Heptner family - Bremen

Lena and Kai Heptner are a genuine ‘DMK family’: both halves of this couple – who have two sons together – work in CQM at the Bremen location. Lena tells us about not only the challenges of balancing her job with having a family, but also the more pleasant aspects of this sudden change.

Six months after the pandemic broke out, how are you doing?

We are doing well. Both the children are in kindergarten, and it’s easier to keep family and work separate again.

How did you feel about the double burden of telework and childcare?

At the beginning I wasn’t so aware that it was in fact a dual burden. I felt that we – or I – could manage it all very well and that getting up early, working one after the other and then taking turns looking after the children would work very well. Although our house mutated into an office, kindergarten/nursery, canteen and leisure centre, we did not descend into chaos.

Unfortunately we then had a negative experience. Someone complained that the children sometimes came to the office during our working hours and that in rare cases we had a meeting at the same time, and the children were then in the office with one or the other of us, and were supposedly disturbing the others. It really demotivated me and that’s when I realised how stressful and debilitating this situation is. We wanted to please everyone – and in the end it cost everyone something, because work and family life suffered the same.

Many colleagues have shown understanding for the children's noises in the background, and for the changes in working hours as well, and have fully supported and thus motivate us and everyone else who is in the same situation.

I still think that our staggered work shifts and then taking turns looking after the children was the best for everyone, and helps us get the work done, even if it is unavoidable that the people on the other end of the phone line also heard the children at times. If another lockdown came along, I would want to do the same again, if the company let us.


Were there any advantages to this way of working?

Yes, we were able to look after the children ourselves and only rarely had to resort to using the television for this purpose.

The little one learned a lot from his older brother in terms of moving and speaking, and since we were at home so much, we really enjoyed and learned to appreciate our garden in the amazing summer.


What has happened for you in QM? How are you working today?

We both still work a lot in the home office but that has also won us some family time. The stress of commuting to work, which used to take an hour each way, is gone.

We work during normal working hours, as the children are being well looked after in the kindergarten. Depending on the meetings, Kai is in Bremen once or twice a week and I’m there once. This helps me set up personal exchanges with colleagues again. I also have better technical equipment in the office (two screens), and I can work on some things better here than at home where I have only one screen.


What was it like for your husband as head of department? He was longing to have more of the grapevine.

The department has found a good way to handle that – a virtual coffee break where you can talk about everything, with no agenda and no preparation. And because MS Teams now actually runs well on most computers, a lot can be communicated via video. The empathy factor shouldn’t be underestimated here.

How will your working methods change in the future?

I believe that the home office option will be taken up much more by all of us.

There will surely be fewer business trips as well, as so much can now be managed through MS Teams, which wins us back more of the time we used to spend sitting in traffic.

Lena Heptner already reported on her everyday work at the beginning of the Corona crisis.

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