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SEF Talk - Management and Leadership - Episode 3

Sef.Talk Remote Work – Management and Leadership

On 8 May the Sef.Talk went into its third round covering all questions about management and leadership in the home office.

This time the episode was hosted by Corine Blesi, Managing Director of the Swiss Economic Forum AG. Other exciting attendees were Dr. Felix Graf (CEO NZZ AG), Dr. Beat Bühlmann (Head of Sales KMU Swisscom AG) and Dr. Christian Keller (Chairman of the Executive Board IBM Switzerland).

Would you prefer to attend the next Sef.Talk live? Then secure your place here. If you missed the last episode, you can watch it again here.

Here’s the official transcript: 

Corine Blesi: Well I think we will start then. Welcome to the third SEF.Talk. Today on the topic of Leadership and Management in the context of Remote Work. My name is Corine Blesi. I am the managing director of the Swiss Economic Forum and I am pleased to be able to conduct the next half hour here. Before I introduce my guests, I would like to mention two or three housekeeping rules. And we would be very pleased if the participants would join in. You can ask your questions at any time via the chat function or via the F& A function. We make sure that we can record them during the conversation and certainly at the end after the first thirty minutes. We will have about thirty minutes of discussion and then a short Q&A at the end. It’s supposed to be a little interactive and from there we’ll be happy if questions come from the audience. Well I would say then we start. I would like to welcome our guests this afternoon. Christian Keller, CEO of IBM Switzerland and member of the worldwide management leadership team of IBM. We asked all the panelists beforehand to give us a quota on the topic of remote work. He said: “In times of virtual leadership of teams and organizations, clear and transparent communication is a crucial success factor. “We’ll be happy to come back to that later. Welcome Christian. Then let me welcome Beat Bühlmann. He is Head of Sales SME Swisscom Switzerland. And he said: “If you follow a few simple rules, things run smoothly in virtual teams.” I think we are curious about that too. Welcome Beat.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Thank you very much.

Corine Blesi: And the Felix Count. CEO of the NZZ. Felix said: “Trust and focus on the common purpose are all the more important in an environment with strong remote working”. Welcome Felix.

Dr. Felix Count: Sali Corine.

Corine Blesi: Well, I’d like to start with an introductory question about the current situation, which would be of great interest to us: How is your company doing at the moment in this difficult situation? I would like to start with Beat. I think Beat Swisscom presented its quarterly results about a week ago. They looked very good. The whole of Switzerland is currently sitting in front of the TV in the evening, streaming, talking on the phone. Are you profiting from this crisis?

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Well, it is indeed the case that our networks are very well utilised. That is so. You also have to see, a lot of people have flat rate subscriptions nowadays, where everything is included, no matter whether I surf a lot or a little. Whether I’m on the move with the phone a little or a lot. That’s why we didn’t see a sales boost on a large scale, but rather the network load simply went up. And on the other hand, of course, we have various SMEs, especially in the SME sector, who have said: “Hey, can you accommodate us? “With any / and other possibilities how to support SMEs in these difficult times.

Corine Blesi: I saw that on your Linkedin profile you wrote as your personal claim: Empowering Swiss KMUs. And SEF is also a network, especially for SMEs. How do you personally do that now in this difficult situation, when SMEs in particular are in a difficult situation.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Well, on the one hand we have completely, i.e. from one day to the next, switched over to so-called care codes, where we really told all our internal and external sales staff: “Call our customers and ask them how we can support them. “Some needed more bandwidth, others needed laptops. Others didn’t even know how video conferencing works, so we really showed them what screenshare is, what mute is, what is unmute. These SMEs are so different in terms of their level of maturity in terms of digitization that we were really allowed to do all kinds of things for these customers.

Corine Blesi: Well thank you very much. Christian, how are things at IBM? I’ve seen that you’ve been working for this great company for a quarter of a century. You have probably already experienced quite a lot. How do you see the current crisis now compared to all the other crises you have surely experienced in the last few years?

