OnSight is in the pilot phase

Pilot Phase
Pilot Phase

For the past 2 weeks, we have been onboarding our pilot partners with OnSight, our new competitive analysis tool. Together with our CEO Sebastian Kielmann, our developers have been working on OnSight for a long time until a tool was created that we are really proud of. With it, it is possible to see how the competitors are positioned: What quantity of what items they offer, what the price range is, what discounts they give, and, and, and.

You can even define which stores are the competitors to be monitored. You can also set alerts that inform you about certain developments. You can also download reports on a regular basis or have them sent automatically with the information you specify. Our data is checked by our Quality Assurance and updated weekly. But that’s just a sample of the many things OnSight has to offer!

In the meantime, we have been able to win some great pilot partners, including AboutYou and Madeleine. Does this sound exciting to you? Then join us and get to know OnSight for yourself. As a pilot partner, you’ll get 3 months of free access and have the opportunity to help define our roadmap for future features and service improvements. (Go to the demo registration)

Here’s a sneak peek of what it might look like:

The mood at the hot sales time 2020

The mood at the hot sales time 2020

Black Friday, Christmas time and Corona

What is the mood in
e-commerce in this very special year?

Opinions are divided on Black Friday 2020. Some are pessimistic, especially after the price comparison portal Idealo found out in a survey that two out of three consumers want to spend less money on Black Friday this year than in 2019. 75% of those surveyed now want to think particularly carefully about whether they really need a product. And they also immediately provided a reason for this: for a good tenth of those surveyed, the financial situation has worsened over the course of 2020 due to the pandemic. (Source: Welt.de)

77% intend to make a purchase on Black Friday

So much for the negative side. On the other hand, we see the survey of the market research company Appinio, in which 77% of respondents stated that they intend to shop on Black Friday, which would be an increase of 16.7% compared to the previous year. The survey also revealed that a slightly higher budget would be planned for Black Friday shopping (source: appinio.com).

In any case, 69% of respondents plan to store online and avoid visiting local stores, especially at the current time, when infection figures continue to show an upward trend.

41% want to shop online more than before

The same applies to Christmas shopping: A representative survey conducted by IFH Cologne in collaboration with service providers Sitecore and Ecx.io. revealed that one in two wants to avoid the crowds in the city center when hunting for Christmas presents. 41% of respondents even said they will shop online more than before. (Source: Internet World)

Feedback from our customers

So we are naturally very interested to know what the mood is among our customers and how this year differs from previous years. To our delight, they are quite positive!

Atelier GS, for example, is more likely to see an increase as they are able to implement the learnings generated in recent years. Nina Klöhn, Online Marketing Manager Atelier Goldner Schnitt: “Overall, however, it is of course a difficult time, as our target group in particular is strongly affected by the pandemic.” For their female customers, they have come up with something special. Nina Klöhn: “To be close to our female customers during this time and to entertain them, we have also introduced a new video magazine.”

Atelier Goldner Schnitt
Hirmer

At Hirmer, Annette Fabisiewicz, Head of E-Commerce Marketing, is looking forward to this time with excitement: “In 2020, it is all the more important for us to expand our Black Friday offer online and thus be able to offer our users even better deals. This year, everything is different! So of course we are very excited to see how this will be received by our customers.”

There is no sign of negativity in the Witt Group either. “On the whole, nothing is different and the mood is almost as usual, only this year from the home office,” report Theresa Hösl (Junior Marketing Manager) and Tina Lebegern (Junior Marketing Manager) from the Witt Group. So for this time again some actions are planned, among other things a 13 days long Pre-Sale in the on-line marketing channels and afterwards for 2 weeks the regular Black Sale. Also as in the last years, there will be an advent calendar with 24 doors with different topics like sales promotions, content or assortment actions.

Witt Weiden

The hot sales season has kicked off, customers can look forward to great deals and e-commerce can look forward to good sales. We wish everyone every success!

1 year project manager at Picalike

Projektmanager

A little over a year ago, the picalike team decided that they would like to have a project manager. Since then, a lot has happened: internal restructuring, a spontaneous switch to 90 percent mobile working due to Corona, and a move to betahaus Hamburg. It’s exciting to hear what this challenging time was like for Maik Kade.

Projektmanager

Hey Maik, phew, how time flies! You've been a project manager with us for a year now. What was your best experience during this time?

