This is how managers and employees become crisis-proof

Dusseldorf There are people we admire for their mental strength – Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of them for many: banking, euro, refugee crisis – and now the corona pandemic. Merkel remains level-headed, less emotional and exudes a well-dosed, factual optimism.

The Chancellor has proven herself in times of crisis, and her critics have become louder in quieter times. Especially in difficult times, the physicist seems to have enormous reserves of strength. How does it work?

A specialist discipline in psychology helps to clarify the question. Researchers have analyzed why some people are able to cope with serious crises in a psychologically robust way, while others are completely thrown off track. It is about the different levels of ability to cope with stress, that is, psychological resistance or “resilience”, as it is often called in technical language.

Not only the current corona crisis with its omnipresent health risks and the often unfamiliar home office situation is an example of how important it is to remain calm and confident. Otherwise it is also necessary to deal with stressful situations: conflicts with the boss, the failed project, dismissal. Or in private: disputes, divorce, loss of relatives.

But how do we manage to deal with crises constructively?

“A certain proportion of our personal stress resistance is genetically determined,” says Michael Kastner. The head of the Institute for Occupational Psychology and Occupational Medicine in Herdecke knows that those who have a balanced nature, are intelligent and open, who recognize opportunities even in difficult situations, tend to have it easier in crises, studies show.

Michael Kastner (medical doctor and psychologist)

“Resilience can be trained like muscles.”

(Photo: IAPAM)

But “resilience”, and that’s the good news, can be learned to a certain extent. Medical doctor and psychologist Kastner has good news for everyone who has not been put into crisis-resistant properties: “Resilience can be trained like muscles.”

There are special coaching offers for managers and employees – like Jutta Heller’s in Nuremberg. The 58-year-old says: “People who have problems in crises should not struggle too much with the situation.” It is about consciously switching off the dark spiral of thought.

Because even in a crisis you can learn to be optimistic, says Heller. Sometimes it helps to perceive the beautiful things in life again – for example through a joy diary. There are three things noted down every day that you were happy about. “That strengthens the inner state – and the resilience.”

Experts also advise you to deliberately distance yourself from the news ticker in order to switch off. A current European study by the Mainz Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research shows how important this is. For example, 93 percent of those surveyed stated that they felt stressed by media reports in the corona crisis.

Managers and employees should also try to get out of the victim role. It is helpful to consciously reflect on your strengths. Anyone who remembers how they have mastered crises in the past can rediscover them in this analysis.

Jutta Heller (Resilience Coach)

“People who have problems in crises should not struggle too much with the situation.”

(Photo: Ingo Förtsch)

In addition, organizational psychologist Kastner advises people to exercise a lot, sleep well and, if at all, only enjoy alcohol in a well-dosed manner. Rewards are important, for example, for the fact that long-standing work has finally been done. But then reading a good book or taking a walk is often more positive.

What Kastner recommends in the current situation: to create a daily routine. It starts with getting up and getting dressed and goes into clearly defined phases of work and leisure. This offers security, predictability, predictability and fills the day with meaning. This could “reduce fears or feelings such as helplessness or loss of control”.

Stable social contacts – family, friends, colleagues, clubs – also help in difficult times. Those who share their fears and worries with someone become more resilient. Especially in the crisis, it is important to actively maintain social contacts – in order to be able to drop into your social network.

More: Home office, short-time work, layoffs: this is how Corona changes the world of work


How companies can implement health and safety standards

Berlin In order to enable the slow recovery of the economy despite the still high risk of infection, the Federal Cabinet passed Covid 19 occupational safety standards on Thursday. “We must not let go, we are far from over the mountain,” said Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD). There is no return to normality anytime soon.

For example, employers must ensure that employees in buildings, outdoors and in vehicles keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters and that colleagues do not get too close to one another in the company or during breaks – for example through barriers, markings or access regulations.

When contacts are inevitable, employers are required to keep nose and mouth covers available for employees, but also for customers or service providers. In addition, they have to provide sufficient washing facilities and disinfectants and particularly protect risk groups in their workforce.

Heil also appealed to the employees to protect their colleagues from infection: “The principle applies: never get sick to work,” said the Minister of Labor. The President of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Isabel Rothe, explains how government regulations can be implemented in an interview with the Handelsblatt.

Read the full interview here

Ms. Rothe, how do you rate the decisions of the Federal Government and the Prime Ministers regarding the corona exit?
A differentiated, balanced and appropriate solution was found – also from the point of view of health protection. I greatly appreciate that politicians seek and take into account the advice of science from a wide variety of disciplines. We are of course particularly pleased that Federal Minister of Labor Heil today announced additional mandatory occupational safety standards.

In your view, what are the requirements for working life in workshops and offices to return to normal?
If not yet done, the decisions on infection protection in the company must be specified and implemented together with the occupational health and safety experts in a sector-specific and company-specific manner. Hygiene standards and distance regulations must also be strictly observed in working life.

How should that work in the open-plan office or a workshop?
There are many ways to minimize contacts in everyday work, for example through technical measures to separate work areas, relaxing core working hours, home office, working time corridors or shift schedules. When working in shifts, it should be ensured that the same colleagues always work together to limit the risk of infection. And even in factories that are largely fully automated, the seating must be kept at a distance in break rooms.