Dr. Christian Keller: It is indeed so. It is not the first crisis we are going through. We have also, if you look, gone through some in the last hundred years. But what is new for everyone, I think, is above all the speed with which it has struck. You’ve been able to observe this in other geographies for a long time, but then it happened surprisingly quickly until it became really serious in Switzerland too. Because we’re in the technology sector and are forced to deal with these digital issues by the industry, we can switch over to remote work very quickly. We have between 96 and 98 percent of our teams working remotely. That was fast. And then afterwards, what was then, really dealing with it permanently, has leadership issues like communication, what I otherwise do every day through short conversations, interactive conversations, you have to shift. And then afterwards it’s about thinking about how I can implement this in this digital or virtual time, so that I can stay close to it and thus be able to lead the company.

Corine Blesi: What is the situation regarding the course of business? Did you have to revise your goals more upwards or downwards?

Dr. Christian Keller: That is divided into two parts. You brought it up. On the one hand, of course we live from this technology, there are areas that are doing very well. I’m thinking of all these security aspects, the more you’re on the move virtually of course, the topic of cybersecurity is omnipresent. Interestingly enough, Malware, where you used to deal with it in the past, / / is coming up again a lot more. We have very strong requests around cybersecurity, these are big needs. Also how to bring whole teams, organizations into the remote was a huge topic in the beginning. Also automating processes to quickly find ways to get around in the new world. Also the face to the outside world, who were not yet online. That is the positive. On the other hand, we are clearly seeing dramatic slumps in entire individual companies. The whole supply of automobiles, that is of course from one day to the next when production is stopped by the big factories, you can feel that. The catering, tourism and retail sectors are also suffering massive losses. And as a result, projects that were designed for the medium and long term are now on hold and temporary. Because it is a matter of ensuring survival in these individual industries and companies. Liquidity in this tense situation, to be able to ensure crisis situations, how it continues afterwards. Therefore two parts, one part very good, very positive, there we benefit. On the other hand, we are of course feeling the effects of this extremely tense economic situation and we all hope that we can get back into a situation as quickly as possible, where we can move again without major restrictions and can take up business activities.

Corine Blesi: Felix how does it look like at the NZZ? We could read everywhere, a huge increase in readers now in March and April. The reader is looking for quality even now in this crisis. Is this sustainable growth for you and are there perhaps still two or three clouds on the horizon? Because the NZZ Group is also very broadly based.

Dr. Felix Graf: Yes Corine, it certainly has several aspects. What was certainly surprising was that we had more unique users than 20 minutes in March. This is something that I honestly could never have imagined, because 20 minutes is a rich medium, does a very good job. We are of course more niche, but I think what you see in these times is that quality journalism comes into play. People really want to be informed solidly and we have seen this user growth, this subscription growth and we are of course very happy about that. We will have to see in the next few months how sustainable it is. What is good is that younger people in particular interact so naturally with the brand, with the experience. Something that used to happen in the past via parents and the newspaper at home, which is less the case in the digital world. So from that point of view it’s certainly a positive part. A more negative part is that we are also involved. We would like to have normal conferences, normal interaction platforms, and are now to a certain extent also forced to go into the virtual world. This has its positive sides, because you can do a lot of things there, as the dialogue we are conducting today shows. But there are other things where we are really convinced that it is important to get together again. And accordingly, it is also important that we really try to make this possible again there. One thing that certainly hits us very hard is the slump in the advertising market, which is still an important pillar of our profitability. And there we have seen, similar to what Christian described before, that the whole gastronomy, tourism and travel sector as well as car suppliers and cars have collapsed. And these are rather premium products, where we as NZZ Mediengruppe of course feel very strongly, or our participation / in television, radio business felt very strongly. From there a very split picture. It is certainly strategically good what is going on in the user market. But these sales losses and especially the profitability losses, they really hurt. And for an industry like the media, which is right / is right now, this is not entirely unchallenging.

Corine Blesi: Yes. Corine Blesi: Good. So everyone has certain things that are going well. Other difficulties of course. I think that sums it up a bit. I want to get into your statements. Felix You said the purpose is extremely important in this difficult context and also in this context for remote work. What is the purpose of the NZZ and why do you think it is so important now in this difficult time?