A year goes by really fast. It’s hard for me to find a single, most beautiful experience. From a professional point of view, certainly that after only 3 months I was told by C.E.O.. Sebastian told me that he almost regretted not having brought me on board as project manager some time before. For me, as a career changer, this was very reassuring, as it gave me the confirmation that I had become well acquainted with my new area of responsibility and that it was something I could do. Overall, though, it’s more like I’m happy to be part of the picalike family every day.

A lot has changed since you started here. What change/new feature are you most excited about?

I am especially happy that together we have managed to build a very agile framework for our development team, which works hand in hand in collaboration with all other stakeholders. The agile idea has certainly always been a part of picalike, but in the last year we have managed to bring this hidden diamond in the rough out of our soil and give it the right polish.

You mainly coordinate the development teams. What are the biggest challenges? And how do you master them?

For me, the biggest hurdle was that I am a linguist and former lecturer, and the technical side, the know-how of a development team, was and sometimes still is something I know little about. How do you master the task of assisting a team with project management when you yourself have no say at all on the technical level? By taking a deep breath and realizing that such in-depth knowledge is not at all necessary for my job, even if I personally don’t like it from time to time because I would like to understand everything. But that is not what my job as a project manager is about.

I see myself as the symbolic grease in the gears. When everything is going well, I’m hardly noticed at all. But in order to keep everything running smoothly, it’s important that everyone knows what the others are doing, what they can do, and where help may be needed. So it’s all about communication.

I enable and encourage communication. I always have an open ear for everyone, even for private matters. Employees are people, not machines. I am present in almost all planning meetings: often as a moderator, sometimes as a mediator, and again and again I like to be the person in the company who, for example, is allowed to ask the “stupid” questions in commit meetings. Just the questions that a specialist sometimes doesn’t ask, but which can nevertheless reveal problems and solutions. My lack of knowledge occasionally forces the team to change their perspective.

Furthermore, knowledge exchange and documentation are two areas of communication that are elementary for a development team. In our company, knowledge and documentation are not hoarded individually, but as a collective treasure that has to be gathered together. But this has to be organized, it should not be boring and, above all, it should not be time-consuming. As a didact, I am challenged to find the best way to do this.

After your first few months, the Corona pandemic hit Germany, a very challenging time for project managers... How was the transition to a home office handled?

Surprisingly, this was less challenging in our case than we had all assumed. Before the pandemic started, we had a very soft version of remote working. There were some who worked remotely one day a week or every two weeks. But otherwise, we were always in the office. However, since we had been looking for a new location since the beginning of the year, there were always slight thoughts of working more remotely.

When the pandemic broke out, Sebastian, our CEO, asked us openly how we wanted to deal with the situation. Everyone was in favor of mobile working, at least for now. The basic requirements were there: every employee already had a laptop and accessories. It was just clarified whether anyone needed anything special still for the home office, such as office chairs. We are a small, very dynamic team that, by the very nature of our products, is used to constantly adapting to changing situations.

I think we can count ourselves among the lucky few whose workday may have actually gotten better as a result of the pandemic, and who probably won’t want to and won’t go back to their old workday even after it’s over. That is quite a privilege for which I am more than grateful.

Thank you very much for the interview and your always open ear. I hope you continue to enjoy your work here at Picalike!

Picalike and the betahaus Hamburg

betahaus Hamburg

From our preppy, conservative offices with conference room and kitchen, where almost once a week our boss cooked for the whole team, we moved to betahaus Hamburg in the summer. Several reasons led to this. Now we are very happy about it, as this super flexible way of working fits so much better to our spirit. You could already get a small impression of it in our article “Our new office”, but now I would like to introduce betahaus to you in more detail and tell you about the philosophy behind it. In Hamburg, betahaus operates betahaus in Sternschanze and since 2019 “finhaven by betahaus” in Hafencity. We are in the Schanze.

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 2

©Janine Meyer Photography

The building

In very simple terms, betahaus is a co-working space founded in 2010. The 2500 square meters are spread over 4 floors, with about 34 offices in different sizes (for 4 to 8 employees), 4 areas with several tables for flexible working (flex spaces), small kitchens, 10 phone boxes, 3 workshop rooms, 6 meeting rooms, a café and a lounge. In addition, betahaus 1 offers remote studio for podcast, green screen and webinar productions, underground parking, separate bicycle parking, ramps and toilet for wheelchair users and a terrace. Space for meet-ups and evening events is also offered here. So, a lot of space where you can work even if you don’t necessarily want to sit in your own office. Or if there are more team members on site than can fit in the office.

