Young smiling father works from home typing on his computer while holds his son while they both watch screen.

Remote Work during the Lockdown

Alla Serebrina

Alla Serebrina

Reading time: 6 minutes

One year of Corona lockdown at consistency management consulting

A year ago, we completely fulfilled the cliché idea of a management consultant: From Monday to Thursday, we were on site with our clients, whether as subject matter experts, coaches or scrum masters. On Fridays, home office was already planned for most colleagues. And then, on 18 March 2020, came the first Covid 19 lockdown, which heralded a new working era for many companies. Thanks to years of experience in advising companies and teams, some of which were successfully working on different continents, we were able to make the transition to virtually 100% home office comparatively smooth. Our in-house MS Teams became the linchpin of our collaboration. But what about team cohesion and the interpersonal-social component that is essential in management consultancy? What role does the absence of contacts play in the coaching process? Can digital appointments really effectively replace face-to-face meetings? Read more about this in this blog post!

Home office vs. remote work in management consulting

On Fridays, most of us were already working from home before the Covid 19 permanent lockdown, allowing us to prepare for the end of the week and the start of the next. Thanks to this working model, the transition to complete work-from-home (aka remote work) went easily at consistency, technically speaking. The main challenge for us, as probably for many workers in this isolation situation, was structuring the new daily routine and giving up real contact with colleagues and clients. We have reviewed the last few months and compiled what has helped us in this regard:

1. virtual coffee and lunch breaks: at consistency, we value close cohesion and enjoy the family atmosphere very much. This makes it all the more difficult for us to do without contact with our colleagues and customers. We have therefore found other ways to maintain contact. For example, we use part of our breaks to drink coffee together in front of the laptop camera and just chat, whether work-related or not.

2. own routines: The picture at the beginning of the article made the whole world smile last year, yet the statement in it is true. Those who work in their pyjamas and without a proper breakfast – especially as management consultants who act as role models for their clients – lack the separation between work and private life in the remote office. Here, everyone should find their own measure: The colleague with small children, for whom there is also home schooling, will structure his or her everyday life differently than the single colleague. Flexibility is the word of the day here.

3. team events: virtual escape games have shot through the roof in 2020, just like individualised everyday masks and home workout equipment. We’ve also been on board with the remote event trend with both consistency and our project teams. And they really work! Whether it’s a guided online Escape Room event or the obligatory gin tasting. We also developed and implemented our own formats, so that even the annual Christmas party – in remote – didn’t fall through. Even if it wasn’t an equivalent substitute for a real party, of course…

Travelling professionally as a management consultant in corona times

The new situation without project-related travel was unusual for many of us, as travelling to our clients was simply part of the job. Like everyone else, we now only travel when it is absolutely necessary. Now we use the travel time differently, for example for a morning yoga or workout session, internal tasks or to turn over in bed before the home office routine. But even today, travelling cannot always be completely avoided; the start of a project or a notary appointment demands personal presence after all. But our first commandment is: safety first and regular tests are a new part of face-to-face meetings. By reducing travel, we also reduce our CO² emissions. Keeping this in mind and reducing it has always been important to us, but Covid-19 has certainly set an impulse for everyone to consider what could be improved in the future. We are using this occasion to look at further measures to reduce our carbon footprint.

Remote consulting via Teams, Mural & Co.

Every challenge also offers opportunities to learn. For us, this was reflected in the virtual consulting reality: we have been able to increase our digital facilitation and workshop expertise enormously. We now have an extensive remote methodology toolbox and have workshop formats available digitally that we could previously only imagine in a face-to-face environment.
The creativity we have unleashed for development now helps us to get almost everything up and running virtually via Teams, Mural, Mentimeter, etc.

(Agile) coaching in lockdown – people need people

Some of our projects started in the Covid-19 time and some colleagues therefore only got to know their teams virtually. A crazy situation, since our profession as management consultants is a lot about people and relationships. We have learned that this is also possible. Nevertheless, there are constellations that are not ideal remotely, for example feedback and coaching, because most of the information flows non-verbally here. This means that the body language of the other person remains almost completely hidden from us, and facial expressions are only available to us to a limited extent.
Moreover, in very rare face-to-face meetings, we realise that the efficiency of real interpersonal exchange cannot be replaced by video calls. Although we are well equipped to support our clients during the difficult Covid-19 period, we look forward to more physical meetings and face-to-face contact again in the hopefully near future.

The future of management consulting after Covid-19

At the moment, there are increasing signs that the Covid-19 lockdown will change the everyday life of most management consultancies, even in the medium to long term. This is because the day-to-day business of our clients will also change: Many companies are already planning to reduce mandatory weekly attendance days for their employees. Therefore, external consultants will certainly no longer have to be on site as often, but will continue to provide their consulting services to a large extent in virtual meeting rooms.

And just as we used to spend just one day in the home office, we may be more likely to travel to the office now and then. And particularly enjoy this: the closeness of people, the office gossip over coffee, the fireworks of ideas in the on-site workshop, and yes, also the travelling.

What experiences have you had in your companies in the lockdown? What got you through the isolation best?
Or maybe you need new ideas on how to make collaboration in your remote teams even better, more efficient or more creative? Feel free to contact us!

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