Dr. Felix Graf: I believe what helps a company tremendously, and this is not something new, but it has certainly become more important for the new generation, in the past, making money was one of the most important elements. That was an issue in the last 40 or 50 years. Nowadays especially young talents have the opportunity to go to different companies and therefore they are much more concerned with the question: Where do I go to work? And what connects me? And in the NZZ I think the company where I was now, I have been in some companies before, but there I observe that an extremely high level of identification with the mandate, with what we want to do, with the very subject of quality journalism, informing, orienting and inspiring the public on the most diverse platforms, that is a lot / and that helps in such a time of unrest, of uncertainty to find an identity again and to work together towards a common goal. But it is also clear that the topic of trust is easier when you know that everyone is working towards the same goal. And especially in a home-office context you can control much less. In this sense, this is also a modern management style and I really believe that the Purpose theme helps, that you can then greatly simplify it. Besides all the elements that my colleagues have also mentioned.

Dr. Christian Keller: Corine I would like to take up this point again. I can underline what Felix said, that we also realize that we are all very strong on purpose, meaning. In particular, we also realize that, in addition to the whole virtual environment, if you have a broad portfolio, you cannot avoid having certain antinomic goals. And when you’re in an industry that’s very fast moving, that has short life cycles, you need a common denominator and you find that in the sense of purpose, trust. We have a slogan: Trust the license to operate in our business. And that combined with Purpose is incredibly important. Especially when you no longer have the physical exchange that we all experience now, in times like these. That can help very much to take the identification and the connection, so we notice the same thing. I can only emphasize it again, this is a very important element to be able to lead effectively in such a situation.

Corine Blesi: Beat You wrote us there are a few simple rules in the virtual tour that you have to follow. We are very curious, what does this Betty Bossy recipe for the virtual tour look like? You now have the chance to share your three-point plan or I don’t know how many there are.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Very much, very much. Of course, I was very pleased that this whole virtual team management story has become so important now. I started my dissertation back in 2002 on the topic of virtual team management and was able to study it there. And the result is that it is actually very much similar to normal leadership. I always say: people management starts with the word people. And not with Excel files and PowerPoint. These are people. And a person who is a good face-to-face people manager is usually also a good virtual team manager, because he is interested in the people who call. He makes a call once and doesn’t ask about numbers, data, growth, but asks once: “Hey, how are you doing at home? How is your home schooling going at home? “And so there is what the two previous speakers have already said about trust, which is extremely important. And you can do that above all through interaction, preferably with the camera, not only over the telephone, because that’s where you can also hear the tonality and above all the body language. And these people, who were not really good people managers before, they are usually not, or even less so in a virtual context. But what I meant with the statement is that we live in a world of massive overload. If you look, we all never really learned to deal with these media. Suddenly there was email, suddenly there was whatsapp, suddenly there were shared drives. And everybody started working around it a little bit. But if you do the analogy of driving a car, where everyone has to pass a driving test to know what is the blind spot, what is the stopping distance, are we driving left or right? Because with these rules you can drive a car quite well. We don’t have that in the digital world, and that’s why there is the issue of triple overload, which I keep calling the people have far too much data. Research has shown that people spend two to two and a half hours a day looking for information. Not in one piece but spread over the whole day. Be it an attachment version 3, final 1, final 7, final 9, you don’t know, is there a final 12? One sends it via Whatsapp, this one via Teams, this one has it on Dropbox. We lose so much time because we didn’t agree, what do we need where, when and how? Then we spend most of our time in meetings and in the inbox reading and sending e-mails. And the worst thing is that we get distracted and interrupted every three minutes on average. These are the three overload areas that I once described in a paper. The solution is not really a Drivers License, but a Communication Drivers License. Where you say for yourself as a team, or even as a company, but at least once as a team, once: “Hey, when do we send e-mails and when not? Why do we not send attachments? ” Because of the version conflict. So we send cloudlinks. And if someone doesn’t know what a cloudlink is, we just have to teach him. But once you agree on the most important, most basic ways of communication, also that the calendar is open, that you can find appointments more easily, that you don’t make an appointment entry and send an e-mail with the agenda separately or in the e-mail with attachments, where I need half an hour to prepare for a meeting, but have everything in the calendar entry, the agenda, pre-meetings, everything, you can work much more productively and then it’s much more fun remotely.

