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Home Office

Home Office: From the kitchen table to the office

2. November 2020 Published by Jana Greyling

This interview with Raphael Dörr, SVP Corporate Communications & Investor Relations at Gigaset, was published on funkschau.de on September 29, 2020. The interview on the subject of home office and the impact of the pandemic on everyday life at the company was conducted by Diana Künstler.

The coronavirus pandemic meant that many companies quickly had to shift all their necessary communications and work processes to the home office. What do you see as the advantages and drawbacks of that?

I believe that working from home is an issue that’s treated pretty superficially at present. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Germany had a relatively strong office-based culture, but that had to be changed abruptly to working from home in order to protect employees. Consequently, the home office has mainly been associated with the aspect of safety in the current discussion. One of the advantages you could cite is a certain convenience: There is no need to travel to and from work, costs are lower, and you can work more efficiently because you’re not distracted as much as in an office with others in it. The downside is that costs are secretly shifted to employees and they lack the requisite equipment and furniture. Working once a week from home at your kitchen table is different to doing so over a period of months – many city apartments don’t have the space for dedicated workplaces, and certainly not for two employees.

Yet those advantages and drawbacks are only part of the story. I believe the coronavirus pandemic is speeding up developments that would have culminated by 2030, but have now been brought forward to 2020 with a big bump. There will also be advantages and drawbacks in relation to completely different issues. How will people cope with isolation when they lack daily contact with other people at the office? How do you manage to remain seen at the company, and how do managers retain a subjective feeling of control? How can companies ensure the flow of information to employees and – in an extreme scenario – how can the home be turned into an office? The opportunities are much the same as the issues. Consequently, companies will successfully emerge from the crisis and overcome the period thereafter only if they open up to digitalization, have a climate in which objective performance assessments and measurable results are more important than subjective relationships and a system of favors, and have a management culture in which trust and respect are firmly entrenched.

What fundamental aspects should a company heed so that supposed improvements in communication as a result of working from home are retained after the crisis? (Watchwords: corporate culture, agile working, infrastructure, etc.)

There’s a raft of issues that are now coming to the fore. But I think the corporate culture is the key to success or failure. If a culture is open to change and sees any change proactively as an opportunity for the company, the logical upshot is that this culture will, of its own accord, develop processes that enable agile working and appropriate technology infrastructures.

If mobile working is regarded as a potential loss of control, or if managers should harbor mistrust as to whether employees work as much at home as at the office, I would be worried about the company. Yet work in the modern context means that motivated and committed people come together in an organization to pursue overriding objectives together, hence ensuring that the company grows and prospers, and also to secure their own advancement.

Assuming employees with those qualities, you can be sure that they will accomplish their work well – whether at the office, from home or (thanks to 5G) outdoors on the lawn – because they are committed to doing their bit at and for the company out of their own free will. Accordingly, key investments in the future might be channeled to ensure that all employees have adequate technological equipment that is always kept up-to-date: notebooks, headsets, smartphones, data volume, desktop phones and a high-speed data line at home. All that can be part of the new basic equipment setup for employees. I’m even thinking about allowances for compact desks and ergonomic chairs for the home office – if that’s possible for and wanted by employees.

Just how important is professional telephony in this specific context? (The role of telephony, crucial functions, scalable systems, VoIP)

It’s a very big and very important component. Let’s paint a scenario where digitalization and flexible, mobile work models continue to gain in popularity. In that case, we’ll see a trend where future, completely flexible workplaces will mainly come from the cloud or handled and served by cloud functionalities. But in the context of the home office, for example, the end-user devices will still be needed. They may be conventional office phones, whether as a desktop model or mobile device, since they are best at delivering certain telecommunications features, such as automatic callback when a number if busy. In the future, employers will provide employees working from home with a suitable device that they then connect up to their router at home. The cloud service is found via IP and auto-configuration, the software and contacts are transmitted, and employees can work from wherever they like. But anyone who says that smartphones are also an alternative is right to some extent. What you need here above all is an app-based omnichannel presence, similar to that used in Circuit by Unify, for example. Messenger function will complement and round out this offering. But – and that’s why I feel sure that the phone will be a very popular part of flexible worlds of work – the voice will become a core emotional vehicle for connecting people. When you can no longer see each other at work as often as we used to, pure messaging or e-mails aren’t enough. People are social beings and need to bond with the people they’re talking with – and that will be done through the voice.

How does Gigaset, a manufacturer of desktop and cordless phones for the enterprise arena, help its customers “overcome the paradigm shift”

We support our customers by being on hand to help in all matters and providing them with products. Apart from Gigaset, I know of no manufacturer that boasts a full-range portfolio – from private communication at home to business telephony – yet also offers mobile solutions, such as our smartphones. We’re also merging the areas more and more, as described above. Working from home is becoming a sort of extended office. At the same time, Gigaset is also a dependable constant in the customer relationship. As I mentioned earlier, everything between the telephone system and end-user device will change at a rapid pace in the future. There will be quite a bit of disruption in the telecommunications scene. However, Gigaset will continue to provide its customers with communication devices for every situation and circumstance in life – except we’ll make our devices a little better every day and develop them further.

Face masks, disinfecting your hands, sneezing into your sleeve: One of the effects of Covid-19 is that it has sharpened our awareness for hygiene. Gigaset has reflected that trend in developing its devices. How exactly? And what challenges did that pose in product development? (Resistance to disinfectant as a new USP)

Fortunately, we already addressed the issue of resistance to disinfectant in a number of models before the coronavirus pandemic. Gigaset has multi-faceted solutions in the professional arena. Whether for the hotel and catering sector, congress centers, workshops, hospitals or doctor’s offices – there are many application areas where customers need to disinfect the devices regularly.

We benefited during the coronavirus pandemic since our devices were already resistant to disinfectant. Moving ahead, our product development will include that feature in further products. However, incorporating suitable material properties is more complex than many may assume. Our research and development department has worked for a long time to develop an ideal feature and to integrate it in the product without changing the surface structures and haptics.

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