Going remote while staying in touch

Silvester van der Bijl
17 February 2021

Our pool table sits idly in our nice quiet and spacious office. At this point we're unsure about the state of the coffee machine and wether someone is actually cleaning it. We come in every now and then to "water the plants", AKA get out of the office and enjoy the quiet ;-)

Our pool table at our office
( Our slightly dusty pool table )

Like most of you probably we've been working mostly remote ever since the Covid-19 pandemic turned things upside down. Switching to a fully remote company overnight was a challenge. Even for a team like us that's used to working in different locations for most of the week apart from Friday. I'd like to share with you a few of the things we've did to ensure we stay a cohesive team. 

Daily standups

Kind of critical to our culture and our way of working is that we're aware of what's going on. The typical anti-pattern of one one conversations, chats or phone calls became more present. We were on our way of becoming what we dread: political ;-)

So we decided to schedule a daily standup (for some reason it ended up being at 9:00 which, as a non morning person, I still think is a terrible time ;-)). It's more of a coffee meeting than a traditional standup but it works. We're more in sync and keep in touch.

Opening a virtual office (and being present)

Henrique experimented with virtual setups before and he convinced us to try https://gather.town. It's brilliant! It mixes real life with a virtual world which you can navigate with the cursor keys. 

Want to talk to someone? Just walk up to them and video and audio will automatically start. Want to have a meeting? Just come to the meeting room. Had enough? Just walk away ;-)

We organised our bi-weekly knowledge session (let us know if you want an invite!) in our new conference room. Some kinks to work out but it does feel more like being together in the same room.

Screenshot 2021-02-09 at 13.20.21

We started inviting our customers and people from our network. On any given moment quit a few people can be seen walking around. Sometimes meeting new people or actually bumping into each other while walking around and striking random conversations. 

You do have to remember to actually go to the virtual office though. It's quite easy to forget to open the app after different meetings. Parked avatars that don't respond kill the vibe!

Office drinks

Again, it's easy to forget or ignore the simple things. At first having a remote drink seemed useless. If you're not "together" how could it actually be a way to stay a group. Turns out I was wrong! Sending out "Friday afternoon drink packages" and scheduling a drink in our virtual office really does help. 

Staying remote for now

We've cancelled our "brick and mortar" office and are staying fully remote for the foreseeable future. Although there's no playable pool table (yet), there's upsides to residing in a virtual office as well. Where previously we had to travel to visit clients (or vice versa) we can now all be in the same "office". We've even added rooms for our customers. Instead of taking the car we can now use the cursor keys to "walk" to the next room! 

This might actually have accelerated our vision of becoming the hub with clients and people we want to work with, that share our values. 

Now we just need a fountain ;-)

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