Remote work from a psychological perspective
In conversation with Annekatrin Hoppe, work psychologist at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, who’s research focuses on occupational health
Her own research, teaching, management responsibility, on the one hand, and a family with two small children, on the other: Annekatrin Hoppe is currently juggling many balls in the air. As a work psychologist, she has a recipe for staying fit and energetic in a sustainable way without neglecting her own needs. Nine years ago, after stints at Stanford University in California and as a junior professor at the University of Koblenz-Landau, the Hamburg native came to Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, where she is the head of occupational health psychology at the Department of Psychology. Her research deals with the effect of new technologies on the workplace.
Adlershof Journal: Is working remotely new to you?
Annekatrin Hoppe: No, I worked from home quite a bit during research stays abroad and my no-teaching semester. In my normal work life, I work from home at least once a week.
How important is it to be on-site at your job?
During the semester, I must be on-site 75 percent of the time. It tends to be less during breaks because I travel to conferences and workshops.
Will it be easier for employees to work from home after the pandemic?
The companies will look back and see what went well and where changes should be made. Let’s assume that the workplace and working environment are the best they can be and the technology works flawlessly – you can access materials, the company network, video and conferencing tools -, you are still left with some questions regarding work psychology: How do I lead? What is my staff doing? How do I motivate them, how do I motivate myself?
From a work psychology perspective, what are the first steps when working from home?
The most important step is to create structures. This includes setting clear work and resting periods, and discussing things with your team: When do we work? When are we available? When do we stop working? A colleague of mine has two phones, one for business, one for personal use. This helps her to switch over after work. Even when you are not working remotely, you should have rules in place like making sure that there are no emails outside of the working hours, if they are not absolutely necessary. Certain rituals will help to find an ideal work rhythm. This can range from putting on glasses, to using your work mug at your home desk, or wearing business clothes.
What challenges are managers confronted with?
They must learn to lead a team from a distance. It is central to navigate the process together with one’s employees and to address their needs and ideas.
In today’s digital age, many are having trouble switching off, as it were. How can they succeed?
I can recommend EngAGE (https://www.oncampus.de/weiterbildung/soft-skills/engage-resilenz-erholen-gestalten-entwickeln), an online coaching tool that my team helped develop during a project of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. It creates awareness for the burdens of the user’s work routine and highlights ways to improve how we work and how we relax. This includes little exercises to help you unwind, create breathing spaces, and improve prioritising.
When was your first encounter with Adlershof?
That was in 2011, on my first day at work. I appreciate the site’s many young companies and dynamism. I don’t particularly like the architecture and the transportation infrastructure could use some work.
How do you spend your spare time?
With two small children and a job, I hardly have time to spend on my hobbies. Exercising is important to me. I live close to Tempelhofer Feld and like to go running and skating there. But I don’t pressure myself. I used to practice Capoeira with a passion. A Brazilian mix of marital arts and dance.
Who are your role models?
Most of them aren’t celebrities but strong women who realise their ideas and whom I have met in person.
When did you last try something new?
I recently built a dreamcatcher together with my three-year-old daughter using willow twigs. I’ve always enjoyed crafting. Now, my little daughter is teaching me to be more patient while doing it.
What do you wish for the future?
On a society level, I would like to see less self-preoccupation and more civil engagement. On a personal level, i love the idea of, one day, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast of the United States.
Interview by Sylvia Nitschke for Adlershof Journal