Balancing innovation and life
The people at Polycontact are working on shaping no less than the future of automotive safety. In just 4.5 working days a week. Here, four of them talk about why their free afternoon is part of their recipe for both private and professional success.
Short decision-making paths help Reto to reach his goal
From Monday to Friday lunchtime, the staff at the Graubünden tech company work efficiently to develop the switches and sensors found in almost all models from major international car manufacturers. Chances are, however, you’d have trouble locating Reto Hidber, Head of Electronics & Lighting, at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Truth be told, the passionate developer is more likely to be found starting the weekend with a walk up the nearby Brambrüesch mountain with his family.
Having worked for a large corporation until recently, the engineer is well aware that the flexibility he enjoys at Polycontact goes beyond the highly appealing benefit of a long weekend. In a large company, it can take so long for changes to be implemented that the original problem may well no longer be relevant. “Here, I discuss ideas with my boss during my coffee break on Friday, and make a decision that will take effect the following Monday.”
3D printer at full capacity at all hours
Not everyone spends their Friday afternoon outdoors. Some even choose to stay in the lab. Like process developer Vasco Lechthaler, who loves spending his spare time with his two 3D printers in the basement and using them to make his “perfectly imprecise gadgets” such as an automatic soap bubble machine. Polycontact invested in his passion with a 3D printer. “There was no printer before I arrived. Before Polycontact, I never had a boss who took the time to buy a device and then just let you get on with it.” A worthwhile investment for both sides. “The result is a kind of symbiosis. I might learn things at work I can then use for my private tinkering, in turn picking up skills while tinkering that also benefit my work.”
From daddy day care to innovative child safety seat
The subject of family is of course often part of the discussion when it comes to flexible working models. Recently, CAD designer Jörg Schircks has been using his free afternoon to give his full attention to his eight-month-old daughter in addition to his horse and his beloved VW buses. “I love having these few extra hours to spend with her, and it helps free my mind to focus fully on my work the rest of the week.” The proud dad has also been integrating this side of his private life in an innovative product. He designed the housing concept of an intelligent lighting system for the Britax child safety seat that ensures parents never lose track of what’s going on during a night-time walk or a car ride in the dark.
Flexible lane changes between career and family
In addition to enjoying their afternoon off, staff at Polycontact can also adjust their workload according to their personal situation. Up until a year ago, Key Account Manager Anja Spescha worked full time and used her free afternoon to play volleyball. After having a baby and taking seven months off as maternity leave, she went back to work at 40%. The qualified industrial engineer particularly appreciates the openness and team spirit among her colleagues. “Whether full or part-time, the team spirit is the same. Everyone just wanted to know when I was coming back.” Just like Polycontact as a company, Anja Spescha herself enjoys combining a range of different roles in everyday life. “The fact that the company was so happy to have me back helps reinforce my confidence that I can still handle all the demanding and time-consuming projects alongside changing nappies.”
Just stay open, and keep going
A little inventive spirit and a large portion of flexibility are what it takes to help Polycontact’s innovation drivers to get closer to their goal in 4.5 days. And what is their final destination? “Autonomous driving and e-mobility,” responds Reto Hidber with a glint in his eye. “These new technologies are exactly the kind of challenges where we’re focussing all our efforts.” After all, self-driving cars also need seat belts and belt buckles.