Work-Life Balance: How GKN incorporates at-home offices

When he started working for GKN, Konstantin Reich used to drive 80 miles to the GKN plant in Bad Brückenau, Germany every Monday and didn't return home until the following Friday. Talking to his manager and the HR department about solutions to foster work-life balance, together they created a way for Konstantin to work partially from home while still participating in office interactions.

We talked to him in some depth about the subject of working from home and a work-life balance.

Why is a work-life balance so important to you?

When I was constantly commuting I rarely saw my family, and that meant I missed them a lot. I can now really enjoy time with my family, and take some of the burdens off my wife. But I still have the responsibility of my job which fulfills me.

Having the trust from GKN and getting the opportunity to work from home was a prerequisite for my wife and I for having children. Clearly, you can’t do every job from home, so I was very happy when GKN made this change possible for me. 

Did you approach GKN yourself with your request?

Our HR department runs “transition workshops” where staff are assessed. As a part of this, you are asked questions about your career and how you see yourself in future. This gave me the opportunity to express my wishes in these respects.

Was it implemented straight away?

Well, it was not implemented the very next day! But my wishes were taken very seriously, and the whole process got underway.

Do you have fixed days in the week when you work at home?

Now you’re touching on one of the main advantages which I really appreciate about GKN. For the most part, I can allocate my time myself. Of course meetings with customers or internal meetings keep cropping up, and I work around those and plan my days working from home accordingly. It’s simply the most productive way of working, and means I really enjoy my job.

And when you’re working at home, do you still feel in the loop? Surely you miss the traditional office grapevine...?

Well, you’re right, there’s no office grapevine. But that’s why I look forward to being back in the office and am happy to travel to project meetings. I do still have an office in Bad Brückenau, and I ensure that I’m there once or twice a week. Interacting with my peers in the office is very important to me.

Also, I’m lucky enough to work with various customers across different regions. That means I get up early for my contacts in China, I'm available throughout the day for business and customers in Europe, and then toward evening, I need to be contactable by the USA. Thanks to increasing digitisation, meetings by telephone and WebEx work very well.

Are there things which work better from home than in a traditional office?

In my view, definitely. For instance, if you have tasks to perform which demand a lot of concentration, it’s very helpful to sit in an office and know that no one will disturb you. 

What positive side-effects does working from home have?

It's much more pleasant to wake up and know that you’re already in your workplace for the day! 

Do you think that the world of work will continue to change?

I think it depends very much on the type of work. Anyone in production, or very close to production, is naturally tied to their workplace. Although, there are some tasks even then which can be done from home. 

For my kind of work in particular, I would actually hope that things develop further and this becomes the norm, because this improves hugely in terms of quality of life.