Have office, will travel

In 2019, DHL Consulting introduced a mobile office option for all employees at its Bonn office, giving staff the chance to work from a location of their choosing for six days every month. The idea was to provide greater flexibility at work, and allow them to manage tasks in their private lives that might require focus, attention, or time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, this policy has been updated and each employee can work an unlimited number of remote days. This policy will remain the norm even after the pandemic lockdowns are eased.

Markus Werner, Senior Expert, HR Marketing at DHL Consulting, reveals the difference mobile working has made to him, both personally and professionally.

Author: Interview with Markus Werner

Published: Last updated:

Culture & Career, Future of Work

Working hands on laptop

A healthy work-life balance is something we all strive to achieve. After all, while work is important for our self-esteem and gives us drive, purpose and a reason to get up in the morning, it shouldn’t dominate and define every aspect of our lives.

All progressive employers worth their salt have recognised this, and introduced flexible practices and better technology to allow their employees to work remotely, should they choose to do so.

Take DHL Consulting. In 2018, it launched a mobile working option for staff at its Bonn office so they could enjoy greater personal and professional freedom. A trial period giving them the chance to work from the location of their choice for five days every month was hugely successful and enthusiastically welcomed by those who took part; so the company has now increased opportunities for mobile working to six days per month.

Markus Werner, Specialist, HR Marketing, was immediately excited by the prospect of working away from the office. “The world of work is changing and will look very different in five years’ time,” he says. “So it’s welcome to know that the company is open to embracing those changes and willing to demonstrate that some members of staff don’t need to be in an office environment every day.

Plus, it’s good from an employer branding point of view because the young talent we hire have been used to mobile working through their studies and internships. It’s important for us to be on trend.”

Why Being on the Move Is a Change for the Better

If truth be told, however, Markus was already fairly familiar with working on the move. But then that’s the nature of his job in recruitment, because he spends a lot of time traveling to universities for campus events. No wonder he found the concept of remote working easy to adjust to.

Even so, he points out that the new flexible working arrangements have made a big, positive change to his personal life. “When mobile working first took off within the company, my personal situation was a little bit different,” explains Markus. “My girlfriend was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, so every third or fourth week I would take a Thursday and a Friday as mobile office days. I’d fly to Sofia on Wednesday evening and return to Bonn on Sunday.

This meant I could work in Sofia on Thursday and Friday but also be with my girlfriend. Now she lives in Germany I don’t need to do that commute anymore, but it’s an example of how mobile working can reward you with a significant work-life balance.”

He believes it’s improved the way he works, too. “Being in a different environment can foster creativity. When I’m with my HR colleagues in the office, I’ll be fully focussed on HR topics. Whereas if I’m working on my own in another location and think of an idea, I’ll make a note to discuss it with them at a later date.” In a strange way, he says, team interactions improve when you’re not constantly surrounded by colleagues.

Portrait of Markus Werner

The world of work is changing and will look very different in five years’ time.

So it’s welcome to know that the company is open to embracing those changes and willing to demonstrate that some members of staff don’t need to be in an office environment every day.

Markus - Expert, HR Marketing, DHL Consulting

The Big Misconception About Mobile Office

At present, Markus tends to work from home every Monday, a consistency which makes it easier for his colleagues to plan their activities. “They think: ‘Ah, it’s the first day of the week — so if we need to get in touch with Markus, we should call him at home or on his cell phone.’ That’s helped internally.”

Of course, the big misconception — usually held by companies who don’t operate a mobile policy — is that staff who work away from the office aren’t really working at all. Maybe they think that when you’re out of sight, there’s too much temptation to watch TV, chat to friends or go shopping.

But that’s not how it plays out at all, says Markus.

“Even when I’m travelling to universities for campus events, my manager expects me to complete my tasks!” he says. “Also, importantly, if I don’t complete them, no-one else will — and then everything crumbles.

That’s all part of the trust culture at DHL Consulting. If I wasn’t trusted, I wouldn’t be employed here! It’s a fast-paced environment full of motivated people who don’t slack around.”

How Remote Working Can Increase Productivity

If Markus had any scepticism about being away from the office, it was a slight worry that he would need to prove to his colleagues that he was still working diligently.

This probably increased his productivity if anything — although fears that he was being judged were unwarranted. “It’s all part of the company’s trust culture,” he says.

On his mobile days, Markus could work anywhere but usually chooses home rather than a cafe or coffee shop. In Sofia, however, he enjoyed visiting coworking spaces. “Coworking spaces have all the infrastructure I need: a desk, stable wi-fi, a coffee machine, water and rooms where I can take calls, because some HR topics I discuss are confidential. Another benefit is that there’s always someone from a different company or another digital nomad to chat to, which expands your horizons.”

While working remotely has its advantages, Markus likes coming back to the office. “I want to see my team and touch base with my colleagues,” he says. “Our staff are from international backgrounds and have a young outlook. That sums up the environment we have in the office, and if I worked away for long periods I would miss it. The culture here is what motivates me.”

Markus’s tips for going mobile

For the Company…

  • Ensure Your Staff Have Reliable IT Infrastructure

    “Give them the latest laptops that they can easily carry around, loaded with modern collaboration tools such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Planner.”

  • Remember Different Job Levels Have Different IT Requirements

    “A Consultant may use a laptop differently than a Partner. So do your research and find out which model will best suit the different members of your team.”

  • Think About Giving Staff Convertible Hardware

    “It makes it easier for staff on the move if they can transform their hardware to laptop mode or tablet mode. And if the technology comes with a smart pen so that they can write on the screen, so much the better!”

  • Understand That You Don’t Need Paper Anymore!

    “We’ve traditionally been heavy paper users, particularly in our HR function. But with digital tools such as Microsoft OneNote, we don’t need paper now which makes mobile-working so much easier.”

For Staff…

  • Find a Location That Works for You

    “Speaking personally, I need a quiet place where I’m not going to be interrupted and a stable Wi-Fi connection. I also need good headphones and a good laptop mouse. All the hardware I use needs to be easily transportable.”

  • Get a Laptop Lock

    “You don’t really want to tell your manager that your laptop has been stolen because you were working in a public space, went to the bathroom and forgot to lock it. So get a lock which allows you to secure your laptop to an immovable object.”

  • Guard Your Work

    “Make sure you have a privacy screen set up on your computer, particularly if you’re working on confidential information in a public area.”

  • Keep Your Colleagues in the Loop

    “Let co-workers know how best they should reach you. And think ahead and put a blocker in your calendar so that they can see when you are and aren’t available. Simple adjustments like that make a big difference.”

Text by Tony Greenway

Header photo by Lara Far on Unsplash

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