Do the hygiene standards generally have to be tightened?
For example, we need sufficient short breaks and sanitary facilities in the factories to enable hygiene and hand washing even more frequently. Increased cleaning intervals help to reduce the risk of infection. Wherever components are handed over despite organizational and technical measures, gloves must be mandatory. And there are also structural protective measures such as the plexiglass panes that we see at many supermarket checkouts, for example.

Isabel Rothe

The occupational and organizational psychologist has headed the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Baua) since November 2007.

(Photo: Sylwia Wisbar)

Should companies keep employees working from home?
Wherever possible, yes. However, we recommend switching to presence phases in the factory or office. Because contact with colleagues or the boss is an important means of good work organization and, above all, coping with stress. And at the moment, employees have a lot of stress, from worrying about their own health or that of relatives, fear of losing their job, to overtime and overwork.

Can the economy be adequately prepared for a pandemic like the current one?
The topic of the pandemic is not new in the companies, especially in the larger companies there are corresponding plans. But Covid-19 eclipses everything we’ve seen in the recent past. Of course, many would now like to have large supplies of protective masks in their closets, but hardly anyone has that.

Should breathing masks be worn in the office and factory?
Wherever the distance regulations cannot be adhered to consistently, covering the mouth and nose makes sense. It helps to protect employees and customers. However, respirators should be reserved for medical personnel.

What should happen if illnesses occur in the company?
It is imperative that the employer adheres consistently to the stipulations of the responsible health authority. Contact persons are systematically identified here and quarantine measures may also be arranged among colleagues. It is just as important to warmly welcome colleagues once they have survived their illness; a risk of infection can then be excluded.

More: Health protection in the company is strict, but there is no alternative.


This is how a boss establishes a good home office culture in times of Corona

San Francisco, Dusseldorf Katharina Borchert is sitting in a conference room in Mozilla’s headquarters in Mountain View. On the back wall is a large video conferencing screen. It is the end of February, one of the last days before the fear of the corona virus finally reaches Silicon Valley. A day before Facebook Thousands of employees on his campus in nearby Menlo Park “strongly recommended” to only work in their home office.

For Mozilla, which offers Firefox, the third most widely used Internet browser in the world, this is hardly anything new. Founded in 1998 as a foundation company on the ruins of the browser pioneer Netscape, it has its origins in the voluntary open source movement, whose headquarters have always been the Internet. Many employees started from anywhere in the world as programmers on individual projects and did not move to California when they got a permanent job at Mozilla.

The 50-person team that heads innovation chief Borchert writes codes for Firefox and has developed “Common Voice”, the second largest open source database for voice recordings, which can be used, for example, to train smart assistants.

The 47-year-old is the only one who comes to the Mountain View office. She likes to do that. She holds video conferences with the others, sometimes due to the time difference from walking in the morning until late at night. “The phone is extremely unsuitable,” she says. A video conference helps to avoid misunderstandings and confusion – if it works properly.

The employees work in nine time zones, in offices, coworking spaces or at home. Her former “Chief of Staff” called his office a forest hut in northern Sweden, others are based in Mumbai or Munich. Even her personal assistant works in nearby San Francisco, but saves the commute down to Silicon Valley.

A few weeks later, many companies around the world are Mozilla – forcibly. Because of the corona pandemic, companies in which stamping has just taken place must make friends with conference calls and trust-based working hours.

Bosses, who otherwise measure productivity by the office chair occupancy rate in their aisle, are now sitting in the home office themselves. Work routines, working hours, informal hierarchies, coffee gossip – everything has to be rearranged.

Home work par ordre du virus – it is a gigantic social experiment that could change the work culture far beyond the corona crisis. If companies succeed in integrating telework productively into their processes, employees who want it could stay at home most days. Workers with children could save themselves the triangulation of the house – daycare center – office in the morning. And city centers could be cleared of gray office complexes and commuter traffic in the long term.

If it fails, the looming economic crisis also creates a productivity crisis for millions of companies and employees who lose their minds between Slack news, zoom conference and changing diapers.

Many bosses distrust the employees in the home office

Borchert knows German offices – the ex-journalist was editor-in-chief of the news portal “Der Westen” in the Funke media group and managing director of Spiegel Online. In Germany there is a mistrust of whether employees in the home office really work. Even in the companies that Borchert was running at the time, she was never able to establish another culture. “I got my team to teach me what good remote leadership is,” she says.

And what makes it special? “You have to document a lot more – team norms, processes and conferences,” notes Borchert. If she writes an email at the weekend, she points out that she doesn’t have to answer until Monday. Borchert is only allowed to hold conferences with Europe until 10 a.m. – if the employees do not allow an exception. If someone sends a message in the Office Messenger Slack to all members of a channel, a bot will automatically inform them of the different time zones in which the members are and who may therefore no longer read them.

In general, Slack-Bots do a lot at Mozilla: Every Monday morning, one of the employees asks what important projects they did last week, what they want to do this week and whether there is anything personal that they want to share – the latter to get the gossip out of the Transfer coffee break to the virtual office.

When many new members joined Borchert’s team, the “donut bot” chose a different colleague every two weeks, with whom they could go for a coffee via video conference.