Corine Blesi: So it’s a bit like a new work hygiene and certain basic rules or a basic understanding of when to use all these different tools and what is important when, right?

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Right.

Corine Blesi: Christian, how does it look like with you? I mean, these are some questions of efficiency and effectiveness. How can you make sure as a leader that you achieve these goals and still be productive with all the overload that Beat just did?

Dr. Christian Keller: Well, I can only agree. It needs rules of conduct, as Beat has also clearly stated. Then of course there are role-specific things that are relatively easy to measure and are effective when someone is in sales, numbers do the talking. You can see that, you can see that. It becomes more difficult when certain qualitative or softer factors are involved. This is also the challenge, where you have to develop a feeling for the situation, a methodology, when you say from a presence work to a distance work, it can be that you say you regularly make so-called coaching calls, where you say we are in progress, let’s look at the progress of the activity. Are there any problems? Where can you help? Where do you need support of any kind? Does it need another specialist? Do you need financial means? And develops a good feeling for the progress of an activity, even if it is not exactly measurable in numbers. And that has to do with the Matura, how people can handle such work equipment. There are certain teams where it is easier, they are used to it and it works very well. Then there are people, teams, where it is somehow more difficult and I think that fits in very well with the question asked by a participant: How do you create a certain proximity? What we have deliberately done, also in communication, is not only to communicate numbers, data, facts, or where things are going, but also to deliberately make vessels where people say, I’ll just call once if I’m otherwise having a conversation at a coffee machine. How does it work, what is the environment like, what are your challenges in the area of working at home? Are there any difficulties? Can you help? Is there something missing in the setting? On the one hand you can create a certain closeness, on the other hand you can get an idea how this person is doing, are there difficulties etc. So this is something you have to approach. It needs rules of conduct, I can only support what Beat said. We also find that out. Apart from the clear, and here I also meant with the transparent communication, when you communicate virtually, it is sometimes more difficult, you don’t have all the facial expressions, body language, also through the presence you have and that is very important that it is consistent and that people get used to it. That you have a rhythm in it, when do you communicate, how do you communicate and to be able to create a certain security in a very uncertain time. And to be able to deal with that. We have a vote, maybe as a conclusion to this, we always say it’s about communicating facts, but not exaggerating the crisis, overamplifying it, but really saying what is that you can also honestly stand by it if you don’t know something, where you are uncertain and clarify it. And that creates trust through these virtual possibilities and then also a certain, I would say a certain security, in these volatile or difficult times.

Corine Blesi: Felix, what do you feel, is there a paradigm shift in corporate management? People say a lot of things – now the hierarchical levels are becoming a little flatter. On the video screen, all employees are the same. You no longer have these seating arrangements at the meeting table and so on. There are a lot of things that are changing very quickly now. Do you have the feeling that this is the time when everyone is in this virtual environment, or will this change certain organizational structures in the long term?

Dr. Felix Graf: I’m not sure that the screens automatically flatten that out from the guide. I think it’s more what I notice is that in classic leadership, the teams have very often limited each other and have exchanged less. This means that we have a significantly higher level of communication between the divisions, partly due to this virtualization. And I find that extremely exciting. Both between managers and between people. Of course I wish that this would be taken away again. I think we are also in a phase long enough to see the benefits. There are certainly other aspects. A few questions have also come in. How can we ensure that the performance is maintained? How can we ensure proximity? How do you deal with people who may not be using these tools optimally? The last one there I think that’s what we’re going to teach and that’s what Beat also said, we just have to learn to work with these tools. There are situations where one works and the other doesn’t. For some it works better. And then we just have to find the appropriate channels. But I think basically, what we are going through here is an enrichment, purely communicative, as long as we manage to function properly.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: I can only agree with this statement. This question was also asked by one of the participants: How do you create proximity? At the end of the day, we are not robots, but humans. And people not only like Excel files and PowerPoint, they also like a little entertainment. And that is why they prefer a little infotainment instead of information. How did we do that at Swisscom? I told two people a week: “So now we’re having a team meeting with all 300 people all over Switzerland in my area, we’re doing a few updates and then there’s a concert. The first Swisscom Live on Air concert. Who wants to play something? And I had four or five people relatively quickly who simply said: “I play guitar well, I’ll play something for you. “Someone else made piano. And so we had a super nice Friday night and we could start the weekend. Two weeks ago we did the same thing. Did I say, “Who can give us their best recipe? ” Within a few minutes I had seven people saying, “I’ll show you the best recipe for three minutes. ” And so you create closeness despite distance. Because everybody knows that we’re human beings back home. And people don’t like the pretence in the shop, the mask and the façade. People like transparency, honest, credible people and a little fun is part of it. And that’s something you can play or at least orchestrate as a boss, and I’ve received very good feedback from people that you can do things like that at Swisscom.

