The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had us on tenterhooks since 2020 began. Very few of us could anticipate the impact it would have on our lives and the world of work. Home office is no longer something that's a job perk, but a necessity to support the containment of this pandemic. Here at //SEIBERT/MEDIA, we have also responded to these changes, and our office now is only occupied sporadically. Entire teams are working from home, meetings are taking place online, even large-scale customer events are being hosted online.
I have been working remotely for quite some time now, since long before the virus. As early as 2015, we as a team embarked on a remote experiment. Home office did exist back then, but it came with several hurdles. Over the years, we have learned a lot and continuously adapted our approach – some changes smaller, others more significant.
I have written about this in detail over the years in a series of blog posts. Today, I'd like to give you an outline of the approaches we are currently using.
Step-by-step to home office
Towards the end of February, the messages about the COVID-19 virus were piling up on our intranet microblog. "Pay attention to the hygiene recommendations," "We are reducing face-to-face contact with customers," "We'll be coming back from the training course earlier than planned," and so on.
At that point, we too sensed that we and our work would also be affected by the crisis. And by then, our teams had already started to think about how we would respond to the virus' spread. The first teams decided to start working from home full-time.
Of course, this step comes with its own challenges. How do I get in touch with the team when I have a question? What about all of the social contact (the chats at the coffee machine, for example)? Can we even keep the business going when the headquarters aren't occupied?
Software support for remote teams
As a software company with products from Atlassian and Google, digital collaboration is a vital part of our business model. The majority of our processes run using web-based services, and thanks to our internal IT department, we can access the necessary systems from anywhere. Nonetheless, we didn't have a "pandemic plan" ready and waiting in our desk drawer.
At this point, the strength of self-organization within our agile company became genuinely apparent. Ideas came from all sides on how we could continue to organize our collaborations seamlessly – even those that are independent of day-to-day business. Someone set up a digital tea kitchen – a permanent chat and video chat space, where people could talk about non-work-related topics despite social distancing. There are links to each tea kitchen in the remote lounge so that people can make contact quickly. All team members were asked to update their intranet profiles so that their contact details are up-to-date.
A culture to encourage the contribution of ideas and exchanges
Solidarity was and continues to be clearly palpable. Everyone is contributing their own expertise and ideas to make the absolute best out of the current situation. Internally, teams are offering help and support: Do you have everything you need for (long-term) home office? How are you managing to juggle work and childcare? How are you getting on with the current situation, are you having problems?
Additionally, we are also trying to do something worthwhile outside of work, e.g., Coronavirus – What we're doing and how you can help or taking part in the hackathon organized by the German government to fight COVID-19 "Wir vs. Virus" (Us vs. Virus). Despite the gravity of the situation, we're also making sure that we don't forget to have fun. For example, we've collected photos of our teams' home offices and placed them on our microblog as a way of enhancing the sense of community.
Finally, I'd like to give a huge compliment to everyone who is helping to create a little bit of normality in the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in! As a remote veteran, it really is special to no longer be an outsider but one of many 😀
Remote meetings: Open-mindedness and willingness to experiment leads to better results
Shared software: How to make remote workers into a team
Agile remote transition I: why?
Agile remote transition II: who?
Agile remote transition III: how?