! For example: If the office door is closed, then “Do not disturb” applies. For the colleagues you can use your status in Slack. For example, we have agreed on certain Slack emojis to signal “in meeting”, “available”, “short break” or “end of work”.
- Don’t be too hard on yourselves! Also in the office our thoughts wander from time to time. This may also happen in the home office.
(Mental) Exercise! How we not only stay mentally fit in the home office
FELD M Yoga
Exercise and physical health have always been an important part of our corporate culture. For years we have been offering yoga every Tuesday (alternating from week to week in the morning or evening) in our office, taught by our dear colleague Verena. We have maintained this yoga class and now on Tuesdays, but always before work, we have the opportunity to find our inner center. Verena streams her exercises via MS teams into all our apartments, directly onto the yoga mat. Namaste!
Afternoon Work(-Out): Cardio and stretching
- We have 30-minute sports sessions four afternoons a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday is cardio, on Thursday we have a stretching program or back exercises. In a group we are much more easily motivated to leave the desk for a short time and the joint effort also connects us. It has proved to be a good idea to switch off the camera during workouts, but to have the microphone activated so that you can share the muscle pain and feel like you’re in the gym.
- Various fitness courses are already available on YouTube. Or you can join the kids and join the daily trainings (for kindergarten, primary school and secondary school) of Alba Berlin: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNAj17FO6CxUU5v6wO7kPfQ
Combine the useful with the pleasant and integrate the social exchange on the phone into your morning run or your afternoon walk. Then you will have a good reason to go out, consciously take time for friends, family or colleagues and you will not be alone in social distancing on the street.
Also the small steps… – Movement in everyday life
Getting up, stretching, walking a few steps – in the office we do this without thinking about it, but in the home office it can easily happen that you sit at the table or hanging around on the sofa all day without moving enough. Therefore:
- Take advantage of your lunch break to go for a walk
- Get up while you are in a call. After a few days this will become routine and so you will get some exercise and the circulation will stay in motion
- If you like to drink tea or coffee don’t take a whole pot to the table but get each cup individually from the kitchen – this way you get some exercise, too. But you shouldn’t drink less!
- Change your sitting position as often as you can. The best thing for your back is variety!
Camera running and action! – Video conferences now even better
Here are a few tips from our remote moderating colleagues:
- Take time for preparation (more than usual) so that you are not stressed out or late already before the meeting starts
- Always check/train new techniques a few days before
- Check the surroundings (so that the other participants are not disturbed) and e.g. turn the mobile phone to silent
- Definition of a fall-back channel (e.g. slack chat to get participants back into the session)
- Tech check at the beginning: “Can you hear/see me?”
- Make a mute agreement for all those who are not speaking (to avoid background noise, among other things)
- Conscious moderation: Short, clear announcements about what happens next (no “or” questions: “Do you want A or B?”)
- Bearing silence (participants think)
- Use chat functionality during the meeting for quick feedback (“+” = yes, “-” = no)
- Agree on hand signals for quick feedback. Signs for “agreement”, “rejection”, “I need a break”, “I didn’t understand that” or “The connection is bad” are useful. There are no limits to your imagination in making up signs.
Thinking may still be “positive” even in times of Corona!
Keep your good mood! Working from home also brings advantages. Take them! Sports, baking, cooking, art,… are just a few of the opportunities you’ll have now. You should also keep in mind that the current situation is only an exception.
- Get and give feedback! We use a bot-based slack survey every day to find out how our team feels at home on a scale of one to ten. There are also contact persons for colleagues who cannot cope with the current situation, as well as a list of external help services that can be contacted.
- Do what is good for you! If the children start a riot in the apartment or you get cabin fever, take a walk together or join the wild horde of children and dance freely together in your own home disco.
- Take care of yourselves! Take the time to review the week once again. What worked out and what not? Is there anything you want to improve for the next week? And most important: Take the time to ask yourself how you feel and what is good for you (and your families).
(Not-at-) Work shop: How we now implement internal and external workshops via video conferencing
Of course, the points mentioned above for video conferencing apply equally to a workshop. In addition, there are a few more points for workshop moderators that you should go through before a workshop.
- Send a presentation on the contents and procedure of the workshop in advance (and adapt it to the virtual setting if necessary)
- Participants should be invited to the tool in advance
- Participants should familiarize themselves with the tool in advance
- A second monitor can be of use to work on the digital board and additionally show the video conference. On the laptop alone the windows quickly become very tiny.
- Participants should check the technical setup in advance
- General rules should be sent out in advance and agreed upon
- Mix different tools: e.g. Slack for audio and screenshare and Mural for working together on a digital board
- Breaks should be planned (and moderated). Especially for longer sessions, you should also plan a correspondingly long break in which everyone leaves the screen to get some air, exercise and drinks
- Think about a second moderator and divide moderation (speaking & moderating) and virtual work (e.g. adding participants to the tool etc)
- Extra moderator chat for exchange between the moderators
Don’t go Out(ro) – or how we prepare for the coming weeks
We hope to have given some good suggestions on how to adapt to the current situation, but of course it is an ongoing learning process for us as well. Learning from other companies, trying out new ideas, even failing once in a while and rethinking old processes are definitely part of it.
How exactly the next few weeks will develop, we cannot estimate, but we will continue to work together to adjust to what is coming and – where possible – to help others. For example, some of us have participated in the German government’s hackathon #wirvsvirus or the Munich local hackathon #mia-gehn-online to give small businesses a helping hand with digitalization.
The first weeks were exhausting, but still it’s good to know how to get even closer together (not literally for once!) and support each other, especially in difficult times.
Do you have any further suggestions for us or feedback? Please contact us by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org! Stay healthy!