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Microsoft and Audi in discussion: Will Corona give rise to a major boost for the digital world?

Virtual colleagues: in a video conference, communication teams from Microsoft and Audi take stock of the first few weeks of contact restrictions in the business world and what mark they have left – also the positive aspects. Read a summary of it here.

04/09/2020 Reading Time: 2 min

Microsoft’s head of communications, Thomas Mickeleit, notes how the media’s interest in ‘virtual forms of work’ has multiplied in just a few days. He has therefore compiled a few suggestions on how people in the home office can stay close to their colleagues despite the inevitable distance – from a virtual coffee to having lunch together in front of a webcam.

Random encounters at the coffee machine which give rise to good ideas or heart-warming moments such as giving a colleague a hug on her birthday cannot be experienced quite as well online, Audi employee communicator Tina Steck admits. Celebrating someone’s birthday via video conferencing takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, she currently records three times as many Skype meetings and more than four times as many Microsoft team meetings in her company. The IT department has doubled the number of people who can access the Audi network virtually overnight to make this possible. It is with appreciation that the board of directors notes: “Our Audi staff are really doing a great job working from home.”

Hoping for cultural change: having more trust in the employees

  

Her Microsoft colleague Bianca Bauer is very enthusiastic about the first fully digital assembly of all 2,700 Microsoft employees in Germany. Nearly twice as many participants as usual attended this special live event. To ensure that everything stays orderly with such a rush of numbers, more moderation than usual was necessary. She is hoping for another cultural change in Germany: that many more companies will have a “trusted workplace” just as they already have “trust in the flexible working hours”.

Audi communications strategist Moritz Drechsel reports on how his team switched to crisis mode from one day to the next and sought agile cooperation with other departments online. The world premiere of the new Audi A3 Sportback and the prototype of the particularly sporty Audi e-tron S electric model were quickly transferred from the Geneva Motor Show to the internet.

Virtual workshops: group work in seven parallel online meetings

A series of workshops lasting several hours and involving 30 communicators, which used the Microsoft Teams software tool to organize the work of the new Audi board members, was seen as a complete success. Group work took place in seven parallel online meetings – and despite initial skepticism, the participants really enjoyed it. Since misunderstandings can easily arise in digital communication, to be on the safe side the participants were asked at the beginning of longer video chats to give others “the benefit of the doubt”. In other words, in case of doubt, the other person was seen to have had the best of intentions even if their message did not come across that way to the person at the other end.

Sitting for a long time in front of the screen and having non-stop video conferences can be quite exhausting. This is why Audi’s facilitators incorporate entertaining elements such as picture puzzles from time to time to increase people’s attention span. At Microsoft, the teams liven up their Tuesday broadcasts by wearing funny hats.

Microsoft Teams 2.0: beam yourself to your dream location

Microsoft will probably soon fulfill a major wish of their Audi colleagues. Instead of their private living room, the next version of Microsoft Teams will soon be able to beam the participants of the video conferences to their dream locations: to the beach in Miami or to a chic loft in New York − at least virtually. In Thomas Mickeleit’s dream, there will also be a matching dream car from Audi to go along with it. A virtual meeting could hardly be more perfect...

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