Story #9: Getting through the crisis together: asphericon's response to the Covid pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic forced employers across the world to make changes in the workplace and rethink long-established processes almost overnight. Ways had to be found which allowed businesses to transform themselves so that they could still function despite the global crisis. The outbreak of Covid at the beginning of 2020 was a tough challenge, especially for small and medium-sized companies.
For asphericon, too, the pandemic has proved to be a far-reaching experience resulting in many changes and leading to work in the company being viewed in new ways. Problems and risks had to be weighed up, and the whole team had to be consulted if they were to support the decisions taken. Susann Kurschel, asphericon’s head of HR, sums up the initial situation in March 2020: “Being a dynamic company, we’re able to respond to various circumstances promptly and effectively. We always monitored developments in connection with coronavirus, and then acted swiftly and firmly so that we could maintain regular production. Above all, we wouldn’t have managed to succeed without team cohesion.”
Team cohesion and a corporate culture based on trust have been the driving forces in the crisis, as Stefan Roehl, production manager at asphericon, confirmed: “Especially in a business with multiple branches, communication is important. We were and are in contact every day with our colleagues in the Czech Republic and the USA. We talk on the phone and communicate via video chat – after all, two-way communication is vital. The management also does a great deal to motivate our colleagues. We’re kept abreast of developments and involved in the decision-making procedures. I think the corona crisis will keep us on our toes for a while yet. But that’s not a reason for us to stop.”
Since March 2020, the two CEO’s have been regularly updating their colleagues in a series of video messages. Members of staff are congratulated in this way on their birthdays or long-service anniversaries, photos and videos revealing what’s going on at the company are shown, and of course anything concerning asphericon is talked about. At first, technical challenges had to be overcome, such as ensuring that all computers were both audio- and video-enabled. The new format has proved popular, and staff are submitting more and more questions and suggestions, which are then addressed in the videos.
In order to protect its employees, asphericon set up testing facilities and introduced additional safety measures for the entire workforce early on, even before this was officially mandatory. “Employee protection simply comes first,” says Susann Kurschel emphatically. When face masks were sold out in many shops, female colleagues offered to sew fabric face coverings themselves. asphericon let them do so during working hours.
Since production colleagues can’t work from home, the shift times were altered as well. Each new shift only entered the building once the previous one had already left. And individual solutions were found for colleagues with children.
Looking around the company, it’s evident that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused changes everywhere. The arrival of coronavirus sent positive shockwaves throughout asphericon. As Stefan Klinzing, head of operational sales, explained: “If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, who knows how long it would have taken digital communication with video calls and other collaboration tools to catch on? Working from home was made possible in next to no time. This was a paradigm shift in many companies, including asphericon. Then again, we came to appreciate important personal contact with our colleagues. Especially in sales, communication and sharing information between appointments normally take place in the office.”
Klinzing also noted that relationships with clients have changed during the pandemic: “People have met up and talked online and encouraged each other. This has given us the feeling that we’re all in the same boat and will get through the crisis successfully together. We’re delighted that a sense of community has emerged.”
Sebastian Henkel, asphericon’s head of sales, added: “Although there’s no substitute for personal contact with the client, digital communication has gone down very well. Our tools work and enable us to meet the expectations of a high-tech company. In addition, digital communication is very effective.”
Some of the changes introduced in the company as a result of Covid-19 will remain in place in the post-Covid era. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our colleagues have proven that working from home is a model which can be continued after the crisis, too. It works,” says Susann Kurschel. And CEO Alexander Zschäbitz is also delighted with his team and the corporate culture at asphericon: “The corona crisis has shown us that we can count ourselves very lucky with our staff. All our colleagues have really pulled together.”
However, there was one event which the entire asphericon team would have preferred to attend physically instead of digitally. In May 2021, the company planned to celebrate a major milestone – its twentieth anniversary – together with its clients and associates. Of course, once again Covid threw a spanner in the works. In the end, despite the celebrations having to be held online, they still featured several surprises and gimmicks for the entire workforce. Nevertheless, the desire among employees to see each other again in person remains unchanged.