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 3

The Community

You can feel the vibe here in the hallways, where you meet freelancers as well as teams from startups or smaller companies. Until recently, there was even a midwifery practice here. Here, you never know what field your counterpart is in, as the members are very cross-industry. The work is concentrated, but at the same time there is a lot of exchange – whether in the Slack channel, in the café, at the foosball table, in yoga classes or in the coffee kitchen. Sometimes in chance encounters, sometimes in planned meetings. And that was also the original idea: Instead of every freelancer sitting at his/her desk at home while the ceiling falls on his/her head or he/she easily gets lonely, which is the main problem of lone fighters working alone at home, he/she can work here in a professional environment. In addition, he/she is integrated into an active community.

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 4

©Janine Meyer Photography

Teelke Meyer, Head of Community Management at betahaus, described it very aptly: “It’s like having colleagues but no boss. Colleagues you choose yourself.” And of course, it’s also about networking, finding contacts with whom you can exchange ideas, who inspire you, and whom you can help out yourself. As the slogan on the homepage says, “The community makes the difference. Every man for himself was yesterday.” In general, the exchange of knowledge is very important here. For example, if a member gets stuck, he or she is welcome to post a question in the Slack channel. Given the great diversity of the members, someone will (almost) always/often have an answer. In general, it’s easy to find people here who you can ask for something, whether it’s a charging cable or specialist advice.Teelke Meyer, “I’ve always wanted to work somewhere where I come home smarter in the evening than when I left in the morning. Where I learn simply by having gone to work. I got that here at betahaus.”

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 5

©Janine Meyer Photography

You quickly feel welcome here, as the betahaus management attaches great importance to getting to know each individual personally. However, you also get to know each other at an onboarding or during the betahaus tour. In addition, there are happenings such as the beta breakfast (which is open to the public and can be attended by anyone) and the beta lunch, although this is only for the beta house community.

The own workplace

What the workplace looks like for you personally depends entirely on your own preferences. The four memberships offered by Betahaus are very different. The first is the Club membership, which includes the Flexdesk area, community events, global roaming, opening hours (Mon – Fri | 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and a 10% discount on drinks at the bar. Next is the Professional membership with Flexdesk Open Space, Community Events, Global Roaming, 24/7 access, 5 conference room hours per month, locker, mailbox, premium space and community rates at events.

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 6

©Janine Meyer Photography

The Fixed Desk Membership includes a dedicated, fixed workspace, community events, global roaming, 24/7 access, 5 conference room hours per month, locker, mailbox, community kitchen, and community pricing at events. And last but not least, Team Office Membership: self-contained office with 4 to 8 workstations, fully furnished, community events, global roaming, 24/7 access, conference room hours, mailbox, premium space, community pricing at events.

Picalike und das betahaus Hamburg 7

©Franziska Weiß

For us, this working environment is just perfect, as we have the advantages of our own office with a few fixed desks, postal address, kitchen and conference room. But it’s a smaller office, because that’s all we need, since most of the time we work in our home office. And when we are all on site at the same time, which happens twice a month, we enjoy the conference in the large arena, the cozy get-together in the café and the concentrated work in the well-equipped flex areas, where we can sit together as we wish.

As Betahaus says so well? You’ll never work alone!

The eternal trend knitwear and the new in winter 2020

Knit

Looking out the window brings the certainty: we are approaching winter. The trees are yellow, orange and red, the ground is thickly covered with leaves, the wind makes the branches sway back and forth and become increasingly bare. We long for warmth and coziness. A nice cup of tea helps from the inside, cozy knitwear from the outside. After all, what could be as cozy as a jogging suit if not this knit fabric. And versatile it is to boot! The beige sweater with the good old cable knit pattern or the one with colorful designs – both are just worn with pants and skirts also made of knitwear and thus provide a cozy feeling.

Knit
Statistical analysis of knitted sweaters with OnSight ©Picalike

Since we at Picalike already have such a great tool as OnSight, the first thing we looked at was whether you can now also make good bargains when buying sweaters. Lo and behold: you can!

Well, then it’s worth taking a closer look at the new trend.

The "All in Knit" Look

Who says it can only be one knitted piece per outfit? No, this season we’re combining the knitted sweater with a long knitted skirt or cozy knitted pants. “The pandemic has shown us once again how universal a complete look in knitwear can be,” says Valentin von Arnim in “Harper’s Bazaar.” “There are endless possibilities to adapt the loungewear look to individual needs and everyday situations.”

