1) Larissa, how important is the use of digital tools and technology in offices?
You can't imagine working today without digital tools and processes. In our private lives, most of us are also used to handling many things digitally. No matter whether it's an enquiry with the health insurance company or checking the telephone bill in the online portal. Many people bring their digital preferences, habits, tools and gadgets with them to the office and can no longer separate them.
The issue of mobility also plays a big role. Corona, and the resulting move of employees to home offices, was not a big issue for us at the Haufe Group. You simply have to be very digital to enable independent working. We already had that before Covid. We are necessarily forced to deal with digital working methods and processes. But that also brings relief in many places.
Digital tools and processes are simply expected and come as standard. Processes must be simple and smooth and make work easier for users. What do our customers expect internally and externally? This is the central question for us to find answers to in IT.
2) Which concrete digital solutions are indispensable today?
How quickly can I get employees productive? How quickly can they work efficiently? And how do I organise offboarding in a paperless office? There must be solutions to these questions. This is not trivial, as legal issues are also involved. We must also always keep the issue of personal data in mind.
Good solutions for document management are also indispensable. With Microsoft Teams, we have created the conditions for colleagues to have round-the-clock access to folder structures, documents and information, but also to meetings and telephone calls, from anywhere.
Miro and Jira have helped us in the Haufe Group a great deal over the last two years to coordinate team and project work digitally. All the tools that promote team collaboration, such as Teampact or OKR, are now among the first to be opened on the laptop in the morning, along with Outlook.
3) Can you think of any disadvantages that you associate with the "paperless office" or have experienced yourself?
If you can't remember things well, you simply need paper. For me, there is the realisation that I will never be able to get along without my writing pad. I find keeping digital lists negative. When it comes to journaling, experts also advise against doing it digitally because you simply become less emotional.
The speed with which we do things digitally today can also have a negative effect. We may end up with results that would have been different, perhaps even better, with a little more time and leisure. The classic 80/20 approach (achieving 80 per cent of the results with 20 per cent of the effort) according to the Pareto principle is usually sufficient. One must always make sure that costs and benefits are in good proportion to each other.
I also see disadvantages in the interpersonal area. We would like to stand together at the whiteboard in the office. Even if Miro is great, serves its purpose and is fun, it cannot replace direct personal exchange with colleagues.
4) How much effort is and was it to provide digital infrastructure in the company or in the home office?
I think it depends on the company and the industry. Software companies were simply better prepared to move their employees into a home office than, for example, a wholesaler in the sanitary industry who sells bathtubs. The demands on companies are completely different. Digitising customer experiences is a big challenge in terms of data management and creating a good customer experience with the WOW factor. This is easier for some industries than others.
IT companies have digitalisation inherently in their DNA. At Haufe Group, the digital infrastructure and the basis for home office was already in place when it became mandatory. This is an ongoing process and of course we always have to optimise and can get better.
5) What do you think would be the most popular office concept of the future?
To be in the office when it is necessary and when it fits into the personal daily routine. Simply to work self-determined hybrid. People usually organise themselves in the way that is best for them. This requires a lot of trust on the part of supervisors in their employees. Normally, people want to contribute to the success of their company and bring a lot of initiative and personal responsibility to the table. The conditions are there to let them organise themselves in their daily work.
Personally, I am more efficient when I organise myself. It is simply less stressful not to have the pressure of having to leave the office at a certain time to pick up the child from kindergarten on time. I can simply reconcile family and work better.
The fact is: the digital and hybrid work we have today lowers the stress level enormously. In my opinion, very few of my colleagues would want to do without it. At the same time, we have to keep an eye on what negative effects this way of working can have in the future and react to it if necessary.