These are not just emergency nails, Borchert insists. Nor are they ideas that only work in the software industry or in a non-profit company. On the contrary, this culture brings advantages that have nothing to do with homework. For example, new employees could be integrated more easily because they know where to find important information or who is responsible for what – because the otherwise unspoken laws of a team are pronounced.

“In the office, the team norms wobble implicitly through the room,” says Borchert. “If you can no longer just go down the aisle, you have to make it much more explicit.” And honestly, how many companies organize coffee dates between old and new employees – whether by bot or on the bulletin board?

Mozilla is known worldwide, but a fairly small fish in Silicon Valley. A much larger campus also has its Mountain View campus and is courting employees similar to Mozilla. “I don’t have to go with Google compete to find the best machine learning talent from Stanford, ”says Borchert. “There are equally good people in Bulgaria or India.”

Google and Facebook are also popular

In the valley of inventors and developers, all factors for a strong homework culture seem to come together: a young, digitally educated workforce. Jobs where output counts instead of hours spent. And the tough talent competition, the gigantic property prices and salaries reward a globally distributed colleague.

But a strong homework culture is not a question of geography: Google, Apple or Facebook are digital companies, but they are by no means purely digital companies. With its gigantic headquarters such as the Googleplex, the U-shaped Apple Park or the Salesforce Towers have just built the Silicon Valley giants of the culture of the Cathedrals bulk office.

Before Corona, even Facebook employees with children who often wanted to work from home could often only stay in the home office for one day. In a telephone press conference, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that working at home with his wife and two children was also a major change for him.

This applies to his company, which even offers a platform for distributed teams with Facebook Workplace, all the more: After the home office order, Facebook employees got into a dispute as to whether discussions about which weekly market sells the best seeds belong in the internal work forums or Not. A kind of discussion that not only Facebook is currently experiencing.

“The big corporations here are just that: big corporations,” says Aaron Levie. The 34-year-old founded the cloud service provider Box in 2005 as a student, he knows Silicon Valley and its culture very well. “The companies here have all digital tools, but they face many questions of the same kind: How do we guarantee IT security if thousands of employees suddenly access our network from outside?” He says. Many people in the area around San Francisco have emergency plans for earthquakes, but not for a pandemic.

For the video call, the founder sits in his living room under an abstract drawing. It is the end of March, in the boxing center in Redwood City, right next to the railway line between San Francisco and Palo Alto, has only been an emergency occupation for fourteen working days.

Why does a company like Box need a head office? Levie speaks of spontaneous collaboration, of flipcharts that you can quickly stand up to. But he also says, “We’ll think about it very differently after Corona.”

He is currently learning in real time how telework is changing culture for the better. The weekly general meetings, in which most employees took part personally, now take place virtually. “More questions come from more different people. It’s more collaborative than it used to be, ”says Levie.

Perhaps it is Californian optimism to want to wrest positive things out of the crisis. Perhaps it is the business opportunities that a cloud entrepreneur like Levie sees through a trend towards remote work. But even if it is primarily software companies that promote a stronger remote culture, few of the reasons are limited to their industry. It is not only developers who prefer to put their children to bed than to be stuck in the commuter train at this time.

The result is more important than the hours worked

Of course, like many things, Silicon Valley companies are more keen to experiment. There are companies, like the developer network Gitlab, of three Ukrainian entrepreneurs who ended up in San Francisco through the start-up academy “Y Combinator”, but still call themselves “Remote Company” as companies without headquarters.

And there are corporations like Facebook that have to get used to the diaspora enforced by Corona just like some medium-sized companies or Dax companies.

At the same time, there are companies with a strong culture of remote working not only in the Laissez-faire state of California, but also in Germany. This includes, for example, the cloud provider Nextcloud. The company’s open source software is used, among other things, by the federal government for data exchange between authorities.

“We have an office in Stuttgart and one in Berlin, but our employees mainly work from home – sometimes across several time zones,” says Nextcloud founder Frank Karlitschek. For example, a colleague lives in Hawaii.

The 55 employees are used to agreeing on digital channels. “Home office requires that a company think results-oriented. I cannot check how long an employee works or how long breaks they take, ”says Karlitschek. In the end, the results counted and not the hours worked. “We don’t care who works where, when and for how long.”

In addition, the company relies on a way of working that can also be delayed. “Our processes also run asynchronously. We have few classic meetings. That’s why we work with chats. ”Agreements or tasks could be shared there, which an employee then takes up as soon as he has time – for example because he lives in a different time zone and is therefore awake at different times.

However, the Nextcloud team cannot do without personal contact either, emphasizes Karlitschek. “We meet several times a year for a week.” This would allow personal contacts to be established and deepened, which would later facilitate agreements. Actually, all employees should come together in Berlin soon, but that won’t work because of the corona pandemic. The meeting is now taking place as a video conference.

Editor’s note: Co-author Alexander Demling worked at Spiegel Online when Katharina Borchert was managing director.

More: Despite home office and contactless payment, the pandemic is only pseudo-digitizing. But it also offers the chance to change course.


Home office, short-time work, layoffs: Corona is changing the world of work

To person: Speech therapy teacher Christine Müller *, 41, is a co-owner of a practice near Cologne. She sent her three employees on short-time work.