Cool pieces to wear with this look:

The knit pants

In our home office days, we’ve gotten used to the comfort of sweatpants and yoga pants. Every now and then, however, it’s allowed to wear something fancier down below, even if you can’t see it during video conferences. But sometimes dressing up is just nice for your own feelings. And it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, as you can see with knit pants, for example. Especially if they have a wide cut!

The knit skirt

For the all-over knit look, the skirts are now worn with midi or maxi length, possibly even in the same shade as the top. Whether tight or wide, there are no rules. An example of a successful combination was presented by Joseph Altuzarra, who combined a petrol-colored turtleneck sweater with a tightly cut pencil skirt made of ribbed knit. This made the look chic enough for any business meeting, yet comfortable enough for hours of sitting at the computer.

The slipover

When we talk about slipovers, we immediately think of the last millennium, when it was stylishly worn with bell-bottoms or pleated skirt. During Copenhagen Fashion Week we were now shown how to wear slipovers this season: especially in oversized cut – over a t-shirt or over close-cut sweaters, depending on the thermometer reading

The cardigan twinset

This season the combination of cardigan and matching top is very trendy again. From knitted bralette to turtleneck, everything is worn under the cardigan: the main thing is that the pattern and color let it merge with the cardigan into one unit. And in one aspect they definitely make our lives easier: now you do not have to choose every single part of your outfit, but only your legwear.

Sweater with collar

U-boat necklines were yesterday: whether polo collar or sailor collar with zipper, now the collar is in. How this can look in a knitted all-over look, shows us the Italian label Etro. There, a soft, fine sweater with polo collar is combined with knit pants in the same color.

Not everything always has to be bought new! It is not uncommon that you already have one or the other hanging in your closet. Maybe there is a favorite cardigan, to which you buy a matching knit top. Or a favorite sweater, to which you combine a soft knit pants. Worn in any case, because the cold seasons have just begun.

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F#ing 10 years already gone

10 Years Picalike
Sebastian Kielmann

A review by Sebastian Kielmann, CEO Picalike GmbH

The idea

Almost exactly 20 years ago, I switched from research on text indexing and search to image analysis and feature extraction. I was attracted by the fact that images are language-independent and rarely have duplicate meanings. When I first started working on image analysis, I mentioned this to my boss at the time, who had a PhD in physics. His reaction to this was decisive for the 20 years that followed: he said that what I was trying to do was not feasible. There was no Arxiv.org at that time, AI was not very popular, GPUs were not really used for matrix multiplication yet and corresponding papers from research were hard to get if you had an extremely slow line in deepest Walldorf / Wiesloch like me.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way… It was then that I realized how open and willing to share the research community was. There was no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or anything like that. For me, that time doesn’t seem so long ago, but my kids can hardly imagine such a world. Conversations and exchanges were through conventions or mailing groups. For those who have also been analyzing images for a while: Open-CV was just getting started at that point.

I was researching image analysis ⎼ as a hobby on the side ⎼ and studying management and marketing, working in e-commerce or consulting. Then I met Dr. Tilo Höpker during a flight and we became friends. Over a meal together, I presented my idea to him: a recommendation technology whose basis would come from data from product images, rather than from texts. The idea had come to me because I was working on a product search engine at the time and saw how much erroneous data there was in the product feeds and how much information about the product was missing, even though everyone could see it, based on the product image.

Tilo thought the idea was great, would also jump right in to start a company that offered that. But he wanted to get a second opinion. At the next meeting, Daniel Raschke, who has since become a good friend of mine, was also present. We didn’t know each other at that point, but we were immediately on the same wavelength. The three of us started Picalike GmbH in October 2010. 10 years ago now.

The Start

F#ing 10 Jahre schon vorbei 3
Our first logo

My first lesson was that primarily a market has to be ready for a technology, not the technology has to be ready for the market. Anyone who has ever had to bring a technological product to market knows what I mean. I’m not a born sales guy, like to avoid people and crowds, don’t want to be in the spotlight, and talk a lot about the technology and too little about the benefit. But anyone who founds a start-up also has to take care of sales. The first customers were found quickly. Fashionhype.com and weare.de quickly went from customers to development partners and then friends and part of the family.

F#ing 10 Jahre schon vorbei 4

Our first office in Frankenstraße

In addition to the pure data from the images, customer behavior and correlation among products, as well as filtering by all data about the product, were soon included to provide even better recommendations. Similarity Recommendation (similarity detection, like “similar items”) was then joined by Complete-the-Look Recommendation (outfit recommendation, like “this goes with that”). For us, as for any startup, the time quickly began when you have to do a balancing act between customer support and further development. Not every customer needs the same thing, and we were a fine but still small team. During the day I helped with customer support, in the afternoon I pitched Picalike wherever I could, and in the evenings there was further development. There were days when I thought we were going to take the next giant step (technologically or revenue-wise) and there were days when I wondered if it was really a good idea to leave a secure job. I don’t regret taking the leap into self-employment, but there are many things I would do differently today.

