26. October 2017

Doing Things Better!

How the people working in Adlershof stay healthy and motivated

Psychologist Annekatrin Hoppe, HU Berlin
Psychologist Annekatrin Hoppe examines what keeps workers healthy and motivated
A stressful job, pressure at home, a hectic schedule – this can put a lot strain on anyone. This can give rise to mental health issues – or even result in occupational burn out. Adlershof-based businesses show that we can do better. And a psychologist gives some helpful tips. There is virtually no fluctuation at the SLM special laboratory for applied microbiology. With its eight employees, the company is growing continuously without the team groaning under the pressure. The sickness absence rate is low. Manager Birgit Fiedler realises: “Our employees are the motor of our success.” The fact that SLM GmbH has been awarded prizes for being a family-friendly company multiple times shows how much she cares. People can combine family and career by flexibly adjusting their weekly working hours, when there are small children or elderly in need of care at home. Full-time staff can take a day off for housekeeping every eight weeks. “If the windows have already been cleaned, the weekend is completely free for once,” says Fiedler. Among other things, employees can go to doctor’s appointments during their working hours. Naturally, the whole family is invited to work parties. Having lunch with colleagues is subsidised; fruit and drinks are sponsored by the company. One thing that really grinds her gears is also a real trigger for burn-out: people staring endlessly at their smartphones. Fiedler says: “They make sure that private problems don’t leave you all day.” They increase inner tension and are detrimental to the ability to focus. The rule at SLM is that smartphones stay in the locker, while important matters can always be resolved using the office phone. Also: “A vacation is a vacation,” says Fiedler, “there is no forwarding of work e-mails. We take care of our problems on-site and not at the Baltic Sea or on Mallorca.” These measures are entirely in line with the findings of Annekatrin Hoppe, professor for psychology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. At the department of “Occupational Health Psychology”, she studies what keeps employees healthy and motivated. She calls upon companies to create good working conditions and safe jobs with adequate wages. “Ample room for manoeuvre at work, social support, appreciative leadership and leisure time,” says Hoppe. “Employees also have to ensure that they adhere to rest periods and actively shape them, for example, by meeting friends, reading a book, relaxing on the couch, listening to music or exercising.” She also strongly recommends to “turn the smartphone and work e-mails off!” She has another tip: “Going outside is especially regenerative. Adlershof offers many opportunities to do that even during short lunch breaks.” LTB Lasertechnik Berlin GmbH also provides relaxation opportunities for its staff. Moreover, the company organises a range of team events, including beach volleyball tournaments, running, foosball, staff outings and company lunches. LTB also received awards for family-friendliness. It facilitates flexibility and reconciling family and career by encouraging flexitime and part time models as well as working hours accounts. LTB covers the costs for child care up until primary school; there is an on-site day-care facility in Adlershof and working from home temporarily is also an option. “We perceive our employees’ families as part of who they are, which is why it is important to us that their working and private lives are in tune,” says CEO Christian Scholz. Ultimately, the company thrives due to their knowledge and skills. A fact that is quantifiable. LTB is continuously growing and expanding its headquarters with a new 1,500 sqm building. More space for a better working environment: the new building will have a playroom for bringing along children, a pool table, a rooftop terrace and back pain prevention programmes. Apart from offering these things, one thing is very important to the CEO: “Open communication. We can always talk about problems.” Does he have any tips specifically for scientists to stay mentally healthy and motivated? “Scientists work under extreme pressure and often have short-term contracts,” says Hoppe, “which can be very stressful.” On the other hand, they are very independent and free to decide what to do, when and with whom to do it, which is a source of inspiration. However, this can easily blur the boundary between professional and private life. Relaxation periods are quick-handedly shortened or cancelled completely.” Scientists must watch out not to take their work home and provide space for regeneration. This includes breaks during the work day, but also in the evening and on weekends. “If thoughts about tricky problems persist in the evening, it can be helpful to deliberately think of pleasant things or direct thoughts to the here and now before going to sleep, for example, the cosy warmth of the bed or nice music for falling asleep.” By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Journal