Imagine there’s an office and nobody ever goes there

There is nothing going on in the office at 42he GmbH. But that’s not Corona-related. The Cologne-based software company has been successfully focusing on home office work since its foundation. Nevertheless, the productivity and the working atmosphere are just right. Managing Director Axel von Leitner explains his most important insights and practical tips from the last ten years of ” Remote Work”.

Just sending the employees home with a laptop and saying “From now on home office is the order of the day”, that doesn’t work. The experience has probably been made by many companies in the last few weeks, if they hadn’t already been set up for home office on a larger scale. On a larger scale means that you don’t do a day of home office every now and then, but all meetings are still face-to-face meetings and topics are discussed face-to-face.

Homeoffice – or better, “remote work” – goes far beyond that and is not just a question of the right tools, for example, as one has been reading lately. The best tools are ineffective if you have the wrong employees or no suitable mindset. What is important with Remote Work?


A central characteristic of a remote leader is trust in his or her own people. Combined with the task of making it clear to colleagues that they are trusted. That you’re convinced that they’re really working in the home office and not assuming they’re just watching Netflix. This also means that no one has to “prove” that they are actually working. Be it that he is constantly online at some tools, always answers immediately or even has to make control calls.

Personnel selection

Let’s get one thing straight: In order to be productive in the home office not only for a short period of time, a good portion of self-organization and discipline is required, as well as written communication skills. So at best, you should check before hiring to see if potential applicants bring both.

Young happy entrepreneur shaking hands with female member of human resource team on job interview in the office.

Is an applicant not only able to understand a problem, but is he also able to summarize it briefly and derive the next steps and concrete to-dos? Does he correctly estimate the times required for a task and where do he plan voting rounds? And last but not least, does one believe that the person is on fire for his job and at best also for the company? Because that is how honest you have to be: People who work to the letter and are only productive when their boss pats them on the back three times a day for motivation are not well off in the home office.

Human interaction despite physical distance

In most companies the kitchen is the hub of personal relationships in the office. But what if everyone gets their coffee from the machine at home? Then there is a deliberate need for channels where non-working people have their place. This could be a chat channel where cat photos and memes can be posted with a clear conscience or video chats just for chatting. Let’s face it, these video meetings are not going to replace the personal round at lunch or at the end of the day, but they do give you the feeling of being there, of belonging, and that there is a life outside of spreadsheets, documents and presentations in the company.

The freestyle: technology, tools and processes

That employees need business laptops should be self-explanatory. For data protection reasons alone, company data has no place on private computers. And what should then be on the computers?

At 42he, we no longer rely on Slack, contrary to the common startup-usage, but use the integrated chat in the project management tool Basecamp. There you have the possibility to extract single topics and treat them as own projects. This makes the discussions much more efficient. In the project management tool, everyone can find their own to-dos, as well as those of other colleagues.

The 42he is set to Tools to enable remote work. (Source: iStock / AndreyPopov)

We store customer data and all tasks related to sales and specific contact persons in CentralStationCRM. The marketing team also uses the CRM software for mailings and the like. For support, we rely on a proprietary development, the Central Desk ticket system. Like CRM, this tool is web-based and easy to use in a browser. Thanks to the integration with our VoIP telephony from Placetel, customer inquiries by e-mail, telephone or our online help can be processed in it, regardless of whether the support agent is sitting at home or, exceptionally, in the office. Our documents and files are also available online in the LuckyCloud.

Rules also for contacting his colleagues

Especially concerning the chat, but also the handling of personal data, it must be clear to everyone that there are certain rules to be followed. For example, everyone can “mute” group chats and is not obliged to constantly look in, but only a few times during the day. More detailed requests that are not time-critical are sent by e-mail. Only in really important moments you use direct messages in the chat or call. With remote you never know whether the person you are talking to is working in a concentrated manner or drinking coffee.
Without exception, customer data belongs in the CRM system, or in exceptional cases in the LuckyCloud. Not in mails, not in chats and not on the desktop. Since the introduction of the DSGVO, we pay even more attention to the latter.

When the measures for the Corona crisis were decided upon, we actually had to change almost nothing in our work processes. Apart from the weekly “doner day”, when most employees eat lunch together. That’s what we do online now.

Source cover image: iStock /scyther5

About the author:

Axel von Leitner is founder and managing director of the software company 42he in Cologne. With programs such as the CRM software CentralStationCRM or the reservation tool CentralPlanner, the company focuses primarily on lean and simple user solutions for small businesses.