One day my phone rang (it was a Hansenet line back then, who remembers it?).

F#ing 10 Jahre schon vorbei 5

One of our first home

It was a young guy from the OTTO Group who had read an article in the Chamber of Commerce magazine. We talked and he did some intros on OTTO.de, Bonprix, Shopping24 and others. This gave me the opportunity to introduce our technology to the big players. This phone call was crucial for the next 9 years. I presented not only to the aforementioned companies, but also to the OTTO Group itself, which decided to invest in us. Before signing the shareholder agreement, we had resolved that when it was signed, we would all go mega partying. We had wild ideas about parties at the Doll House on the Reeperbahn or about organizing a big private party. And then this: after the signing, everyone went home, went to bed, slept for a few hours and the next morning the work started all over again.

“After the game is before the game”

In no time, we assembled a highly motivated team, moved to a larger office and invested in marketing, product development and research. We quickly grew from a handful of customers to dozens of customers, opened an office in the US (first SF and then moved to NY), started partnerships with prestigious companies, and were pleased with the growing interest. Everything was looking good. We grew, new clients came in, became more and more international and had very exciting projects and cases in mind with us.

F#ing 10 Jahre schon vorbei 6

One of our legendary summer parties

 

As time went on, we noticed that the momentum of our growth was slowing down. Projects were getting more complex, budgets were getting smaller, competition was getting more diverse. Our approach of “customer request -> research -> project -> product” was showing its weaknesses. We had to admit to ourselves that research is fun, but not so easy to scale financially. And so we analyzed the weaknesses of our business model, the strengths of our team and system, and went for a start-up within the start-up. In other words, a soft opening.

“A few steps back for the run-up”

F#ing 10 Jahre schon vorbei 7

Our current home

Welcome to the world of Portfolio Analysis 🙂 Through several analyses, we realized that we were too dependent on the availability of technical resources at our clients, that we needed to create a quick and easy entry point into our Picalike world, and that we needed to deliver demonstrable, repeatable value to our clients. Thus, we started with multiple A/B tests, case studies, surveys, interviews, and new positions within the team. It was also important that research remained a high priority in our day-to-day. With the help of our customers, partners and the team, we started the development of OnSight analytics. The planned development time was half a year. However, reality is not a good friend of planning: two years later, we launched the open beta. Some challenges were bigger than expected, the day-to-day business could never be neglected, and we had to learn a lot from our pilot partners. But from the beginning we had committed ourselves not to compromise on quality, even if it would take longer, and we still stand by that. Even at a time when Corona has changed all our lives.

The last few months have been like the first few months: a lot of ups and downs. Moods of optimism followed by setbacks. But what remains is that in the last 10 years no day has been like the other, many stories have been written, we have learned a lot, and now for the next 10 years we want to continue to learn and put into practice what we have already learned.

Thank you to the team for the incredible support and loyalty, to our clients for the great and always exciting collaboration, and to everyone else we have met along the way over the last 10 years for enriching our lives and shaping our path.

Stay healthy and take part in the next stages of our journey.
Many greetings
Sebastian Kielmann

5 Questions for Timo

Timo Schulz

We would like to warmly welcome another new team member. Although, he is not completely new. Timo has been part of our team before, at the very beginning from 2013 to 2017. Now, at the beginning of this year, he joined us again for a few months as an external. He obviously enjoyed it: instead of accepting a new offer from a large company afterwards, he decided to rather support SMEs during this time and continue the ongoing project. Working with old acquaintances also had its appeal. So Picalike became an attractive employer for him again and he returned to the team – as a permanent member! It goes without saying that we are very happy about this.

Timo Schulz

Dear Timo, you are not a newcomer at Picalike, but a comebacker, which we are very happy about! Nevertheless, most of the team doesn’t know you from the “early days of Picalike”. Therefore we would like to ask you a few questions. Tell us something about you. Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies?

I was born and raised in a small town near Hamburg. I often spend my free time cycling or hiking. I also collect classic sci-fi literature and comics. If there’s still time left, I’m tinkling at the keyboard to further develop my AI recommendation system for movies, because movies are also one of my passions, and of course AI.

What has changed about your tasks at Picalike? What did you do before, what do you do now?

