Friday, December 31, 2021
Janus Boye and byte5 have been friends for many years. As every year, Janus answers our questions in December 2021 about possible trends and challenges in the coming year. In 2022, all ideas are up for discussion and corporate responsibility is in focus for him.
After the world of work was already turned upside down by Corona in 2020, the topic unfortunately continued to accompany us this year. In the interview in 2020, you asked yourself what the new normal looks like that we want to strive for. What do you say to that today?
I am one who thinks the glass is half full. I am - in my own opinion - also very positive about the future. But in the course of this year, we have learned a lot. One of our members said in September, "Never Normal instead of New Normal." When you hear it said that way, it can seem negative and stressful. But maybe it's better to look at it that way. At some point there will be a return to normal, but there will probably be something else happening - hopefully not a second pandemic. So maybe a better way to think about it is that we don't wait for a New Normal, we just live with the fact that change is here.
But we have to make a contribution for ourselves, for our workplace, for our company, for our customers. We have to find a way to avoid stress-related illnesses in between, so that we can have fun in this Never Normal, so that we can do our projects. That we can deal with the situation in a reasonable way, that we can cope with it and that we don't get stressed - that's my hope.
Janus, you've been interested in the digital transformation for many years. Which emerging trends in terms of collaboration do you see as promising for the future?
Many people have talked about how we have now learned not to always have to travel for an appointment. I don't necessarily have to come to Frankfurt for this interview. There were also appointments before the pandemic where it would now be quite clear: I don't have to travel for that, we can do that by phone or by Teams. However, my impression, also from our members, is that we miss these on-site appointments on a human level. Certainly, we will continue to have appointments in the future where we think: "Okay, why did I actually come to this place now?". But that's when I might have gotten to know you a little better. That's when we talked at the coffee machine about how you're also very interested in wakeboarding. Or about some topic that we might not have managed otherwise at a purely virtual meeting. That's just important for us as people. That may be exactly what a huge learning objective is here: That we get this understanding of what we need as people. We also need the body language, the laughter, everything that you don't always get through Teams.
I think we live in a time where trends are going in all directions. After all, it's now the season for top-10 predictions for next year. Before, it was like 8 out of 10 were identical everywhere - whether it was Gartner, Forrester, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But now it's going in all directions. And that is perhaps the trend at the moment: All ideas are up for discussion. If I talk to 10 members or read 10 different articles, it is going in 80 different directions. There is no general trend. That's going to be exciting.
Community work is a big part of your day-to-day at Boye & Company. You're planning the Boye Conference again for November 2022. How has community work evolved?
I don't have a script right now. I have members I've known for several years now. I have brand new ones, I met them for the first time here at the conference in November. That was very privileged. But if I compare it now with before the pandemic: Thematically something has changed, maybe Responsive Design or a new version of Umbraco came along. But in terms of the whole process, it was very predictable and you could more or less follow a script. But currently I don't have that, an HR department doesn't have that, nobody has that. That has become really clear to me in the last few months: The need for exchange of experience is even greater. Because the situation is really - as Angela Merkel said almost 10 years ago - new territory for all of us.
But how do we cope with it now? How do we now create a good workplace where employees also feel like staying for 20 years? How do we offer employees further development? Conferences, courses, can we even send them to Aarhus, for example? How does that work, is that okay? Is it safe? What about the German-Danish border? That wasn't an issue at all before. You get on a plane and you're in Tajikistan or wherever.
Of course, if you're interested in agile coaching, there are companies that offer such training. You can do everything virtually. Are you up for that? Then do it, it's great! But that's not the ideal way for many people to learn. Others really need a conference room or a seminar or a long weekend. How can we offer all that now? When can we do it again, is it safe? Every employer has to answer all these questions for himself at the moment. That's where we really need - even more than before - a kind of open-source exchange of experience. That you can share the script that's in development, that's half done, and say, "This is what we did for us, this is what worked for us. That doesn't really fit for your corporate culture, but you could use those and the building blocks."
Janus and Chris - a personal exchange is hopefully possible again in 2022. - © byte5
Have you also noticed among your members that the need for this kind of exchange has increased?
Before, I would say, we had a fixed procedure, an expert group meeting like a sort of seminar. A bit more simplified: a lecture here, a workshop there, breaks in between, and we're done. Now we still have workshops and sometimes a speaker with a few slides. But the members tell us that they actually want more breaks. They want more of this unpolished: "Show me something unfinished. Show me something that you know yourself is not perfect. There might be mistakes in it here and there. Let's talk about it. That's where we can help each other, support each other, ask questions." Even more than before, people aren't looking for answers so much as good questions. Two years ago, I would have said, I'd like the answer please. And that's the point: some of the questions are the same questions as two years ago, but the answers have changed. That's mean, because that's not how we learned it in school. There the question was the same and the answer was the same two years later.
When we meet now, people say, "Please take a longer lunch break. Let's go around the buildings one more time, breathe in some fresh air. Let's just enjoy being here. And let's talk openly with each other about what's on our minds." That was honestly a little challenging for us, too. I also know that members make a decision in advance. They don't always come simply because we invited them. After all, they're also looking at what's on the agenda and who else is coming. That means we can't just say we're going to do Danish hygge, we're just going to chill for 8 hours. They expect something. But then when they're there, they say, "Why don't you make the talk shorter so we have a little more time to playfully approach the topic?"
That surprised me, because at the same time, many have this experience that they are more efficient now. This appointment is done at 11:45 and then the next one follows and after that the next one follows. But is that a good quality of life? Is that actually good for my work? Is that bringing me joy?
You've already indicated that you're currently struggling with predictions. Nevertheless, what topics will be in the focus in 2022 and what challenges will we be confronted with?
One very big topic that England and also the U.S. have experienced before us are issues that divide us. In the U.S. that was Trump, in England it was the Brexit, now for everyone Corona. How do we deal with that? How do we deal with it when we might have a colleague who is unvaccinated? Also on a human level, how do we have a conversation with him? That is a very important point. When I now look at politics in Germany and, unfortunately, also here in Denmark, I see this everywhere. There is this contagious polarization.
That's where I think it's simply important that - even if it's difficult or takes a lot of energy - every company makes a contribution. That we can reconnect and say, "Okay, I may not understand your attitude, but I still value you as a human being. You're still appreciated for your contribution to this IT project or this implementation of Laravel. I'm sure you're still a good parent as well." I think that's very, very important. That's where it's okay to be loud as a company. We can't just say that Olaf Scholz will do it for us and everything will be fine, they'll sort it out in Berlin. That means that many employees now have these expectations of companies that they have to do something. For example, what can we do as an employer that is 1.5°C compliant?
But employers are also expected to take a stand on other subjects. For example, on the topic of diversity. Not just in terms of women and men, but in a broader sense. How can we address that, so that people aren't excluded, but hopefully feel 100% part of the community at work? We all have a huge task ahead of us there, but it's also very important.
Dear Janus, thank you very much for the in-depth interview and the interesting insights into your work. We wish all readers a good start to a healthy and successful new year!