How we transformed our company from mostly on-site to fully-remote (and why we may never go back)

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Turn on your webcam

As already teased in the introduction we shifted our work-setup from being mostly on-site to fully remote in March. The first few weeks of everybody being at home the team was pretty much enjoying their new found privacy. Sitting in front of your laptop in your pyjamas was kind of a delightful feeling. Nevertheless, with the weeks passing by, we started to realize that an important thing was missing from our day-to-day work-life: Talking to each other “face to face”. Sure — we were still talking quite a lot via voice-calls, but not seeing each other for such a long time started to feel more and more awkward.

Establish rituals

Talking to one another face-to-face was a big step forward in improving our remote culture. Nevertheless some of us still felt a little “lost” trying to structure our day at home. So, what was still different?! One thing we encountered was that all the little rituals that come automatically in an office-situation were suddenly not happening: having a morning coffee in the kitchen and talking about the new episode of Black Mirror used to be a welcome start to the work day. So we just moved the morning coffee ritual into the cloud: Opening a (voluntary) coffee-chat call in the morning for everyone to start their day brought our remote-experience even closer to what we were used to before.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Communicate like it’s your office or “How permanent audio channels became a key-factor for collaboration”

Having regular video calls and some kind of daily routines already made our every-day developer life way better, but when thinking about an average office day there is a lot more communication going on than just through dedicated meetings. Being used to being able to just shout something over your monitor to get help, the hurdle to lookup your colleague in slack and start a new call for just a short question was quite big.

Don’t underestimate the chit-chat!

Communicating about your project progress or architectural decisions is one (admittedly) very important part of your every-day communication. Still — when talking about a full-remote situation — you will come to a point where you realize that there is more about communication than the “hard facts”. Even though we tried to stay in close contact with each other, there are some subtle nuances of real face-to-face communication that are not that easy to grasp remotely:

The Critical Mass

As the pandemic gave us a little room to breathe during summer, some parts of the team started to go back to the office voluntarily. What happened in this time kind of surprised everybody: Instead of a better team experience, the communication within the team seemed to worsen. We realized that the situation where parts of the team were sitting together in the office while the rest was still at home lead to “communication islands” we didn’t expect beforehand.

But what about the productivity?!

Soooooooo — you might think. This all sounds nice, but you haven’t really talked about the impact on productivity! Luckily our team has been working in an agile environment for the last few years, so measuring the teams performance was quite easy: Looking at our velocity we indeed saw a little decrease in the first two to three sprints after we all moved into our home-offices. But let’s be fair: Everybody was just witnessing their first global pandemic and some of us even had their kids around while working — not the very best conditions for being super productive!

The new normal: On-site as a tool

Wow! So let’s cancel the rental-contract for our office! Well… Not so fast! Even though working mostly remote has meant a big plus in life-quality for most of us (just consider no more traffic jams, more family time, real flexibility on when or where you want to work), we are also aware that your home-desk will never be able to fully replace getting together in real-life. We are missing being face-to-face with our colleagues, and we really hope that this pandemic will be over in the near future to give us the opportunity to meet each other again and have a cold drink in our office-garden.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Want to get in touch?

This all sounds interesting to you and you want to know more about what we do or maybe even take part in our journey? Don’t hesitate to just drop us a message here, via email (info@beyond-interfaces.com) or our (German) website: https://www.beyond-interfaces.com.

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beyond interfaces

beyond interfaces

Enterprise UX and Development from Cologne, Germany. Sharing our journey into new work as well as some nerdy tech stuff! https://beyond-interfaces.com