Greetings from my home office,
I'm Darius Baba from CraftingSoftware and I want to share with you our personal experience and insights on working fully remote in the last 2 months.
Our team went on a full remote mode before official measures were taken by the authorities. This was done both to protect our colleagues and because we had the firm belief that it is the responsible thing to do. Our hope was that we won’t be affected by this new setup. Why would we be? We were used to remote work, we trust our team and we have all the resources to pull through this challenge.
So, you might ask, were we right to be this optimistic?
The answer is yes! :)
Below are some tricks that we did and might help your company too.
Tasks and time management? Did it work?
It worked great! As a matter of fact, we saw an increased efficiency. No special tools/ processes were put in place to ensure this, other than the regular daily meetings we had at the office.
If you need to add another level of tooling for tasks/time management, then you are doing it wrong! If you think you need these tools to manage/track the amount of time worked by the team, then for sure, you have the same problems when working in the office. I’m referring here to time tracking due to lack of trust and not for statistical reasons, of course.
What you actually need is accountability and ownership.
It is useless to have time tracking tools, as you are neither producing nor paying for time! Your main focus is results and therefore you should facilitate and optimize for getting results!
Daily standups, setting clear goals, ownership, accountability. All these, facilitated by professional leadership and a committed team, is all that is needed for things to run smoothly.
At Crafting, we are fortunate to have the right combination of the above, and therefore we had no issues in delivering value to our partners during these past weeks.
Is it all sunshine and rainbows?
Of course not! We found out that even though we can deliver constant quality as a team, we are in a jigsaw pattern when it comes to overall motivation. You can almost see the distinct phases each of us is going through:
- confidence (we can do this! How hard can it be?)
- doubt (I don’t like this way of working, am I delivering enough?),
- despair (I want to get out! I need people!),
- acceptance (ok, this seems to work. I got a system that works). And then starting all over again.
And then starting all over again and again.
As I said, these phases create an up-and-down pattern in terms of mental wellbeing. We tried to mitigate this by constant engagement and virtual interaction.
A well-encountered bias about people working in the IT industry is that they are all “anti-social”. We found out that we actually thrive on social interaction. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, the need for some amount of socializing is still there, a core need. We are a very cohesive group, but the imposed social distancing rules are the main issue that we are facing right now. To overcome this, we came up with a series of meetings designed to facilitate communication.
- Company-wide all hands, every 2 weeks: business updates, project updates. Listening to suggestions and questions. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an open forum, transparency, and predictability for everyone in the company.
- Weekly retros / Drinkabouts :). Each Friday we have a meeting for socializing and identify any issues we may have with remote work. For example, we noted that the infrastructure needed for the home office was a problem for several colleagues. Therefore each of us was encouraged to bring his chair/monitor/devices from the office. A creative touch is that we add surprise guests to these meetings to spice up the conversation topics. Last week we learned to play the drums!
- 1-2 short (10-15 min) breaks during the day. These are designed to replace the so-called watercooler breaks. Up to 5 colleagues are matched up for these conversations. We choose to have a smaller number of participants to increase interaction. To facilitate this, we created our own slackbot, Yappy, to automate the process.
- Regularly sent questionnaires to assess the general health of the organization and to proactively act if we find any systemic reasons for concern. We like to take care of our team. :) This way we assure that everyone is keeping their physical and mental in proper shape.
- Daily morning standups.
Disclaimer! These are not counting the numerous 1 to 1 conversations we are having with each other daily. :)
Conclusion. What have we learned?
Can you be productive when working totally remote?
For sure. But you need to have the right team to do it!
Can this be done for an indefinite time?
We have mixed feelings about it. Having all the company remote and not having to manage 2 different work styles (office + remote) is for sure a big plus.
However, it is dangerous to generalize. It’s important to remember that right now we are not in a regular remote work situation. The overall context, the anxiety brought by the pandemic, the constraint of not being able to leave your home, makes this a very special situation.
We are not just working from home, we are working from isolation. And this has a major impact on our mental wellbeing. Mindset matters!
Also, we need to understand that having the entire company working remotely is very different from having a part of it remote and part working from the office. The types of interactions are different and we need to better understand each particular situation.
So, it is very hard to use this special case to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of remote work as a whole (task efficiency plus long term wellbeing), because of the novelty of the context.
When this situation will be over, Crafting Software will continue the current work setup until the risk is low enough to make a general gathering possible. The fact that we can continue our work remotely, without being heavily impacted by the social distancing rules, is an advantage we are going to use for as long as it is necessary.
We will not impose any return to the office when restrictions are lifted, but we do understand that some of our colleagues are eager to get back. For these situations, depending on the numbers, special precautions will be taken: put a cap on the number of people simultaneously using the office, masks, strict office cleaning, and of course, mandatory work from home for the slightest symptoms of illness.
In the long run, we decided to continue with the full freedom of choosing the work style which best suits each of us. We won’t go fully remote, but probably we will go for a smaller, more co-work style of an office. Something we can use for work meetings and socializing events. We think the “one desk - one employee” concept is now a thing of the past!
In the end, I want to thank all my colleagues for their hard work and high level of commitment in these special times. Keep up the good work!
Co-founder of CraftingSoftware