What were we doing for one week in the Marches and what is this "working remote" all about?
Six days, five colleagues, one house. We worked "out-of-office" for one week. How it went and what we think about working from somewhere else in retrospect.
The trunk is packed with Mac, PC, lots of cables, suitcases, boxes, yoga mats and bicycles. We are ready to go. 4 hours 30 minutes drive ahead of us. Judith, Philipp, Mara, Benni and me start our journey. A house in the Marches is our destination.
Judith is sales manager and leads the creative agency, saying that riding racing bikes is one of her hobbies would be an understatement. Philipp is an estimator, he has knowledge and interests in various fields and for a few months now has been doing yoga with Mara and me, always on Thursday evenings after work, upstairs in the conference room. Mara is a graphic designer and the creative head among us. Benni is getting more and more familiar with sales and is busy preparing offers, he is a real foodie - but prefers to eat than to cook himself. Finally there's me, Maya, I'm a marketeer and have been able to motivate the small group to do yoga on Thursdays, I love art and books.
It was offered to the 5 of us to leave for the south and work from there for a week. "Home" office, out-of-office, working remotely: since the beginning of Corona, I don't think anyone can claim not to know these terms. And yet, we work in a print shop that includes an advertising agency; working from home or "remotely" is not really established in our company yet. Of course, this also has to do with the fact that we are a creative production company. Production takes place on site, and as "cool" as an advertising agency may be, creativity usually happens in a team, and a team works best locally. There are single employees who work from home from time to time, but it is definitely not yet the norm in our industry.
Nevertheless, we grabbed the chance and accepted. Working in the Marches for a week was something we didn't want to miss out on. We packed our computers and suitcases and set off. Six days, five colleagues, one house. That could be cheerful.
Monday-midday it started. Not only the journey, but also the comments: "have fun on vacation". Monday evening we arrived, the first official act was to empty the car and put everything safely in its place. Then we quickly headed to the supermarket. After a successful purchase the first thing was... not cooking, but preparing the workplace for the next days. As soon as everyone had settled in, we finally dined together.
06.00 a.m. the alarm clock rings in the LONGO Out of Office building. Everyone is highly motivated. Judith and Benni get on their bikes, Philipp stimulates his circulation with a walk and Mara and I have spread out our yoga mats.
07:15 a.m. we meet in the kitchen. Philipp prepares breakfast. We have breakfast together and punctually at 08.00 we start working.
At 10.00 a.m. Mara volunteers to make coffee for the troop. After all, 10:00 a.m. is established coffee time at LONGO.
At 12.00 we cook. Pasta with pesto is on the menu. After the joint lunch, of course, there is a short chill out in the sun. The weather is fantastic. We enjoy the sun's rays, the landscape, the olive trees, the peace.
A little later than usual, at 1:30 p.m., we return to our workplace. Everyone continues to do his or her thing, but we are still able to help each other out. In fact, everything is the same as usual. The only difference: we talk on the phone with some of our colleagues instead of going downstairs or to the next room. AND: with every phone call we are asked if the cocktail tastes good or if we already have a sunburn. As I said, home office, but especially out-of-office has not yet fully arrived in our industry and especially with us, LONGO. Even if we are innovative and look ahead, observe and incorporate technical innovations, we are still not quite "up-to-date" in this area. Home office obviously means "vacation" for us.
At 3:30 p.m. Judith makes coffee for the group. Together we sip coffee and exchange ideas briefly. Then we return to the PCs until about 5:30 pm. This is when the real vacation begins. We walk to the front of the house, Judith lies down with her beach hat in the already slightly worn-out beach chair and reads the ff, Benni lets himself sink into his towel and closes his eyes and, how could it be differently, the rest of us three yogis do a short 15 minute session.
Around 7:30 p.m. we grab our stuff and head upstairs. Philipp takes over and we all help out. There are salads, salami, cheese, bread and beer. We laugh, chat and eat.
We go to bed at around 10:00 pm. Mara and I still talk about the past weekend and read a bit and then turn off the light.
The next days are similar. On Wednesday we go to the beach in the evening and have fresh fish at the "Chioschetto" - pesce fritto as antipasto, gnocchi with vongole and cozze as main course and in addition Philipp has a Margaritha, Benni has a Vino bianco della casa and we girls have an Aperol Spritz. Of course we chose the day with the least sun for the beach. Nevertheless, we were able to enjoy the sunset and then chug back to our home office villa in the evening.
Six days, five colleagues, one house.
There were no arguments and we were productive - sometimes more productive than usual. Somehow we either got forgotten by the others OR on Monday we had a lot of news from colleagues who didn't want to bother us during our "vacation". The phone rang now and then, but less often than usual. Communicating in the hallway, quickly catching up or snatching up information at the coffee machine is important. A lot is lost when these things are completely absent, especially, as previously mentioned, in a manufacturing company.
Many of us need to be physically present, "can you quickly check on the 6-color machine?"; "do you know where customer X's palette ended up?"; "was that the color we discussed with the customer?" - you can't solve these things via Zoom, Skype, Teams or Slack, and Google Meets doesn't help either. Sometimes you just have to "meet" face-to-face in real life.
But that doesn't mean that home office is bad, doesn't work at all or means vacation. You save time commuting and automatically have more time. We are all sporty but hardly anyone does sports in the morning before work. That's because here we get up, slip into our sports clothes, walk past the workplace, pick up our coffee, jump into the shower, and bang, we're sitting at our desk.
In 2020, many companies were forced to move their activity to the employees' homes in order to continue working - unless, like us, one was system-relevant and could continue to operate.
Above all, personal exchange is indispensable for creativity; we inspire each other. Initiative can only emerge when you recognize problems, and problems can only be recognized when you see them. On our workplace somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we were productive, of course also because we didn't see many problems. That's good for our efficiency, but obviously doesn't work long term. We can't all be in the home office all the time. By "we," I mean us employees of LONGO. Many employees at companies like Microsoft now work remotely to a large extent. They are independent from their colleagues and if they need something, it can usually be solved easily over a virtual call. Productivity can be higher at home because there are fewer distractions, things can be processed. Judith has really cleaned up her email inbox after ages. With a smile on her face, she announces that she has just answered the last unread message.
We appreciate the face-to-face interaction and we like to be present in the comapny. Especially during Corona it could be observed that LONGO employees like to come to the office. That is good. It means that people feel comfortable here, they like to see each other, they feel productive when being here.
Saturday, May 28, 2022, 07:00 am. We get up, clear the decks and leave as planned at 08.00 punctually. A last coffee with brioche on the highway together. "What will our colleagues say on Monday?", this question burns on the tongue of all of us. We say nothing, let the moment sink in and are happy about the past week. Two or three days longer would have been nice... but we are also looking forward to meeting our colleagues, to the office, to the encounters at the coffee machine, to the short conversations in the corridor, to the lunch break in the sun outside in the arbor when the weather is nice.