Michael is a software developer who, as part of the frontend team, was instrumental in developing the nora emergency call app. He relocated to Cologne for this job but a short while later ended up working from home. Since then, what he misses most is lunch with his colleagues.

We talk about small talk, joint team activities, scheduling lunch breaks and about concluding the home office workday.

How did you start work at bevuta – at home or at the office?

I started in the late summer of 2020, when the Covid incidence rate was still relatively low. That’s how I was able to work in the office for about a month and got to know quite a few people face to face. I really liked that (especially as I was new in Cologne and didn’t know anyone except for a few neighbours). Subsequently, I’ve also made friends with other colleagues I only know from videoconferences. What I find important, particularly at the beginning of smaller videocalls, is that you don’t just get straight to the point but maybe ask the other person how they are or how they spent their weekend.

In videocalls it is important to not get straight to the point but maybe have a chat about the weekend. #videocalls #remoteteamwork

Do you miss having colleagues around all day long?

Sometimes. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing all those nice colleagues again, full-size and without the glass screen because, when you actually meet up in person, it’s far easier to have an informal chat. And I miss the communal lunch breaks.

Why the lunch breaks?

Without a clear differentiation between work time and breaks it’s not so easy to know when it’s OK to talk about other mutual interests.

Personally, I also have a problem with everyone’s lunch break being at different times. This may well be an advantage for each individual, but me, I tend to work with colleague number two while colleague number one is at lunch, and when colleague number two goes to lunch, I respond to some queries from colleague number three. And once that’s done, I use the 5 remaining minutes before colleague number one gets back to do some of my own things – and then, work just continues.

Saying “No, I’m going to have a break now, I’ll deal with your query later” – that sometimes takes a lot of effort.

When everyone has their breaks at different times, it often happens that you cut your own lunch break short or even drop it all together. #RemoteTeamwork #HomeOffice

How do you generally organise your working day? Do you keep regular working hours?

I usually work between 9 am and 6 pm. But if I’ve slept badly or got up really early, then it may shift by a couple of hours. Other times I might take a longer break, for example, to enjoy the afternoon sunshine, and work later into the evening.

As for ending the working day, sometimes I kind of miss the “example” of others finishing work. I mean, in the office they notice if you’re usually one of the first ones in and still there last thing at night. That’s when you hear comments such as “How about calling it a day sometime soon?" To see that other people are also leaving for home would at times help me not to work too much.

To see that other people are also leaving for home can help not to work too much. #RemoteTeamwork #HomeOffice

Does remote work also have advantages for you?

Yes, of course, lots. I especially like it that, when you work in your home office, you can easily fit in some minor non-work things. This can be really helpful when you’re grappling with some small challenge, and you’re stuck. Then, if you can take half an hour off to do your shopping, you’ll come back refreshed – and you don’t have to go out shopping in the evening.

As a rule, taking short breaks so that you can work more efficiently again afterwards, that’s much easier to do in the home office. There are days when I absolutely need to take a nap after lunch, from which I return to work well rested. Sure, you can curl up on the couch in the office, but your own bed is so much more comfortable, making your lunchtime nap that much more effective.

Are there moments when you would prefer working together in an office?

I think that in some situations it could be helpful to be face to face, especially when there might be misunderstandings. You are much more aware of body language and can read other people’s behaviour that much better.

Is there a digital tool in remote teamwork that you couldn’t do without?

Video rooms. We have a room where you will almost always find someone if you want some help quickly. Of course, you could also write a message, but that’s more of a hurdle than if you can just see if someone can give you an answer to your question (or, take a look at the code with you). It’s also significantly faster than having to write it down – and if further questions come up, they can be dealt with immediately.

Do you have ideas on how to bring the far-flung team even closer together?

Maybe we could get together more often socially, outside of the actual work situation. It seems that in the past we sometimes organised short, interesting presentations. There are also a number of online activities we could do together – for example, remote cooking sessions. That might be quite helpful in bringing people together who may occasionally meet in stand-up but otherwise have little direct contact.

Would you work at bevuta even without the remote work option?

Probably yes, since I live in Cologne. But if an employer in my field of software development would categorically rule out home office, I would really wonder what they are thinking. In my opinion, there is no reason not to do this at least occasionally (although I can understand that in time you might be asked to be in the office every so often). I would wonder what could be so much more important to an employer than the wellbeing of their employees.

“If an employer in the field of software development would categorically rule out home office, I would really wonder what they are thinking.” #RemoteWork #FlexibleWork #SoftwareDevelopment

We totally agree – we would not dream of dismissing home office out of hand. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

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