Dr. Christian Keller: And I can only take up this point. We have noticed that, too. The fun aspect and the playfulness must not be neglected. We have a super athlete with us, a top athlete a former athlete, who has done fitness training online over lunchtime. He took the family members with him, word has got around within our group that / has dialed in. Then virtual coffee or even once the environment has shown. That is all absolutely important. You just have to make sure that it is not only about video clips. That is then afterwards again the danger, if it is exaggerated, the healthy balance but I can only support that, that works very well, is very much appreciated. That the human aspect also comes out and you can see that not everything is perfect. You can stand by it and it relaxes a lot and creates confidence in the technology that it will later become natural. We use the Slack Channel very much, it has an incredible renaissance / although the virtual is very fast, which we didn’t have otherwise. It’s really a both and.

Corine Blesi: Well, there are also many difficult situations. One is to work a little on the team spirit, to create this closeness, that is all part of leadership. There are also perhaps difficult staff meetings or dismissals in these difficult times, where you have to make a statement. Where many people have thought before, no, that’s impossible on video, it’s impersonal. You simply have to do certain things personally. What do you think about that? Has it changed in these seven weeks?

Dr. Felix Graf: Yes, if I may begin there. I had to give notice via video calls. This is extremely unpleasant, but the situation simply demanded it. There are certainly situations that are simple in interpersonal terms. I think a similar situation is in the sales area, when you have never seen a person. There it is also easier if you can interact with the person, if you can look them in the eye. Not only to experience this two-dimensionality. But in the end we are in the situation we are in. And then we all have to try to deal with it. And that’s where what Beat but also Christian said before, also the / is I think the decisive factor, the decisive factor. And the other people also know that we don’t do that because we simply want to fob it off, but because we don’t have any alternative at the moment. And accordingly it is also accepted. But these are certainly situations that will no longer happen in everyday life, or will happen less.

Dr. Christian Keller: I can only underline this Felix. There have also been situations in our company where we have had to give notice of termination online, because there was no other way to do it in this situation. We have also been doing a lot of applications online for a long time. Now perhaps less in Switzerland, which is also culturally conditioned, that it would not be possible otherwise because of the quantity, especially in the Asian region, where people exchange ideas in the group. For the younger generation this is quite normal, not a thing, for others more. It depends very much on the situation. How you use it, when you get out of it, there is certainly the element where you do it traditionally again, because it is simply fairer. But business life goes on, even in the current situation, and you have to try to make the best of it.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: I would like to go one step further. For example, I always deliberately take three steps in application processes. In the first interview, even if the candidate lives across the street, I only use the telephone. Because I want to feel how he comes across, because you often have to communicate with customers over the phone, and I don’t want to be influenced by an expensive suit or any other stereotypes. I just want to experience this person purely verbally and communicatively. There I give up two or three small questions, a listening test, because during my dissertation I analyzed about 3500 e-mail and application conversations over four years and found out that many people can’t even listen anymore. If you ask them two clear tasks, things you can google, it’s not about the answer, but my assignment was: Please repeat the question again in a maximum of five sentences. That is actually the test. And over 60 percent of people, regardless of age, even 40+, 50+ do not repeat the question again and write seven pages. If they can’t listen to a telephone conversation in a job interview, to such a clear exercise in concentration, then they can’t do it in everyday life at team meetings afterwards either. And there you can actually sort out most people like that. The second interview is then deliberately via video conferencing, even if this person lives across the street, because I also want to see how this person can cope with these tools. And then, the last two or three candidates, there is then a face-to-face conversation. I do this very specifically, use these channels, because I want to see something specifically at each stage, or not see something, in order not to be influenced.