Even though I was hired with a focus on Machine Learning + Software Engineering back then, working in a young startup naturally means that the areas of responsibility are quite diverse. And since I was lucky enough to contribute knowledge from many different areas, I was able to help on many fronts. Almost everything probably sums it up quite well, there would be classic software development, building an AI environment, DevOps and also customer support. Today, my job is a bit more narrowly defined, but one thing I have in common is that I need knowledge from different areas, which is of benefit to me. In English, it’s probably “Jack of all Trades”, which is also what I put down as an activity in my LinkedIn profile.

When you look back in six months, what do you hope to see?

That we’ve come a long way, that the work is bearing fruit, the company is growing and thriving, and that our customers find the new products as fragrant and useful as we do.

Are you more of a home office or office type?

5 Fragen an Timo 3

At that time Timo was already part of the team: Christmas 2013

It depends. In the good old days, I already found it relaxing to pursue my work at home on Fridays in a concentrated manner and without many distractions. In general, I find home office useful when it comes to working on tasks that require little or no consultation with other colleagues. Otherwise, I appreciate the contact with the other picalingen, also because there are otherwise no “coffee kitchen synergies” and ideas in the home office can also be discussed less efficiently.

We’ve been told that you have an outstanding expertise in the art of brewing, you were even once a “beer commissioner” at Picalike. What would be your drink of choice when meeting with work colleagues after work and why?

It’s impossible to give a blanket answer here, because the appropriate drink depends on the person, the time and the place. Indeed, it is difficult to find the right beer for one person and for a group it is almost impossible, as tastes are very individual. An easy entry and best suited for a beer after work is a Helles, as it is mildly hopped, thus not very bitter and tremendously drinkable. But to be more specific, at a Christmas party, the Sweet Seduction worked well because the beer is comparable to an aperitif, so smaller glasses can be used, which lowers the barrier to tasting, and thanks to the honey, the complexity of the beer becomes a bit more manageable for the novice palate due to the sweetness.

Who knows, maybe there will be an opportunity to do a little beer tasting sometime. I, for example, would definitely like to try the Sweet Seduction. Who knows, maybe one or two of the team will find a new favorite drink there!

Great to have you back!

Peter Scholzuk talks about Picalike in the CRM Podcast!

CRM Podcast

Picalike on the podcast

Nico Zorn interviews Peter Scholzuk in the CRM Podcast

In the October 1 episode of the podcast, Nico Zorn talks to Peter Scholzuk about his work as head of the Witt Group’s email marketing department. In the interview, Peter tells us how email marketing is organized at their company and what challenges he faces on a daily basis. In the process, he immediately provides numerous tips on which aspects companies should definitely not neglect when evaluating an email marketing platform.

Peter also reports on what works well in operational email marketing in his experience. He also discusses the aspects of individualization and automation in email marketing. Of course, Picalike was also mentioned in the course!

For all those who do not yet know the CRM Podcast: In this podcast, Nico Zorn, co-founder of the CRM and email marketing agency Saphiron, talks about current best practices and proven strategies for good customer relationship management. Of course, new tools and technologies are not to be missed. Some people know Nico Zorn from the EmailMarketingBlog.de, which he has been publishing since 2003.

Peter Scholzuk talks about us in the CRM Podcast! 2Listen
is worth
in any case!

If you’d like to learn even more about how we help Witt Group with email marketing, download our Case Study!

Cover photo: by William Iven on Unsplash

Home office, mobile working – what am I actually doing?

Home-Office, mobiles Arbeiten – was mache ich eigentlich?

Home-Office, mobiles Arbeiten - was mache ich eigentlich? 2

A little green inspires! © Franziska White

Time and time again, I find myself talking about home office. “Right now we’re working in a home office.” Or, “Home office is great, I can work on the balcony sometimes.” But doesn’t home office literally just mean a home office? In Corona days, most of us were quickly sent to the home office to minimize the risk of contagion. But is that the right term now? My husband and I have been working from home for a few months now. Since I only work part-time, he sits in the den and I work where our one-year-old girls aren’t being babied at the moment. He also needs a neat, tidy workspace to be able to concentrate. I, on the other hand, like to wander flexibly through the apartment and look for the place where I feel most comfortable. Am I perhaps practicing mobile working? Or is being at home enough to call it a home office? What is behind these designations? That’s what I wanted to find out, and I found out that, unlike mobile working, home office does indeed have some fixed rules.

What exactly is home office?

