#ChangeAgent Julia Schwebel shows how compatibility can work

Julia Schwebel works for Merck in Darmstadt and is responsible for B2B in Asia/Pacific. This means that she and her team take care of electronically connecting customers when it comes to catalogs, orders or invoices. Not only are their customers international, but Julia’s team is also spread over four countries on three continents. Julia herself works very flexibly and passes this flexibility on to her team. She is especially concerned with the issue of compatibility. As a #ChangeAgent, she lives up to the change she wants to see in the work world.

Julia, if you could change one thing on the job immediately, what would it be? Especially in terms of work–life balance.

I often have the feeling work and family aren’t unified, but rather are simply packed on top of one another. Thus, it is particularly difficult for women, as well as men, to work part-time in highly qualified roles or leadership positions. I wish that companies would allow for this and that it becomes more normal for the boss to simply not be there on Fridays (or after 3pm, etc.). In my experience, employees deal with this very well! And goals can still be achieved, because when you know that time is limited, you usually work more efficiently.

What is your personal contribution to something happening?

In our family, my partner and I try to keep our children and work on equal footing. We each have fun with both, and I think it would be a shame and unfair if one of us had to give something up. I think if more families had the opportunity to choose this model, it would be beneficial to all sides. Additionally, I try to give my employees the same flexibility that I get or take. Even if you do not have small children, there may be a need for flexibility, such as taking care of sick relatives. Therefore, I find mandatory attendance in the office to be completely outdated, especially if you work in virtual teams anyway, where it does not matter if a colleague in Singapore dials in from home or from the office in a meeting. Thankfully, at least in Germany, Merck is an employer that has recognized this.

What does a company prepared for the “working world of tomorrow” look like to you?

I think it would be great if all people, men or women, could decide for themselves how much, from where and in which role they would like to work, regardless of position, childcare hours, or whether a grandmother is available when your child is sick. In addition, I would be happy if there were more alternative models altogether – if you look at the leadership of large companies, there are mostly older men. There are certainly many qualified women who would also be interested in such a position, but they voluntarily refrain from doing so because of external circumstances (see above). At the same time, just because one decides on such a position, one should not have to do without family and children. I also find that the attempts by some companies to “help” families by offering very long childcare hours or emergency support arrangements do not always succeed: maybe I don’t really want my child to be cared for every day from 7:00–19:00, or maybe I have a child who doesn’t want to be simply left in an unfamiliar care environment in the morning. More flexibility in terms of working hours and location would be the better solution here.

Julia, thank you very much for your time & dedication!

In our #ChangeAgents section, we introduce people who encourage us to tackle and change things. Strong minds working passionately for a more humane working world, thus initiating a change in thinking and actively helping to shape change processes. Our #ChangeAgents are role models, lateral thinkers, multipliers and dissenters.

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