We’re staying at home – but we’re all connected22. March 2020 Published by Jana Greyling
In the battle to contain the rampant spread of coronavirus, Gigaset is supporting the campaign by the German Federal Ministry of Health and participating in #wirbleibenzuhause (#WeAreStayingHome). An interview with Klaus Weßing and Thomas Schuchardt, CEO and CFO of Gigaset AG.
Raphael Dörr: Why have you decided to join in the #wirbleibenzuhause campaign?
Klaus Weßing: Corporate responsibility always means living up to your social responsibility. We entrepreneurs are part of society, and we have the duty to protect our employees and all parts of society where we can.
Raphael Dörr: What measures have been initiated or in what specific ways are you supporting the campaign?
Thomas Schuchardt: We became aware of the outbreak of the virus early on. We were able to assess the situation pretty quickly thanks to our close relationships with suppliers from Asia. From the moment it became clear that the virus would also spread internationally, we began taking appropriate precautionary measures for the workforce and developing plans for more dramatic scenarios, such as we’re now unfortunately experiencing.
Raphael Dörr: What exactly were those measures and plans?
Klaus Weßing: Gigaset is pursuing a three-pronged approach: Informing – Protecting – Distancing. We communicated the risks within the company and issued appropriate recommendations early on. However, the situation worsened dynamically, so we soon adopted heightened preventive measures, in particular social distancing.
Raphael Dörr: Social distancing at a production company? Is that even possible?
Thomas Schuchardt: Yes, it is. Fortunately, we’ve undertaken intensive efforts to digitize our work processes for some time now. Even though we’re a production company, we were able to adapt quickly and enable many of our employees to work from home for the time being. That mainly relates to administrative functions. However, that move also helps boost the level of protection for everyone at a site like Bocholt, where a lot of people work.
Raphael Dörr: So, the only employees now at the factory are those who ensure production and logistics?
Klaus Weßing: Yes, to put it simply. We want to and must remain operational, so we have to take measures to protect our employees in production. We can already see a surge in demand for fixed-line phones in e-commerce. That’s due to the inadequate technical equipment many people have at home. They did without a fixed-lined phone in the past and only relied on their smartphone – and now there’s a backlash. If we’re looking at a situation where we have to work from home for several months, that equipment is no longer sufficient. That’s why we have to keep stocked up with products for Germany and Europe.
Raphael Dörr: So, you expect this change to last for a longer period? What do you mean by “staying connected”?
Thomas Schuchardt: Looking at the latest developments soberly, and taking into account the statements by experts from the Robert Koch Institute and German government, we don’t expect the situation to ease up any time soon. Even if measures are relaxed again, we probably won’t be able to give the all-clear and so allow a mass return to work in the foreseeable future.
Klaus Weßing: First and foremost, that means we as a society must do all we can to halt the virus and hence avoid overburdening the healthcare system. We’re helping to achieve that goal by enabling our employees to work from home temporarily and by posting information for citizens on our channels. However, it will be important for us as a society to stay connected with each other in the medium term – and we aim to do our bit to ensure that.
Raphael Dörr: Thank you for the interview.