Interview with Fabiana Cavalcante

Interview with Yanick Lobsiger


Yanick Lobsiger

R&D team manager power electronics, ABB Switzerland, Traction
80% workload, team leader, father

Please introduce yourself and your position at ABB

My name is Yanick. I am 37 years old and the father of two kids, one who is almost five years old and another who is two years old. The foundation for my career at ABB Traction, based in Turgi, Switzerland, was laid 14 years ago when I did an internship during my studies and had my first contact with the industry. After my graduation, I continued at university by completing my Ph.D. and working as a postdoc later on. I finally joined ABB Traction almost seven years ago as an engineer. For a year now, I have been a team leader of 11 employees and some interns. My team is part of the R&D department, where new power electronic converters for onboard rolling stock, such as trains, are developed.

You are in a team leader position, and you are also a hard-working dad – how do you manage both?

The week is clearly divided up in terms of work and childcare, so there's usually not very much to manage. However, it quickly becomes complicated to organize as soon as either one of the children, my wife, or I are sick.
It was a bit more difficult for me to accept that I can't do both duties at the same time. If I am at home, I constantly feel that work should be done in the office, and there may be employees who need my support or need something from me. If I am at work, there are two small children at home who would like to see their dad and play with him and do not understand why he is not at home. To accept this, and also to be able to state that it is OK, took some time for me.

How do your team and line managers support you in your decision and daily work?

First of all, independent of my current position and role, the company—and in particular our Traction division—is generally very open to people who need a reduced work schedule. It applies to any position that is advertised as 80 to 100% workload by default.
In my particular case, I started with the reduced workload already before I was in the team lead position. Reducing my workload from 100 to 80% was as easy as stating to my line manager that it was something I would like to do and also when I would like to implement the change. No tedious discussions or justifications were necessary.
My team and line managers support my schedule. I don’t get calls on my day off. Sure I get lots of emails, however, no one expects a reply from me that day. This is basically without any exemption. Furthermore, I have a deputy nominated in my team that can support me in any urgent activity, such as signing off on a permit to work, a travel approval, or the like.

You are currently working at 80%. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this way of working?

The biggest advantage for me, and this was also the main motivation and the reason why I reduced my workload, was that I really can dedicate a full day to my family—or even more, my kids—because my wife is also working. The relationship with my kids is very important to me and is definitely different between daddy days and family days. When I look back now on the last five years, it was a very good decision. Time flies, and I think I would have missed out if I hadn't taken this step to accompany my kids and take all of these steps together with them.
One positive secondary effect of the forced change of context (work/childcare) is that one always approaches things anew from different perspectives and thus arrives at different points of view, ideas, or solutions. Furthermore, the mind keeps thinking while not at work and trying to solve a problem. I often find the solution or right answer when I'm playing with my kids on a playground.
Of course, there are also disadvantages, such as first of all the lower salary corresponding to the workload. Especially in combination with the high costs for external childcare, this is quite significant. However, this is honestly not really related to the reduced workload but to the decision to have kids.
The biggest disadvantage, in my opinion, is that the day off is not like a weekend, i.e. the work goes on and the other employees are not off at the same time. After a day at home, my inbox is crowded and my diary is full of appointments and invitations. As a result, I have a lot of backlogs.  At the same time, I am very busy, so I have to work it off throughout the week. It is quite a challenge to set the right priorities so as not to overload myself on the one hand and still get the work done on time.
Furthermore, there is a certain overhead that each employee has to carry out through administrative activities such as team and planning meetings, training, courses, etc. This overhead is not reduced proportionally, so in total, there is less productive working time available, so there must be a very efficient way of working.

Anything else you would like to share?

No one is indispensable - this is confirmed to me again and again when I am not at work and the work continues unperturbed. The cooperation between the employees in my team is excellent, even when I'm not there. I fully trust my employees to get the job done right. So I let them have their freedom and their independence as much as possible, so they can perform at their best. Being a control maniac would not be an ideal prerequisite for having a reduced workload.
Just one more point. I'll probably even keep this reduced workload as my kids grow up. As long as I can afford it financially, it enriches my life. Currently, the children are the main focus. Later, it could be a contribution I make for the benefit of society or the environment.