So far away, yet so close

How we’re still with you — even without a physical presence.

So far away, yet so close

Special times call for special measures. When a wave of illness sweeps across the country, the economy declines, children need to be looked after or other such exceptional situations affect our daily lives, the world turns a bit more slowly. But it does still turn. You want (and need) to move forward with your business. As do we, with you. As an information service provider with the buzzword "smart" on all of our banners, we’re naturally concerned about this, and if we weren't smart, we wouldn't be making a virtue out of necessity.

The majority of our work is based on the operation and development of IT systems, and this is where our solutions always start. It’s now high time, not only to discover the limitations of the various systems, but also to go a step further and give us a chance to convince ourselves of the established remote applications, as well as the multitude of yet-to-be-tested software solutions on the market.

Meetings, training sessions, and surveys – we can also do all of these online

Our cooperation depends on meetings. Whether face-to-face or on the phone; from the office, the home office or “live and direct” from the playground – the main thing is that accessibility is guaranteed. We’ve already tested about five online meeting tools and continue to use them regularly, in addition to countless others. We’re sure to find one that complies with your specific IT guidelines. In the case of regular meetings, I support the use of video. In the beginning it takes a little patience and effort to see yourself flickering across the screen. But oftentimes the atmosphere becomes a bit more relaxed, once the first cat walks across the home office (for all to see) or a colleague's posh cactus collection attracts attention. An online video meeting generates positive attention and commitment – in a way that a traditional telephone call could never accomplish. Anyone who answers e-mails or eats their breakfast on the side is quickly found out. And last but not least – looks say much more than a thousand words ever could.

It becomes more difficult if you want to develop and visualise tangible results together. A material battle within a confined physical space, switches in media and movement are often the keys to creativity. But even here, we only need to let our imaginations run wild. I can conduct the conversation via a wireless headset and move around the room. Maybe I also have a height-adjustable table or a gym ball to provide some momentum for my posture. As material support, we’ve tested various digital concept boards that allow simultaneous work on mind maps and virtual sticky notes. Working in parallel in the company wiki or in centrally-stored office spreadsheets can also form a good basis for working. As an added value, everyone is provided a written record of what otherwise only briefly floats in our minds and around the room.

Training is a little bit more tiring. Although there’s a number of screen-sharing tools that allow you to share what you’re working on, hours of passive listening will eventually become exhausting. The worst thing is that I don't have a second screen to follow what I’m looking at. This is where a good didactic concept pays off: we divide the content into small chunks, lasting a maximum of two hours, and are spread out over several days. After each input “morsel” there follows a small individual practice phase. For this purpose, tasks are distributed; which everyone can solve and put down on his or her own. Alternatively, work assignments can be divided up, and everyone comments on the solutions or questions of colleagues within the common Wiki. Before the next session, the lecturer already has an idea of how the content’s been received, and where more in-depth knowledge is needed.

Online surveys are also a nice way to receive opinions. These surveys can be carried out and evaluated individually and serve as a sound introduction to a short and sweet final discussion.

Even for research, we don't always have to be on-site

And what do we do if we have to do research on physical (i.e. real) machines? As has long been the case with complex systems, it’s wonderful to view a 3D-model together and discuss the individual components via screen-sharing. If this isn’t possible, you might be able to find an action cam or – even simpler – use a mobile phone with a camera and a meeting app. Virtual access to the production hall is already possible. Alternatively, research can also be carried out using a remote maintenance tool (e.g. REFLEKT Remote).

The increased use of software for online work has a number of overall advantages: We save CO2 and travel costs, slow our everyday lives down by reducing travel and commuting-related stress; we can react more flexibly to our family’s needs, and finally get to play with the many colourful tools that the internet search engines promote. And quite honestly, we have a screen right in front of our noses most of the day, anyway. With this in mind: We’re looking forward to the next online meeting, even together with your pets.

Stefanie Langmann
Blog post Stefanie Langmann