Corine Blesi: Exciting. There is another very exciting question coming in from Jan Aebi: What do the leaders of the future look like? Do you have the feeling that there is a change, that you might also look at other skills when you hire or promote leaders in the future?  Or will it stay the same?

Dr. Christian Keller: From our point of view, a manager today must be able to handle electronic tools. That is simply an integral part of today’s business. Now, of course, you can say that this depends gradually on the industry you are working in. But I imagine a future without the use of electronic means, including the ability to handle them and use them correctly, to be very, very difficult. So from this point of view, this is a continuous development that a manager has to bring along. But then, as before, and here I would like to take up the point you made Beat at the beginning, the human being is still the human being as it was thousands of years ago. He has feelings, he has empathy. That is incredibly important. And let’s realize that, regardless of this crisis, we can still be as digital as we like, at the end of the day, people interact with other people and it depends very much on what they bring with them and a manager still has a role model function in our or my opinion and it is the combination that makes it so important to be able to handle these facets with the new tools, tools, but also to be authentic, to be credible, is an important asset in these times where a lot happens digitally or virtually.

Dr. Felix Graf: I can underline that. Another aspect that brings Marc Lang, sali Marc, via chat is, we shouldn’t forget interaction, this example from Beat earlier, and focus everything on work. Because it’s precisely the human interaction that’s all the more important. And the risk. I don’t know about you, but I notice that you start at half past seven in the morning, plan until eight in the evening, and then you are fully concentrated. In the end, you’re tired and you’ve had no more human interaction. That’s why I think that’s an important element. Which is certainly not a trivial thing to build in, and there we all have to become even better at how to use all these means of communication to actually define this/these better and learn to deal with them as a society. That is an important addition.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: I think it is important in this context because we are now living in an extreme situation, and I think that at least the pendulum will swing back a little. But still, we just did a survey yesterday and saw at Swisscom how many people actually think it’s great because you can have breakfast with your family in the morning, you can maybe have lunch with your family. There are also many aspects which are also very good. And we are now assuming that we will not go back to the old way, but that, because we have now been able to prove it, all these no-sayers have always said that it is not possible. Right up to VR sessions, I have already had six VR sessions about teams, that’s top-notch. All these naysayers have been proven wrong. But it is ultimately a question of dose. The dose makes the poison, Paracelsus once said, and I think that fits very well here. It is not the question of analogue versus digital and that these two forms play off each other, that is not the right approach in my opinion. The question is not whether a visit to the doctor is better face-to-face than via a mobile phone camera. The question is, if the doctor is 500 kilometres away and there is no train or plane, isn’t a video conference doctor’s visit better than nothing? That you don’t swing from one extreme to the other. And on the other hand, that you find a healthy mix. Maybe three visits to the office and two home offices, I could imagine something like that.

Corine Blesi: Which brings us to this new normal, what it looks like exactly. Partly of course also a little bit different, depending on what we have done in this time. Christian, if I may pass the ball to you, what is your feeling, in which direction is it developing?

Dr. Christian Keller: I firmly believe that we will not return to this old world one to one. The new normal will be a combination, I can only underline what you said Beat. We also realize that. It also has certain advantages, because you have been forced to make use of these virtual tools. You can simplify certain things. I think I’m making a big question mark behind the travel activity that you had before, whether every trip is really necessary. You can also do it very well without. It also makes a positive contribution to the whole climate issue as a very nice side effect. There will be a both and. And I think this is also what the employees and the younger generation will appreciate. Also the older notabene. That you no longer have the possibility of mobile work or distance work, where now have been forced to think about it, because they have said impossible with me. Now they had to, exogenously forced, that will continue to occupy us. And therefore I believe that this will change the world of work and we will come into a natural development with the as well as. But to do everything only virtually, that also shows the limits we have now. I think everyone is looking forward to meet again in groups or in larger teams, to come to a conference, to exchange ideas again, even if it is with appropriate precautions and safety measures, that is also part of it.

