Every cloud has a silver lining

Some months ago, Switzerland went into “lockdown”. This meant that everyone who could work from home should do so. At Balzano Informatik AG, we did that too. It was not always easy, but we adapted, we improved, we made it work. Eventually, the government relaxed its recommendations, and more and more people returned to the office. So did we, at least part time. Let me tell you how we work now – after we learnt that a permanent home office setup is possible.

Our team of data scientists has two days per week (Tuesday and Thursday) where we must be on-site. Otherwise, we are free to work where we want – from home or at the office. Those of us with a dedicated room at home tend to work from home when possible. But let me start with the days we are all together in the office. How does this work?

There are still rules of physical distances to keep and maximal numbers of people allowed in a room. We make it work – as always! Now when we have a meeting, we gather in our spacious, factory-like office. Instead of sitting at a table, our meetings are now held in a stand-up fashion, with more than enough space between colleagues. And because we are all together twice a week, most of our meetings are held during these days. Consequently, we do not have internet connection and “can you hear me” issues when facing each other in “real life”. This phenomenon has a pretty cool side effect: During the other weekdays, we can focus on our work without meetings interrupting. Nice, right? And because our on-site days are spread over the week, I noticed something else too: If a question is not urgent, it will be asked in person. This reduces the interruptions during the home office days even more, and the only thing left to do is work, and help put out coding “fires”!

From my point of view, there are a lot of benefits; however, not everything is silver. When I work at the office, “physical distance” and a “maximal number of people in a room” have a sad drawback: We cannot eat lunch as a whole team anymore. Even before the Covid-19 situation, our team had already started to be too many for our table in the kitchen. Physical distancing means that spontaneous friendly interactions throughout the day are reduced, too. Still, I’m able to have lunch with a part of the team, and I have hopes that is the only drawback I have to live with! For me, this is only a small drawback and hopefully a temporary one – either because we receive a bigger table with more space, and if not, I’m hopeful the Covid-19 situation will be getting better and that someday, we will have our lunches again as a whole team.

To summarize my new working week: I have two days of excessive communication and meetings with my team in the office, but now I also have two days where I can better focus on my work and be as productive as possible! (I work only four days per week.) The increased focus is something many in our team noticed, which is the reason that most of us work from home on the days we are allowed. For me, there are some additional benefits: I do not have to go physically to the office, which includes catching a train and around one hour each direction. Now, if I’m a little bit lazy in the morning, I just start five minutes later and don’t have to worry about missing my train. Additionally, I have two hours more to enjoy some sun if the weather allows it, which is great now that the days are getting shorter again. Another reason I love working from home: freshly cooked lunch! No microwaved food, but a fresh-cooked meal – and often we make fresh bread for lunch time, which is just yummy.

I hope you guys out there were able to adapt as well and learned similar lessons – and that you can now also see a little light in this dark year of 2020. To all of you, stay healthy!

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