This is how she experiences the crisis: “With us one rejection after the other comes in, only a few patients continue their therapy. However, the few encounters are very positive. There can be no talk of a regulated everyday life: Whenever I think we have a plan, the situation changes and throws everything overboard.

I am particularly strained by the financial situation: I work more, but I am mostly busy organizing. I have just applied for short-time work for my employees. It’s not a nice feeling, but I can cover part of the cost with it. I don’t know how long we can hold out, but there will be a solution. This attitude may be naive, but it is better than going completely crazy.

What makes me positive: the exchange with my colleagues. In our profession, you actually work a lot on your own. We are currently trying to relieve each other. The team will continue to benefit from this after the crisis. ”

The expert advises: It is perfectly normal for the self-employed to be afraid. “Ms. Müller should not completely suppress her fears, but face the situation,” says Hannes Zacher, professor of industrial psychology at the University of Leipzig. Helpful: Establish a new everyday life – even if it is difficult. “Nobody can work in a state of emergency full of fear for weeks.”

Zacher advises that you keep yourself informed about current developments in order to assess threats and ways out – but only in limited time windows. The rest of the day, you should develop a routine. “It is not naive, but important to think about positive aspects,” says Zacher.

The analyst: Just don’t whine!

To person: Christian Thon * runs a branch of a large German bank and has a dozen employees. He is in his mid-30s and lives in the Ruhr area.

This is how he experiences the crisis: “I’m not worried about my job. But how long does the bank last? It gives me a headache if previously solvent customers can no longer make their payments in the long term and the share prices slip. I now work one week each in the home office and the other in the branch in order to reduce the risk of infection.

My understanding of the situation grows day by day, even if it was initially difficult for me to revive the lightness in everyday life. By now I could go on with the weekly rotation forever. Some colleagues are still struggling with the technology, but that is becoming less. Most get the best out of the situation.

I do more in the home office because there are no walk-in customers. In addition, the kitchen is closer, the sun shines in my room – unlike in the office. What bothers me is that some people who are in good health and have no financial hardships are always just moaning. And if I can wish for something: that the world emerges from the crisis in a more sustainable and digital way. ”

The expert advises: Staying pragmatic, analyzing the situation, weighing up advantages and disadvantages as rationally as possible – for industrial psychologist Zacher, Thon’s behavior is exactly the right thing to do in the pandemic. “Fear narrows the perspective and causes shock rigidity.”

Better: One should try to recognize the chances of the pandemic – like Thon. “It gives the feeling of being able to control the situation somehow.” Inappropriate pragmatism can, however, be dangerous if you downplay the real problems.

The unconcerned: Little to do, fully paid

To person: Silke Max * is a primary school teacher in the Aachen area. Initially, the 28-year-old had to go to school for emergency care, and she has been bored at home for three weeks.

This is how she experiences the crisis: “After all, I don’t have to worry about my job despite the school closing. As a civil servant, I continue to get my normal salary and know that it will continue. But I miss the job, I especially want to see my students again.

Even before the crisis, our school was not prepared for digital lessons. We don’t even have WiFi to be able to play music or videos to the children. Now that annoys me all the more: the few good apps available for primary school children are so overloaded that they don’t work.

Nevertheless, all colleagues and parents worked hand in hand here and managed to send the teaching materials to the children. I was surprised that not all children can use a computer – and that some parents don’t even have an email address.

I’d like to try online classes, but of course that’s not possible. Everything is bobbing right now, and I feel a bit useless. I have already contacted Caritas neighborhood help. ”

The expert advises: The job is safe, so is the income – civil servant status is particularly convenient in the corona pandemic. But: “A secure income alone does not make you happy,” says industrial psychologist Zacher. “Without meaningful professional activity and social contacts, our identity and quality of life will be lost.”

It is good that Ms. Max uses her free time to volunteer. “People who show solidarity get through the crisis better.”

The optimist: opportunities in the crisis

To person: Otto Linke *, 40, comes from the Ruhr area and is department head at a European-wide retail company.

This is how he experiences the crisis: “It’s a strange feeling that almost all branches in Europe had to close. We don’t make any money that long, but there are assurances from the government – although I cannot assess whether they are enough.

I am confident that the measures in China have been relaxed and normalcy is returning. I hope that we will continue on April 19th – it is already one of the biggest crises for our company. Everything that goes beyond that date, I suppress a little. After all, all colleagues are already in the starting blocks and want to step on the gas again.

I could have done without this experience, but I also see positive things: team spirit has improved and the crisis shows that we can also work well at home. I am happy to spend time with the family over Easter. That distracts from work. We had to cancel our vacation, but we have already made new plans. ”

The expert advises: “Anyone who is optimistic in the crisis will get through this time healthier,” says industrial psychologist Zacher – if optimism is appropriate. A positive-realistic attitude like at Linke helps to motivate and to make new plans. “However, if you fantasize that everything will be fine, you’re cheating yourself – and that’s unhealthy in the long run.”

Zacher advises Linke not to focus too much on April 19. “It makes sense to think in small steps, but he must not fall under the illusion that everything will be the same again from one day to the next.” The crisis is changing the world of work forever – despite all optimism.

