How the idea and the concept for Breaklounge emerged from spontaneous conversations while drinking coffee
Terms like work from home, home office and remote first culture were often only connected with start-ups. But they are now part of the new normal for many companies. Marc Herling and Ben Heisch, the brains behind Breaklounge, know the challenges for everyday work that decentralized corporate structures entail.
Breaklounge is the result of their gathered experience. In this interview, they talk about their motivation, ideas and why Breaklounge improves collaboration and cohesion in virtual teams.
How did the idea and concept for Breaklounge come about?
MARC: I got the first stimulus for Breaklounge with the sale of my company. I stayed with the company and took on a role in corporate strategy. My location remained Karlsruhe, but the new headquarters was Stockholm. In Swedish business culture, discussions are extremely important, and compromise and consensus play an important part as well.
From Karlsruhe, it was difficult to conduct the important discussions. Each stay in Stockholm was much more productive and valuable, as situations became much clearer in their entirety. Spontaneous conversations over coffee convey a lot of contextual knowledge and ensure a high degree of familiarity.
I quickly realized that a solution to enable this kind of informal discussion between colleagues would be a real benefit. For both employees and companies.
The working world is currently turned upside down. How do you experience the changes and the transformation?
BEN: The concept of being physically present in the office that many of us have known and are used to for years will not come back. The corona pandemic was not the cause, but it greatly accelerated this development. At the same time, Corona is also a practical test and shows that Remote-First works.
I have been working in and with decentralized structures for many years. From my own experience, I know the challenges of working with distributed employees, specifically in Berlin, Konstanz and Lodz. It is a special opportunity to develop and launch a valuable solution like Breaklounge for humans in organizations at the right time.
Presence office versus home office, the latter as a challenger to the tried and tested. What are its advantages?
MARC: From the employee’s point of view, it is a great benefit that in the home office or remote work, the focus is on the results and not on visibility or mere presence. Many employees are more productive when working from home than when working in the office. This is certainly partly due to the many small disturbances that we all know from open-plan offices. Those who work in a home office also save time and have no stress caused by commuting. Working from home is also good for the environment.
BEN: Companies save money because large and expensive office space is no longer needed. But I think another aspect is far more interesting for companies: The waiver of the obligation to be present on site allows access to a larger talent pool for the search for employees. This is an enormous opportunity, in particular for HR departments.
To be fair: What are the downsides of home office?
MARC: One thing is clear: Those who do not work in the center of activity must make more effort to be at the height of the action and be able to make their contribution. Personal relationships suffer and so does the basis for cooperation.
But because decentralized working is no longer the exception but the rule, there are also opportunities. Many of these challenges affect all employees who work remotely. It is time for companies to use appropriate methods and tools to create trust and a willingness to cooperate. And thus to realize the full potential of the advantages for the company and the employees.
What is special about Breaklounge compared to well-known collaboration tools like Teams or Slack?
BEN: Tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack have many strengths and offer a lot of functions. But what they can hardly do is build trust among employees. A planned meeting is not the same as a spontaneous conversation at the coffee machine.
A planned meeting usually has a reason and serves a specific purpose. A personal, informal exchange is perceived as digression or distraction from the actual topic.
Breaklounge brings the team and togetherness to the home office. It simply feels better as a person to be part of a team. Cohesion and belonging are basic human needs and a prerequisite for success and motivation.
MARC: It is the many small conversations, e.g. at the coffee machine, in which we share knowledge and experience and at the same time build trust and the will for good cooperation. It’s about overcoming the typical obstacles of remote work and enabling employees to feel like they are in the office.
With Breaklounge, employees, no matter where they work, get the feeling that they are just as much at the center of activities and that they are connected to their colleagues.