We.OHB Part 10 with Lutz Bartels, HR Business Partner

Empathy goes without saying – now more than ever

Family businesses such as OHB are based on human relationships. That’s why working at OHB is something very special according to Lutz Bartels. The HR business partner is passionate about working for and with people – and this is what he has been doing for five years at OHB in Bremen. In the latest part of our We.OHB series, Lutz Bartels tells us how his work has changed since the outbreak of the pandemic, what drives him and how he retains his balance during this time.

What does work look like in times of social distancing for someone who is passionate about working with people? Is it even possible?

Lutz Bartels: Yes, it works very well, just differently from before the pandemic. Every person needs a lot of empathy and an open ear during this time. Both aspects are placing heavy demands on me at the moment, allowing me to be there for people in a very special way. There are days when 90 percent of my working hours are spent on coronavirus management. For example, when it comes to calling the direct contacts of an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. This calls for a lot of empathy. Obviously, we strive to minimize the risk for our employees as far as possible to avoid a chain reaction, i.e. further possible infections.

What does this specifically involve? Can you give us an example?

In October 2020, an employee in an open-plan office tested positive. We found this out on the weekend. So, we worked in a team over the weekend and contacted about 20 employees, telling them they now had to work from home and recommending that they get tested. These are the types of conversations in which the human factor plays such an important role and which call for a great deal of patience and the ability to listen emphatically. With our swift and uncomplicated action, we were able to minimize the number of employees who had to go into quarantine. Fortunately, the infected employees experienced only relatively mild symptoms.  

That sounds like a real team effort.   

Yes, absolutely! The HR team does a great job. I am very grateful to work on this team. The sense of belonging is definitely my main motivation. We support each other mutually and are always therefore for one another. We have great conversations – that’s incredibly helpful when you’re dealing with coronavirus all day long.

All right, enough coronavirus! Let’s talk about you! Did you always want to go into HR?

Yes, definitely. While I was studying economics in Oldenburg, I already knew that human resources was what I wanted to do. I was also good at languages, but at that time I would have had to do teacher training to pursue a career in this direction. And I already knew  that I definitely didn’t want to be a teacher. I've been working in HR for 30 years now and still love it.

How do you maintain your balance during this time? How do you let off steam?

I love the outdoors and go for walks. Otherwise, I am happily married and have a fulfilling relationship with my wife. Another important thing is that I never stop growing intellectually. Privately, I’m very interested in psychology and educate myself in this area. I think it’s important in life to stay hungry and to do something for your own personal growth. Incidentally, this also helps you overcome negative thoughts and the feeling of being boxed in. And another thing, I’m grateful and aware of how fortunate I am.

The superpower of Lutz Bartels: Empathy. © OHB

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