The double burden: no longer at home alone

To person: Ute Wagner *, 46, lives in the Ruhr area and has always worked in the home office. Now the controller of a medium-sized IT company also has to take care of her six-year-old daughter – the kindergarten is tight because of the pandemic.

This is how she experiences the crisis: “The situation is difficult: my daughter misses her friends and wants to be employed. She did preschool exercises this week, but after an hour she was tired. And I have more to do every day: We have many new orders because dozens of companies buy computer technology for their employees’ home work – and I have to check the applications.

My husband is also in the home office, so I left the study to him and I’m sitting in the living room. My daughter especially keeps me there: The half-day job from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. can stretch over seven hours.

I have not yet found a strategy to balance education and work. I let the child watch TV now and then – sometimes three or four episodes in a row. “

The expert advises: Working parents and home authors are among the main victims of the crisis for career consultant and book author Cordula Nussbaum. “You are asked to do everything in your job and by the next generation. If you want to give 100 percent in both areas, you will fail. ”That is why it is currently okay to let the children watch TV longer, provided the TV program is suitable.

A sensible activity: having the children put the dishwasher in after the meal. Nussbaum advises Wagner to take turns taking care of children with her husband. “It would be better if she worked focused for three hours – and would do more than if she worked up for seven hours.”

The home office lover: Nice new home work

To person: Karsten Kurz *, 35, works in Düsseldorf as a service manager in the telecommunications industry. Even before the pandemic, he was in the home office two days a week.

This is how he experiences the crisis: “The home office saves me three hours of driving every day – time that is available to me for family and private projects. I was surprised how smoothly it runs, even though everyone is now in the home office.

What I find again and again: The work-life balance is better at home because I can react more flexibly – both in business and in private. In order not to work too much here, I have to discipline myself. Briefly interrupt the TV evening to send important information to the colleague or take the parcel from the postman – that’s okay, I think, but mustn’t get out of hand.

I have the advantage that my wife is on parental leave and taking care of our little daughter – and I can work in peace. Despite all the advantages: I lack the interpersonal, informal chat in the tea kitchen. I’ve called a few colleagues to stay in touch with them. ”

The expert advises: For career consultant Nussbaum, Kurz is very careful with home work. “He enjoys the advantages such as flexibility and time savings and is aware of the risks that work can take up too much space.” Those who sit in the home office for too long should set clear working hours and switch off their cell phones in the evenings.

It is also helpful to have a clear spatial separation so that professional and private life do not mix too much. “In order not to lose the so important floor radio and the informal exchange with colleagues, Kurz should regularly arrange a digital coffee drink via video conference.”

The unshakable: everyday life – despite Corona

To person: Andrea Eigenrauch * is a pharmaceutical technical assistant (PTA) and works in a Düsseldorf clinic. In the hospital pharmacy, the 40-year-old produces medication for cancer patients.

This is how she experiences the crisis: “I am lucky to have a job that is not affected by the crisis. Even my daily routine has not changed much due to the virus – the cancer is still there during Corona. In the breaks I have to sit separately from my colleagues and drive to the pharmacy by car, no longer by train.

A nice feeling is that I have not been infected so far, although I always have to leave the house to work. Although I do not have to worry about how I can meet the monthly costs, the crisis naturally concerns me: everything is uncertain and I am concerned about the other companies that may now be going bankrupt.

I want my friends to stay healthy, get through without losing their jobs, and hopefully we can see each other again in a few weeks or months. ”

The expert advises: The fact that Eigenrauch is happy about her personal work situation, even though others are worse off due to the pandemic, is by no means inappropriate, says industrial psychologist Zacher. “If you are lucky in the crisis and can continue your everyday life, you can be thankful and appreciate the situation.” That helps to stay mentally healthy.

There is no need to feel bad or even guilty about own smoking just because it does not affect the crisis. In such a situation, however, it is important not only to look at one’s own job, but to assess the overall situation in order to be able to react sensitively to the problems of others – just like the PTA does.

The annoyed: The pressure is out

To person: Martin Held * works as a master carpenter in a company with 250 employees in the Ruhr area. The pandemic annoys the 48-year-old.

This is how he experiences the crisis: “The company was divided into several areas. I work in project engineering and should now no longer go to the workshop or the machine room. Disinfectants are available everywhere, fever is measured every morning.

There was still a lot to do at the beginning of the crisis, but the first signs are that it will soon calm down. Then it means again: reducing overtime, taking vacation, short-time work – and hopefully no more. In the past, I had to change my job every four years because the company closed – now there are four more years … In any case, our largest customer has postponed almost all orders until the coming year. It’s frustrating!

What bothers me the most is that I don’t know when we can go back to work – hopefully that won’t be the case until late summer. The pressure is already out, some work here like in a civil servant’s booth. My initial displeasure has subsided a little: Maybe because I don’t have to go on short-time work – and now have two weeks of Easter vacation.

The expert advises: Letting off steam, being annoyed, scolding the virus – this can actually help to relieve stress in the short term as a cleansing thunderstorm and is always better than eating your anger into yourself – and maybe even becoming depressed.