Corine Blesi: Well, I think we would have almost arrived at the last question, which would simply shamefully interest me: What did you miss the most in this time? What do you really miss the most besides the exchange with people and the little chat in front of the coffee machine? Is there something where you say: “Woa on that / I really and there I am looking forward to when I am in the office again. “

Dr. Felix Graf: I myself cannot isolate anything. It’s a combination of a bunch of factors. But at the end of the day, life is also about people, and coming together with them and these spontaneous encounters. I must say that I miss them already.

Dr. Christian Keller:    I think these are also many individual parts. You walk through the office and you make a statement, you can congratulate someone. There are these little things, then I have to set the camera again, then I have to pick up the phone. This instant spontaneity of encounters, which I simply take warmly when I meet people, that’s what I miss the most.

Corine Blesi: Beat?

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: That’s the same for me plus lunch. I don’t do so much networking at big events because then you have less time, but I do lunch specifically where the other person takes someone I don’t know with them and you can get to know them specifically on both sides. That is something that I naturally miss. The exchange with new people. Because digital it is often a little bit planned, which also has many advantages. But the spontaneous, hey what do you do? And I’ve seen you somewhere before. I miss that.

Corine Blesi: Another exciting question came in: Do we have a generation gap in this remote work? Do you realize with your experiences that there is a generation gap between, I say the young ones, who are already growing up with it and know all these tools and it’s no problem if they work on teams or zoom or slack and the older ones who think, now I have to get used to something new and so on. Are you noticing that, or has it leveled off a little bit in these last seven weeks?

Dr. Felix Graf: I don’t perceive it that way. I expected him to be stronger. Well, I also found that this new normal has established itself relatively quickly, even among the older generations, even among our VRs.

Dr. Christian Keller: I don’t perceive it either, I can only agree with Felix what you say. On the contrary. Once you show them how it works, they think it’s pretty cool. I do not perceive it. I am amazed, I also thought there might be something more, also the interaction, but I was very positively surprised.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: I actually experienced something rather different and that is, it is actually the same as always. There is a threshold of inhibition. If you don’t know something, then you say yes, no, you come up with some excuse, if we’re honest, why you don’t spend five minutes on it. But when you have to do it then, like now, a lot of positive things happen. For example, I have received feedback from two VR people who said: “You, I hear it better. “Because at the long VR table I only hear the one next to me and the further away they are, I don’t hear the people as well. With the earplug, I can hear everyone equally well. Other people have told me, “I see it better. “Because I have my double screen at home, high resolution, I am very close, I see it much better than those little slides sometimes that are far away on that wall. So I’ve just noticed an enthusiasm and fascination with people who have never done this before, where they said: “That’s not difficult at all. “I click on a link, I see all of them, I hear it better, I see it better and the eternal plugging of the computer and then again the beamer is not recognized and then you have to restart. And you don’t have to reboot, because anyone can simply do screenshare. Well, I have actually experienced the opposite, rather a fascination of those who had to do it once.

Corine Blesi: Good, great. So yes, I think that would also be a nice conclusion, a little bit of open-mindedness and mental flexibility. I believe that even in such difficult situations, in the end, something good can be achieved. I would like to thank Christian, Beat and Felix very much for their openness to take part here but also to share their experiences. I think this is not a matter of course, because it is also very personal. And of course I wish you all the best personally, but also IBM, Swisscom and of course NZZ for the coming months. I would also like to thank the listeners for this active participation and for taking part. We will continue with the SEF next week. Talk at the same time at the same place. And of course I would be happy if as many as possible would switch on again. In that sense, have a great evening and see you soon. Merci many times.

Dr. Christian Keller: Thanks Corine, likewise.

Corine Blesi: Ja merci.

Dr. Beat Bühlmann: Likewise, merci, farewell to each other.

Dr. Felix Graf: Thank you all.


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