New Work Hero mld digits Tarek - Partner/Head of Art at mld digits gmbh
About mld digits:
We founded mld digits in 2014. We create marketing solutions for customers using technologies like augmented reality, VR. So, we completely digitalize marketing materials. Any kind of business could benefit from our services.
How and where are you working at the moment?
Since the company is completely digital, our work and our processes are digitalized as well. Corona time dictated that we went completely to home office. We found out that home office works perfectly for us. This is the story how we moved from a physical space to a virtual space.
How has your work changed over the last two years?
Corona accelerated the direction we wanted to go to anyway. We started with a home office Friday. We said if it goes really well, we might extend it to two days a week without changing anything in the contracts of our employees of course. We wanted to find a legal form for this but it was on a trial basis. Then Corona kicked in and it was mandatory to send people home. We implemented the lessons learnt from these home office Fridays during the Corona time. AT the beginning it was difficult to provide everyone with a workstation. We had issues with the licensing of programs. But this was only a couple of weeks and we kept the ball rolling.
Lots of people from our team also like face to face interactions so we thought let’s implement something. We asked our employees who would prefer to work from the office and who would prefer to work from home. We found out that everyone preferred to work from home, but some people would like to have at least one day or two where they meet. These people were from the project management and learning team. So, we created two groups, the production team and the planning team. The planning team can come to the office on Thursdays in order to interact, talk and discuss project planning. The production team works from home 100%. However, we started to implement regular team events every couple of months. We come together, talk about our personal life and so on so that the team members physically see each other. Before, they missed seeing their teams sometimes. It brought so much positivity to the team and production went really up. So, it was really nice to continue this every couple of months. Last year we did it on a monthly basis and then we felt it is so much. Especially the planning of it is really difficult. Right now, we are doing this every two or three months. We also have seasonal events like Christmas which is additional to this.
What are your current challenges regarding your ways of working?
The first thing that we thought about at the beginning was, how to measure the performance. You can not see the employees and what they are doing during the day. But after that trial we found out that we don’t need to look over the employee’s shoulders or how they are doing their job. The idea is that we give the employees full trust and we are not measuring performance by the hour but by the delivery. For example, we assign a task with a deadline to a person. As long as the person meets the deadline, I think we don’t need to look. Of course, the deadline for the task will be discussed with the employee. If he is comfortable and if the project goes well, everything is fine. We tried that several times and so far, it works perfectly. Nobody from our employees missed a deadline. And we don’t look if they are spending 7 hours a day or 10 hours or even 3 hours, we only look at the delivery of the task and the quality of it.
The understanding of home office was, that I am disconnected from the company and that I am alone and can to whatever I want. No, that is not the idea of home office. At this time, you are designated to work, you are expected to do a job, you are expected to be available when someone calls you. Of course, any time you can stretch a little, go for a walk. Everybody does personal stuff, sometimes people do their laundry. That’s the shared space between your home and your workplace. This flexibility empowers you to take responsibility for your task.
Since we have that flexibility we are able to hire people from across Germany, we are not bound to Munich area anymore. Before we were looking for people from Munich or people moving to Munich, this was a challenge. Right now, this is not a challenge anymore. We have a couple of employees who are completely from the north of Germany. This is amazing. Now we can look at any experts, any talent available all across Germany and give them an offer to work with us. So far it works.
And what are the changes regarding your workspace?
We were looking into changing in our office, as it doesn’t need to accommodate more people anymore. But for now, our office is a great space for the planning activities we do there. What we did is, that there are no assigned desks anymore. You can choose any place you want, you can even assign a desk to yourself. It depends on how you feel comfortable. You can work in the meeting room, you can work anywhere you want. Some people want to have an assigned place, this is a freedom and makes it more comfortable for us. We have more space to test hardware and software now.
What is working very well? What tips can you give to others?
The most important tips that I would give to others is, constant meetings between management and the team members. Constant means that normal calls to checkup are beneficial, extremely beneficial. Many newcomers feel isolated or people are sometimes questioning if they are taken care of. It is really great to do every now and then a 5min call or 10 min call with every person. It might take me two weeks to finish every person but it is nice to hear some kind of their personal stuff.
And what is also important: The idea is that when you are in the office you are learning from your colleagues. Your colleague is doing things differently or gives you some tips you can actually learn from. With home office this is actually difficult. Somebody will do something but forget to mention it later. So that knowledge is not being shared with everyone. Right now, every week we have department meetings. They are only one hour. These meetings are kind of collaborative. I can share what I found interesting. This could enhance the workflow of the team. Every person should take the opportunity to share stuff that he found out or learned.
This are the two things that I would definitely recommend. Constant talk is extremely important.
What would you do differently next time? From which mistakes have you learned?
We are facing some issues with the server speed, downloading some files etc. This is a bit challenging. It is also related to the infrastructure here in Germany. Not every place has high speed internet. But I think we are getting some solutions.
What else I would make differently is the meeting without breaks in between. In this situation with virtual meeting, people forget that this is also a meeting and you are bound to sit in the meeting for a long time. What happened is that people book meetings in free timeslots between other meetings. And then a person is sitting from 9-12 completely in meetings. But this is humanly not possible. And if we were in a physical space, we would definitely do a break between meetings. This is still not thought through perfectly. This is something were we have to get better, we have to learn from.
What I would also recommend is a good camera and really good headphones. Very good devices are essential for making you feel comfortable speaking and not having any issues. All of this you have to think of and get it right.
Because of sitting at home you lack moving, I have a table where you can stand up. Anytime during the meeting I can stand up and move the table up automatically. This is very helpful for the back. We bought really expensive tables for all our employees and everyone is just happy that they can stand up.
What is the biggest transformation upcoming?
We can hire people from all over the continent. We can hire anybody. I am facing some challenges regarding email signatures on contracts. In Germany all these signatures on contracts have to be physical which is providing logistic issues. It’s not a big deal but more flexibility in this direction would be great. If we would hire someone form outside of Germany, what are the legal requirements? This kind of stuff we have to think of. Talents are available everywhere on the world. We can benefit from any talent on the world. So, the question is, is it possible? We are taking projects from the US or Asia, so why not hiring people from there? The time difference is also challenging for us. So it would be great to find a solution for legal and organizational stuff. Also some security and insurance topics are to be discussed. What exactly we should train our people on to avoid problems they could encounter during their worktime. Hybrid work is getting more and more important. We should not neglect it but find a way to make it work for everyone.