“But after the controlled munching, there has to be an end,” says expert Nussbaum. “In the long term, hero should devote his energy to things that take him further.” Further training, for example. “Everything he invests in education will support him in the next crisis.”

* Name changed by the editors

More: Suddenly working from home – This is how newcomers succeed in working in their home office


Boom through home office: tech companies are reaching their limits

Dusseldorf, San Francisco Since Anton Döschl has been working in the technology sector, he has experienced a number of special situations, such as the CeBIT at their weddings or the financial crisis in 2008. The past few weeks have been “probably the most intense” in his career, says the manager. He is responsible for the IT group Cisco Sales and advice on communication and collaboration solutions, including the Webex system. And that is in demand more than ever.

Because public life is severely restricted by the coronavirus epidemic, companies send their employees to their home offices and connect them with video conferences and virtual meetings. Authorities, medical practices and schools are also dealing with the technology. Many of them contact Döschl and his team. “The number of strokes has increased enormously.”

While work is breaking out in large parts of the economy, tech companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Zoom and Teamviewer, which offer systems for virtual collaboration, are experiencing a special boom. The situation is similar with network operators like that Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone or Telefónica. Worries about a bottleneck or failures make the round.

In a conversation with the Handelsblatt a few days ago, Telekom boss Timotheus Höttges gave the all-clear: “Our network runs completely smoothly without a single major failure.” Telekom had to upgrade in some places and the fixed network in particular was in demand again.

The head of Telekom, on the other hand, saw difficulties elsewhere: “There are some services, such as video conference providers, that are reaching their limits in terms of their capacities. Sometimes it’s the capacity of corporate networks. But it’s not because of the telecommunications networks. “

While the mobile and broadband networks have so far been able to withstand the rush, there are difficulties in their places. Technicians have to upgrade the data centers regularly, the sales representatives handle the mass of inquiries.

Sometimes the systems reach their limits. Even social media like Facebook and Twitter have been in demand for a long time. The corona crisis is a technical test – but when it pays off economically is open.

Video conferencing is becoming the norm

Webex is a platform through which users can chat, hold video conferences and edit documents, much like teams from Microsoft or Zoom from the US company of the same name. Many customers are currently working on the introduction of such solutions. “They are faced with the massive challenge of getting the employees into their home office,” says Döschl, who is currently having all the conversations himself from his home office.

If necessary, video conferences are also used in politics, education and healthcare. Chancellor Angela Merkel last reported from quarantine. A university in Rome switched the lectures to distance learning for 4800 students within 48 hours. Yoga and guitar teachers can also continue teaching. And even doctors and clinics are trying out the technology.

The data traffic is growing enormously. At the De-Cix Internet hub in Frankfurt, the volume increased by ten percent within a week, and the number of video conferences even doubled during this period.

The operating company emphasizes that the core network is designed for this – as soon as a certain threshold is reached, it increases capacity. However, there may be delays for individual users.

The rush is so big that even technology giants like Microsoft or Google Book failures. Of all things, the collaboration and communication service Microsoft Teams had to struggle with greater difficulties on the first day of the numerous school closings in Germany. Other providers of video and telephone conferences have had to admit technical problems time and again.


The corona shock becomes a stress test for coworking

New York, London, Dusseldorf WeWork for a good cause – with this initiative, the New York office rental company wants to collect sympathy points these days. Non-profit organizations and companies that actively help fight the corona crisis can use WeWork offices free of charge for up to three months. “We live in unprecedented times and know that we can only move forward together,” the company said this week.

However, the offensive cannot hide the problems of the ailing start-up: Almost all of its locations in the USA and Europe are still open. However, the corridors have been swept empty in many places because of the exit restrictions.

WeWork pays its employees in the United States a bonus of $ 100 a day if they come to work despite the risk of infection and keep the buildings running.

The corona crisis brought the boom in coworking providers to an abrupt end. The recession will now show how resilient the business model is. Countless young companies have followed the pioneer WeWork and turned office floors in metropolises such as New York, London and Berlin into hip hang-outs, in order to then sublet them at an additional cost.

Now coworking providers are faced with a potentially existential problem: their tenants can terminate their contracts at short notice, but they themselves cannot get out of their long-term contracts for years.


Industry insiders expect high rental losses. “Surely the short-term contracts are currently mostly terminated or in the process of termination,” says Andreas Schulten, board member of the real estate analysis company Bulwiengesa.

At WeWork, around 30 percent of customers are estimated to have leases with one month’s notice. Brokers in New York expect that there will also be default and default among larger customers.

WeWork’s own leases for the prestigious buildings in the best locations, on the other hand, run for an average of 15 years. According to the prospectus published last June, the company had long-term rental liabilities of $ 47 billion at the time.

For WeWork, the corona shock comes at an extremely unfavorable time. Since the burst IPO in the fall, the once most valuable start-up in the United States has already been in an extremely difficult financial situation.

The major Japanese investor saved Soft bench the company in October with loans in the amount of five billion before bankruptcy. But the group does not want to fulfill the promise to buy back additional WeWork shares worth three billion dollars from existing investors.

On the night of Thursday, Softbank announced that it was refraining from the buyback. This was also linked to loans of a further $ 1.1 billion, which WeWork now has to do without.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded the company’s credit rating to risky junk last week. WeWork is “facing ever increasing cash flow and liquidity problems in the face of interrupted economic activity and a global recession,” the rating agency justified the move. And it could go further down.