According to labor law, the home office in Germany is defined as follows: It is a computer workstation permanently set up by the employer. And it is not permanently set up until the employer and employee have defined the conditions in an agreement and the equipment for the home office has been provided by the employer and installed on site. In addition, there is a risk assessment in which the working conditions and the workplace are examined on site. To do this, the employee must give written consent for outside experts to enter the home and inspect the workplace. An alternative to this is for the employee to inform the employer about the specific layout of his or her workplace and to agree on the details of the furnishings.

The provisions for the home office

In addition to the hazards associated with a normal office workplace in a company, the assessment should also consider the hazards associated with a home office. There is a whole range of regulations on this. I analyzed my own workstation based on these criteria to see if it might even be suitable for a home office:

  • It must have sufficient space for changing working postures and movements.
  • Display devices are positioned so that the surface is free of annoying reflections and glare.
  • Work tables must have a low-reflection surface and be set up so that the surfaces are free of annoying reflections when working.
  • The work surface must be large enough to allow variable arrangement of all items required for work, such as keyboard, mouse, pens and notepads. In addition, the work surface in front of the keyboard must allow the heels of the hands to be placed on it.
  • When working in a home office, data security must also be ensured through a data protection/IT security concept. But this also includes lockable cabinets, logging into the Internet only via VPN or tunnel solutions, and not keeping passwords freely accessible. What was new for me was that printouts with company information have no place at home in the wastebasket in the home office.

The requirements for the employee

Home-Office, mobiles Arbeiten - was mache ich eigentlich? 3

Unfortunately my dining table sometimes dazzles ©Sandra Kade

Unfortunately, I can’t meet all these criteria. For example, my dining table is white, so the surface is a bit dazzling between 1 and 5 p.m. on sunny days. But my employer has equipped me with a laptop, mouse, etc., so nothing stands in the way of good work. So, theoretically, I could even do home office, if only I would always work in the same place and it would be separated like my husband’s study. But the fact is, I just work flexibly at the place where it just fits (if it’s for childcare, also at my parents) or where I feel best (gladly also on the balcony). But I still meet the most important requirement for mobile working: I stay in Germany! Because yes, you have to stay in Germany if you are also allowed to leave your home. Despite all these differences, working from home, whether in a home office or mobile working, does have some things in common, such as the requirements for the employee.

  • The employee must adhere to normal working hours, because both home office and mobile working simply involve working at a different location. The work must therefore be performed to exactly the same extent and quality as if sitting in the office.
  • However, this also implies that the employee observes his break times. There is often a tendency to simply eat something at the computer, which then leads to breaks being ignored.This brings us straight to the dangers of home office or, in my case, mobile working from home.

Dangers of home office/mobile working from home

Personally, I’m very happy about the opportunity to work from home, because my children are not yet in daycare and I therefore need less childcare than I would if the time for the round trip and lunch break were added to the working hours. Even though it’s hard not to jump into the living room with them when one is crying or to sit at the computer and ignore them banging on the room door. Nevertheless, this is not the perfect model for everyone and this form of working also has its pitfalls. One source of danger, for example, is working on regular chairs, but they weren’t built for sitting at a desk for hours on end. This lack of ergonomic adjustment can lead to physical strain on the muscles and skeleton, which can also trigger headaches.

However, it is not uncommon for working from home to also pose a psychological burden due to the lack of spatial and temporal separation between personal life and workspace. And we don’t want to forget the previously mentioned danger, which may please the employer somewhat and will vote more positively for home office, namely the frequent forgetting of breaks and the increased overtime, which is often worked because an e-mail is answered briefly on the side, etc.

mobiles Arbeiten Betahaus

Socializing at betahaus Hamburg ©Franziska Weiß

Nevertheless, most employees see working at home as an opportunity and are happy about the trust placed in them. Thus, they often work overtime precisely to prove that they are hardworking and not lazily on the couch having a marathon series. Another factor that influences whether one is successful in the home office is conscientiousness. In Wirtschaftswoche, Conny Herbert Antoni, an industrial and organizational psychologist at the University of Trier, explains: “There are consistent correlations between a person’s conscientiousness and successful home office. If I’m conscientious, it also means I do what I set out to do.” Which sometimes means working overtime, or working with a cold instead of taking a sick leave.

