“Trust in employees is more important than face-to-face models”
Christian Moser heads a unit with around 40 software developers at Zühlke's Zurich office. As a career coach and contact person, he is responsible for the development of his employees and for the administrative management. To Christian, evaluating performance on the basis of time spent in the office makes little sense.
Christian, are you actually a kind of career coach?
Exactly. To help me do that job, I developed my own Skill Management system that is now used by Zühlke throughout the company. In the system, we record the engineers' CVs together with their various professional and personal skills so that we can successfully put together project teams. The challenge is to get people out of their comfort zone and encourage them to have the confidence to attempt things they have never done before. It has to fit both professionally and at a human level to achieve very good results. This requires a great deal of empathy.
Does Zühlke support flexible working-time models?
A long time ago our company established a comprehensive flexitime model that everyone is free to use. I am married and have two children aged six and four. Before Corona 'hit' us, I used to leave for work at about 6.00 am in order to have more time with my family in the evenings. My daily commute is 50 minutes each way. I want to make sure that I am back home in the evening around 6 pm at the latest. At Zühlke there are usually no meetings after 17.00 hours. I enjoy spending time with my family in the evening. Once everyone is in bed, I can work for another hour or two, which I find very pleasant. I use the peace and quiet then to do the work that is still unfinished. Everyone has to find their own way to organise their tasks. In my view, you shouldn't separate work and private life so strictly. It is much more important that the work-life balance is right.
Is there great acceptance of a work-life balance at Zühlke?
We have a great deal of trust in every employee. With many other companies, however, I see that attendance time is still an important factor in determining whether someone is hard-working or not. I think the model of attendance time is outdated, even counterproductive, in fact. The Corona virus has shown us that professional cooperation does not depend on where you sit. I also think that dress codes are out of date. Output is the only thing that counts. In other words, what you move and achieve in terms of content. I hope that we will be able to take some of this with us into the future: self-accountable working with full flexibility, and the human proximity, the straightforwardness, that we experience in the Corona-imposed home office.
How is it possible to do your work in the home office in these unusual times?
At the beginning of the lockdown, the changeover was very intensive, as there was a lot to organise and coordinate. I was in online meetings for almost 8 hours a day. It was also a big change for my children and for the daily routine. "Dad's home, but he always has to work". When it became clear that the home office would be a reality for much longer, we rearranged our apartment, set up an office and established clear rules. The children understood them quickly and day by day we got more used to the daily routine in the home office.
Commuting from the breakfast table to the office in 10 steps instead of 50 minutes is very convenient and opens up new freedoms for combining work and private life. Of course, there are meetings during the day that are fixed. But shopping, visits to the doctor or breaks with the family can be organised around them quite easily.
To what extent are your children both an inspiration and a relaxation for you?
There is a rewarding interaction between my children and me. The business world is usually structured, objective and rational, and this can sometimes diminish the spirit of playfulness and lightness. But when you're dealing with factual issues, you will often make more progress with creativity and fresh ideas than you will with too much rationality. We can also learn from the trial-and-error approach used by children: try something quickly, see if it works and, if necessary, correct and improve it. I owe my mental balance to my family. I believe that an extra support, whether it is family, sport, a place of rest or a hobby, plays a central role in the work-life balance. It is about the things that give you fulfilment, confirmation, relaxation and new energy.
Is there time that belongs to you and you alone?
With me, it really is the case that work is also my hobby. I enjoy considerable esteem thanks to the Skill Management system mentioned earlier, which I developed in my spare time. This gives me strong motivation. For me, developing and enhancing this working tool is an exciting, counterbalancing challenge. I don't need that much sleep. When the family is in bed, I enjoy these hours of calm. I like to play the electric piano (using headphones, of course!). This, too, is a good counterbalance for me, because music stimulates other regions of the brain. You notice immediately how you become calmer and start thinking about other things.