The outlook is negative. “WeWork’s business model has always been very risky,” says Sven Wingerter. The head of Eurocres advises industrial companies, but also banks, insurance companies and the public sector in the conception and planning of their office space. “The high level of debt does not make it easier to master the crisis.”

Companies heavily in debt

WeWork is an extreme case, but the completely surprising corona pandemic has hit the entire industry hard. Many have recently expanded and are now sitting on large liabilities.

Chains such as design offices, spaces or Rent24 occupy many floors of high-rise buildings in some places in order to sublet them to their customers. After the start-up phase with high investments, the time of stable income should now begin for many. Corona has destroyed that for the time being.

Mark Dixon, head of global market leader IWG, admitted that the crisis will affect sales when the annual figures are presented in March. However, it was still too early to quantify the effects.

Andrew Brooke, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, expects IWG to drop 20 percent in sales in two quarters. With 3388 locations, the company has the largest network worldwide, it owns brands such as Regus and Spaces. The IWG share has plummeted by around 70 percent since the beginning of the year.

The company now has to cut costs and save cash. The dividend for 2019 has already been canceled. The plan to open 150 new locations this year must be abandoned. The company did not want to comment on the situation when asked by Handelsblatt.

In contrast to WeWork, IWG is comparatively well equipped. The company made a record £ 428 million profit in 2019. Observers are therefore confident that she will weather the crisis. “The necessary liquidity is available,” says Berenberg analyst Calum Battersby. IWG has a £ 950 million line of credit. The additional loan requirement would probably only be £ 500 million.

Coworking in the “Krämerloft” in Erfurt

The completely surprising corona pandemic has hit the coworking industry hard.

(Photo: Krämerloft)

It all depends on how severe the recession is and how long it is going to last. If many small companies go bankrupt, the occupancy rates in the office towers could drop rapidly. In order not to give tenants reason to cut contracts, many coworking providers have so far kept their buildings open – despite the initial restrictions and the infection risks for the employees.

Few tenants still come to the office. The demand for space for meetings or conferences has completely disappeared, says Stephan Leimbach, coworking specialist at the real estate consultancy JLL in Frankfurt.

Even at the beginning of the virus epidemic, these areas were often converted into office space. Because many companies had split their teams as a precaution and outsourced some of them to other premises, the need for fully equipped and ready-to-use office workplaces had even temporarily increased. But that’s over now. The vast majority of service employees currently work from their home desks.

Tough negotiations

A small consolation for coworking providers in Germany is that the tenant protection of the Corona Exception Act does not extend to their customers. Customers with current contracts are therefore not allowed to simply stop making payments.

Because the users of the coworking areas generally do not have tenant rights. The general terms and conditions of the provider Design Offices clearly state: “This contract is economically comparable to a contract for accommodation in a hotel. (…) The customer accepts that this contract does not give rise to any rental rights (…). “

In order to reduce their costs, however, the coworking providers in turn demand better conditions from the house owners: In Germany, they can defer their payments under the Corona Exception Act for three months.

In Great Britain and the USA, on the other hand, they have to conduct tough negotiations with their landlords. The CEO of London’s coworking provider The Brew, Andrew Clough, is currently in talks. Some landlords are open to postponing payments, others are not.

Experts are skeptical in New York. “The chances of this are not particularly good right now,” says Ruth Colp-Haber from broker Wharton Property Advisor. After all, practically every office tenant would just want to renegotiate contracts, especially in cities where rents are particularly high.

WeWork had organized large leases in individual special purpose vehicles years ago. In principle, they can go bankrupt without the company having to declare bankruptcy itself. So far, WeWork has not used it. “This would be an alarm signal for future and other existing landlords,” says Colp-Haber. But in the current exceptional situation, this could be an option.

After more and more co-working providers have been pushed onto the market in recent years, a selection will take place in the coming months. “The crisis will accelerate consolidation,” says Clough, whose company The Brew has been part of Rent24 in Germany since last year. “Some will not survive the shock.”

In Germany, too, it is expected that many smaller providers will go under. Among the more than 400 coworking companies are many who only offer one or two properties with shared offices for freelancers or small businesses. “There will be a thinning,” says Leimbach. “Economically weak coworking providers will have a hard time.”

In contrast, the sector as a whole is seen as a growth market in the medium term. The long-term structural trend towards flexible offices is not changing, says RBC analyst Brooke. The crisis could even lead companies to increasingly rely on flexible offices.

Consultant Wingerter is also convinced that the work experience from the corona crisis tends to increase the demand for flexible office solutions. He questions whether coworking providers benefit from this: “Corporate customers prefer the direct route to the owner – not the detour via an intermediate rental company.”

Rather, he expects conventional owners to adopt the idea of ​​short-term, service-oriented office rentals and tailor them to their and their customers’ needs.

More: The economic consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic are also affecting Germany’s real estate market.


How Amazon acts against a strike leader

San Francisco It’s a small round in that AmazonChief Jeff Bezos is currently summoning his top key managers daily to discuss the effects of the corona crisis. Neither Smalls nor Bezos would have ever dreamed that it would be about warehouse worker Chris Smalls.

