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“Deepening the Spirit”

“Deepening the Spirit”

The Corona pandemic also creates room for new ideas. BARLOG Plastics GmbH, Overath, for example, is opening up to future-proof workplace concepts with “on-demand” shared offices for mobile employees – without compulsory attendance. A suggestion?

Peter Barlog, managing partner of BARLOG Plastics GmbH, sits in a room in the main wing of the company building. A few months ago, this was his office. Now, here and in another room, there are two new desks, lockable mobile pedestals, ergonomic chairs. And, of course, the full anti-corona package, including air conditioning for regular air exchange and disinfectant for cleaning hands. Not that Peter Barlog, also known throughout the industry as the organizer of the renowned Engelskirchen Technology Days (EKTT), was ever a fan of an outdated executive office style. But this is unusual.

The solution to the riddle: Peter Barlog deliberately cleared out his office weeks ago – to make room for so-called shared offices. For those who like it and do not have to be present in person at the plant may remain in the “mobile office” at BARLOG Plastics in the future. But if something doesn’t work there, these flexible offices are waiting for the mobile employees at the company headquarters, where they can open their laptops. They can do this whenever they want, for as long as they want – and, above all, without being required to be present. “For many medium-sized companies like us, this kind of accommodation is still considered decidedly unusual,” says Barlog, “but we’d just like to give it a try.”

Employees rate mobile working positively

Background as with so many recent good ideas: Corona. Although BARLOG was able to keep the effects of the crisis well in check – they are talking about “only” about 20% less turnover compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, in February the managing directors were forced to send some employees to the so-called “home office”. This did not only affect office workplaces: Even production employees were given packages to work off at home. Even the annual financial statements were handled without face-to-face meetings.

But sometimes provisional arrangements tend to stick. For example, most employees reacted very positively to the new situation, explains Peter Barlog. Around 80% would have wanted to keep working from their home offices. “We in the management team were also quickly able to get on board with this idea. It turned out that many things even ran more efficiently than before. Maybe you get to the point faster in video conferences?” So the decision to keep the concept was made fairly quickly. “Everyone who doesn’t necessarily have to be present at work should still be able to work from home in the future.”

On the other hand, working “on the road” alone cannot be the solution. At some point, you have to stop by the company to catch up with colleagues and customers face-to-face, check in on things or pick up things you can’t email. And hardly anyone wants to conduct sensitive employee meetings on a computer screen. That’s why you need offices – but they are not used several days a week. From the point of view of a cost accountant, this is certainly a nightmare.

New synergy effects through random teams

The solution a lá BARLOG: shared offices: “on demand” workplaces for employees who want to organize their workday more freely – there was space enough for this experiment. Escape the usual constraints of an office job, come flexibly when you want and pack up as soon as everything is done – flexibility instead of nine-to-five, as long as the results are right. And along the way, you might get to talk to colleagues you used to say hello to in passing in the hallway – maybe even with Peter Barlog himself, because he has also opted for the new solution. Who knows what synergy effects will emerge from this creative environment.

Incidentally, BARLOG created the prerequisites for this more than 20 years ago: At the end of the 1990s, they also introduced the “paperless office” there. Since then, everything important has been digitized. Of course, the foresight back then is now paying off: No one has to transport mountains of paper when they take work to the mobile office.

Entry into the working world of the future

The new idea seems to be catching on: Around half of the employees are in favor of it, and some have already expressed interest. “We’re still in the pilot phase, but we can always scale up,” Barlog says, “if interest increases.”

What’s important to him is that there’s no coercion behind it. “Of course, anyone who needs their own space or doesn’t want to give up their family photo or houseplant can continue to use their personal office,” says Peter Barlog. Nor does Peter Barlog share fears that employees will use the new freedom to work less, unsupervised, on the bottom line. “That’s outdated management thinking. We have confidence in our employees. That’s simply the foundation of our success. I think there are only benefits to the project: It’s our entry into the working world of the future. And it helps deepen our shared spirit.”

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