In a report by AOK, the health insurance company found that home office employees were less likely to call in sick. On the other hand, they were more likely to report psychological problems such as anger, self-doubt and sleep disturbances, which may indicate a lack of boundaries. But also a lack of social interaction. Because if you’re otherwise annoyed with a coworker, you can deal with him in the office, vent to other colleagues, or simply try to get rid of the anger on the way home. But all of these options are no longer available. This leads to the biggest problem with the home office: For many, social contacts at work are very important and they fear isolation due to working from home. Conny Herbert Antoni said in Wirtschaftswoche: “Personality factors influence how well someone copes with the home office. There is evidence that people who are very socially oriented don’t like to be alone as much and can be less productive as a result.” These people also need to be picked up at corona times, especially with involuntary home office/mobile working.

Ways to counteract these dangers

At Picalike, we are very lucky that both our boss and our project manager are very concerned with these dangers and try to counteract the psychological disadvantages of the home office in many different ways. For one thing, we have a fixed appointment in the office where we meet there every other week and report on what we’re currently dealing with, what we’re doing, and simply see each other live once in a while. We also have a chat roulette, which is, so to speak, our substitute for the chat in the coffee kitchen, which it can’t replace completely, but at least a little bit. In the morning, we draw lots to determine who should make a call with whom about a topic that is completely detached from work during the course of the day. Then you make an appointment and most of the time it turns into a conversation about God and the world.

Every few weeks we also do a survey about how we are doing, what our expectations and wishes are. And last but not least, we have the opportunity to work in the office whenever we want. The seats are free, coffee and water are available and you can also see in the weekly schedule which of your colleagues will also be there. And if it gets a bit too crowded in the office, you can switch to one of the large co-working spaces or the Betahaus café.

My conclusion

Home-Office, mobiles Arbeiten - was mache ich eigentlich? 4

Tidy workplace of my husband ©Sandra Kade

As my research progressed, it became more and more clear to me that my husband actually works in a home office. He sits at his desk in our study every day with all his equipment. He has a perfectly equipped workstation with laptop, screen, printer, scanner, an extra stool against back pain, the door is lockable, all danger zones like cables lying around have been removed. I, on the other hand, work on the move, flexibly sitting down wherever I can work best, and after a hard night’s sleep, that can also be at the kitchen table next to the coffee machine with a mountain of cookies.

Your Sandra Kade

5 Questions for Theresa

5 Questions for Theresa

We are happy to welcome another new team member. Since August 3, Theresa Schmucker has been our Quality Assurance Manager and checks for us that our products and, above all, our data are of impeccable quality. Especially her fashion know-how is of great benefit to us. She studied fashion design at HAW Hamburg, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She also worked part-time as a store controller in the stores for 6 years for various brands of H&M (Weekday, &Other Stories). As if that wasn’t enough, she is also self-employed on the side and has a studio at Koppel 66 where she makes handbags from vegetable tanned leather and sells them locally and in her own online store. It all sounds super exciting, doesn’t it? No wonder we were further curious and still had to ask her our 5 questions!

5 Questions for Theresa

Tell us something about yourself. Where did you grow up? What hobbies do you have?

I was born in Erlangen, but moved to Hamburg with my family when I was two years old and grew up on the outskirts of Schnelsen in a small play street.
In my free time I like to be creative and see my friends and family. I am part-time self-employed with a small bag label, which is somehow also a hobby. When I’m in my workshop, it doesn’t feel like “working” to me. And that includes all the tasks that come up in the process. Otherwise
I go to pottery twice a month, do yoga and like to get out in the fresh air.

What are you most looking forward to about your new tasks?

It’s hard to say. Actually, I’m looking forward to getting to know the exciting technology of Picalike even better and maybe when it gets a bit more “technical” for me. Learning new things is always a lot of fun for me.

When you look back in six months, what do you hope to see?

That I will have become well integrated into the daily routine at Picalike and that I will be creating added value. That the quality of the data will be continuously improved. Maybe that I will have gained insights into other fields to understand the links even better.

Are you more of a home office or office type?

I think both are good. If the office was further away, however, I would prefer the home office. Long distances to the office are not my strong point. But seeing my colleagues a few days a week is also important to me. In the home office I can sometimes work more concentrated, but for some tasks it is also good to have the direct exchange with colleagues. It’s also nice to see each other. In other words, I think a good mix of both is ideal.

What would be your favorite drink when meeting colleagues after work and why?

I would have to think about it longer because it would probably depend on my “thirst”. Some days it would just be a Spezi and others maybe just a spritzer. Alcoholic it becomes with me more rarely and then also rather a cool Alsterwasser or a white wine spritzer.

Well then, we hereby welcome you again officially to the Picalingen and hope that we can soon take a look at your bags at a Spezi. 😊

Here’s to a good start!