April 08, 2020

Remote work in times of crisis – for some it’s new territory, for others it’s everyday life

Katharina Sowa

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Remote work. For Christoph Huebner, founder of Leni, Leon & die Luchse, the authority on children's health insurance, nothing unusual. But what can be called usual in these times?

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And so the digital nomad can currently be found in Oman.

At the beginning of March, Christoph travelled to Oman. He actually only wanted to stay there for three weeks. Due to the coronavirus, however, he will stay there for an indefinite period of time. Not because he couldn't leave Oman. It would be possible for him to return to Germany somehow, but he decided to stay in Oman. “The internet here is very good and the atmosphere is also better than it is Germany.”

Christoph gives us a few insights and tips for remote work.

His company is regarded as an expert in child health insurance in Germany. All seven employees and his co-founder Markus Herrmann work remotely. And they have been doing so from the very beginning, not just because of the current coronavirus crisis.

“In the beginning, it was just us two founders, Markus and me – with about 500 kilometres between our two homes. We ran the business as a sideline for the first few years and only saw each other in person every few weeks. Then, when the market showed that it really needed experts for child health insurance and our team started to grow, it was clear to us that we didn't want to start setting up an office just because of that. We’ve been working completely paperless for a long time. It was only a logical step to also build our entire team from location-independent digital nomads with free time management.”

Three times a year, the team meets at different locations in Europe. This is suspended for the time being but doesn’t prevent the team from continuing their work.

“I can also run my business out of the desert in Oman. For us, this doesn’t change our organisation of work,” says Christoph.

Thanks to common digital tools such as Zoom and Slack, the team can communicate and hold meetings across countries. The coronavirus crisis doesn’t really change their recruiting either. “We have used video calls for many of our recruitment interviews anyway. Some of our employees even signed their employment contracts without ever meeting us in person,” says Christoph. In fact, two new employees have also joined in the last two weeks.

“In Germany, we are still exotic at the moment – especially in the insurance industry! And in many areas, we are also breaking completely new ground again and again.”

All team members are equipped with touch screens and so-called active pens, with which they can sign contracts directly on the computer. Some insurance applications still come by mail, but the number is decreasing. Company mail is forwarded to Dropscan, a Berlin-based company that digitises documents.

Employees make phone calls via a digital phone solution. Customers then call the German company number, but the call can be answered from anywhere in the world.

And for sales work, the team uses Pipedrive, an Estonian sales software. “It’s the backbone of our small company,“ says Christoph. ”This is where all the information comes together and from here, all automatic processes are controlled through integrations with other web services.”

The easily traceable processes also make the onboarding of new team members very efficient, getting them up to speed quickly – completely independent of location.

Unlike many of his employees, who normally spend several months abroad each year but have now returned to Germany, Christoph wants to stay in Oman for the time being. “Many of them haven’t really felt comfortable anymore. Not so much out of fear of the virus, but because locals are becoming increasingly hostile towards tourists. Quite the opposite to Oman, everyone here is very friendly.”