But now the management of the global online retailer knows the name of the ex-employee. Smalls organized a strike last week against what was believed to be many defective corona arrangements in its Amazon warehouse in New York and many others in the United States.

Amazon then threw him out, allegedly because his protest violated a 14-day quarantine requirement after a corona infection in his circle of colleagues. According to Amazon, three employees in the warehouse are infected with the corona virus, the protesting employees claim that there are at least ten.

“Getting active cost me my job,” Smalls said later in an interview. Since then, a battle of words has raged between Amazon and Smalls. A struggle that Amazon top management would like to wage: “It is not intelligent or eloquent,” said Amazon’s chief lawyer David Zapolsky, according to a transcript from Bezos, quoted in the “Vice News”. “If the press wants to focus on a conflict between us and him, we are in a much stronger position than when we explain how we protect our workers for the umpteenth time.”

Zapolsky then argues that Amazon should explain to the public in detail why Smalls acted “immorally” and “possibly illegally”. “Make him the most interesting part of history and, if possible, make him the face of the whole union movement.” According to the report, “general consent” of the other participants is noted in the minutes.

Zapolsky confirmed “Vice News” the authenticity of the quotes, but in his answer aims again at smalls. His comments were “personal and emotional”. He was frustrated that an employee was putting his colleagues’ health at risk.

The affair over the fired protest leader could hit Amazon’s reputation hard. It’s a story of how Americans love it. The underdog against the mega-group Amazon. A proverbial little man against one of the largest companies in the world. The fact that the man’s name is Smalls is all the more beautiful.

Masks and forehead thermometers

The fact is that the online merchant’s struggle with organizing workers goes back a long way before the corona crisis. A strike in his department stores is coming at a particularly bad time for Amazon. In contrast to many other companies, the online retailer is very busy. What can no longer be bought in stores is now ordered online. In many places, Amazon has become as essential as Swiss Post. The company plans to employ 100,000 new people for its warehouses and delivery services.

But as the number of orders explodes, the company struggles to fill all shifts in its warehouses. An employee in a warehouse in Charlotte told the Wall Street Journal that at times only half of the necessary staff was present. There is also a lack of masks or disinfectants to keep the risk of infection low.

As of next week, Amazon plans to distribute masks and measure fever to all employees in European and American warehouses. Anyone with the contactless forehead thermometer showing 38 degrees or more will be sent home. Smart cameras would check whether warehouse workers keep enough distance from each other.

The spread of the corona virus and that of worker dissatisfaction are related to Amazon: Walkouts have also taken place in warehouses in Chicago and the state of Michigan. An employee from Romulus, near Detroit, told tech portal The Verge that it was rumored that Amazon was not telling people about infection. “I understand that we cannot do without us. But we can’t do without our lives either. ”

Amazon is struggling to get out of the corona crisis with a better reputation than before. On the one hand, customers around the world are learning to fully appreciate their range and delivery service during the corona pandemic. Even US President Donald Trump, who enjoys living out his rivalry with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, is now praising Amazon.

But the workers ‘protests give the company completely new political problems: Letitia James, the busy Attorney General of the State of New York, called Smalls’ dismissal “immoral and inhuman” and wants to examine measures against Amazon. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also wants the city’s Human Rights Commission to review the case.

More: Amazon supplies everyone who is stuck at home – and that supports the share.


Softbank waives billions deal with WeWork

Soft bench

The Japanese investor originally wanted to increase its stake in WeWork.

(Photo: Reuters)

Bangalore Japan’s technology investor Softbank will not meet its $ 3 billion offer of additional WeWork shares that was agreed with its shareholders last year. “The WeWork Board of Directors Special Committee was created by Soft bench, the majority shareholder of WeWork, advised that he will not complete the offer that he approved in October 2019, ”said a statement from the US-based office rental company. WeWork is “disappointed” with the development. A Softbank spokeswoman initially declined to comment.

The Reuters news agency reported last month that Softbank was considering withdrawing from the $ 3 billion offer because the company believed WeWork did not meet the terms of the deal. The WeWork Board special committee later said he was preparing to fight the Japanese company.

More: Softbank puts € 38 billion package against the stock collapse


Amazon under pressure due to strike organizer’s termination


Demonstrators in front of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Staten Island: The fired employee had started a protest.

(Photo: AP)

new York The world’s largest online retailer Amazon is at risk of being fired by an employee who had co-organized a strike for allegedly poor working conditions in the corona crisis. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday (local time) that it had ordered an investigation into the incident by the city’s human rights officer.

The fired employee had started a protest because Amazon was insufficiently protecting its employees in a warehouse in the Staten Island district of New York from the corona virus. However, the company denies this. A spokesman for the company told CNBC that the man had been fired for violating quarantine requirements and thereby endangering colleagues.

Previously, New York’s powerful Attorney General Letitia James had described the dismissal as “immoral and inhumane” and had announced that she would consider all legal options. She also called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

Amazon’s delivery services are important suppliers in the Corona pandemic in New York, but have recently been heavily criticized for their working conditions.

More: Amazon’s papers benefit from the corona crisis – at least in comparison to those of other companies.