Remote working: from programming to virtual coffee. How we do it in :mondora
Written by Anna Vullo with the collaboration of the whole
In the last few weeks, due to the health emergency caused by Coronavirus, thousands of companies across Italy have closed their offices and invited their employees to work in smart or remote mode.
A different way of working that required different approaches.
People had to equip themselves with computers, headphones and
rooms and carve out a corner of their home to be used as an office,
perhaps making space between the games, toys and the books of their children, who stayed home from school. Many of them have
been forced to familiarize themselves in a short time with tools such as Zoom, WebEx, Meet or one drive, semi-unknown terms in
the lexicon of traditional offices. And resign themselves to
communicating remotely on digital platforms.
A revolution that has swept away the reassuring image of employees sitting at their desk in a crowded office, but above all has forced a drastic (and quick) change of mentality:
no more time-wasting meetings in the boss office, nor coffee breaks at the machine or chatting with colleagues on the way home.
Work has suddenly become immaterial, colleagues sitting next to you in the office have turned into just voices, a distant relative has become close: disorientation is the new normality.
Yet for most tech companies, remote working has been a consolidated practice for years. What until recently was considered a niche of pioneers - we affectionately called them nerds and geeks or digital nomads, trying to give a name to something or someone not following the traditional patterns -; in
short, that avant-garde is today a team of veterans in constant search for innovative channels and tools for working and being together, even if in a virtual way. If we really wanted to find a definition in current affairs, we would have to precede it by the term “post”.
There are companies like ours whose days are studded with virtual practices that allow us to work in a team, discuss different topics, have a virtual coffee break whilst having a chat with colleagues and even meditate with background music, each from our own home.
Here in mondora words and tools such as scrum, Trello and WebEx have been widely digested. While trying to produce a positive impact for the community at this time, we decided, as a Bcorp and Benefit Society, to draw up a sort of remote working vocabulary to share with users.
The purpose is to facilitate remote work, make it slimmer and more inclusive and allow those who find themselves lost in this moment to glimpse the compass needle. In this way we aim to help thousands of workers who have to deal with innovative technologies (and for many still difficult to understand) but also to overcome the solitude that working remotely involves, feeling suddenly isolated from the community of colleagues and implement completely different problem-solving practices.
Here is a series of daily remote working best practices adopted at
mondora, that can be replicated and modified by any company.
And a short etiquettet of rules to observe and errors to avoid.
Passwords: clarity and sharing!
The basic requirements are the tools that allow the sharing of work resources.
The way of working changes and it is acknowledged that people, even if not visually controlled, are responsible. Most companies are made up of adults and not
teenagers, people who are able to be independent and capable. It is as if we were anticipating a collective protocol of free and structured life.
Regarding the tools, they do not need to be powerful, but smart, so as to allow people to communicate and work on the resources themselves (files, calendars, meetings, whiteboards, etc.).
Some basic tools:
- Collaboration: Synchronous (video chat, video meeting) and asynchronous (chat, forum, email) communication systems
- Suite for sharing and storing documents like Microsoft365 and
Google Suite — shared whiteboards
- Sharing: Platforms for shared work — synchronous (video chat, live video) and asynchronous (chat, forum, email) communication
Working from home? Behave as if you were in the office: dress and organize a possibly neutral workplace
(it would be unprofessional if your colleagues saw your laundry hanging, cups to be washed or the posters of your children in the background… ).
Get good quality headphones and microphone: the constant “Can you hear me?”, “Can’t hear”, fragments online conversations and meetings, making them tiring for everyone.
If you organize a meeting, ask your colleagues to do a technical test together beforehand, to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Make sure everyone can share slides and graphics on their screen.
Live presentations are easily replicable digitally, there is noreason to give these up for lack of extra support.
It is a good idea to turn off your microphone while colleagues talk so that no background noise interferes.
Tools such as meet or webex, for online meetings, allow you to
simultaneously send messages to the team, for example, to ask a
question: use them instead of interrupting others like in on tv talk shows.
Write down the appointments in the calendar and … be on time
with the agenda. To communicate to each other and between teams, we at mondora use the Slack platform, divided into thematic channels, where
internal chats are held according to topics or teams.
Our best practices
# Checkin: it’s the good morning of the day.
You communicate your activities and share feedback or difficulties. Tools: Slack.
# Virtualcoffee: 15 minutes break with cameras on, to be able to look at each other. It helps to share a moment of sociability, therefore it is forbidden to talk about work. Tools: Slack + Google
#dailyscrum: individual teams take stock of the day’s activities; a colleague takes on the role of facilitator. The duration depends on
the number of participants. Tools: Google meet, webex, zoom.
# 4to5pm: an hour from 16:00 to 17:00 in which someone presents a topic, a technique or a piece of knowledge to colleagues, with questions and answers. You register and post online for those who were unable to attend. Tools: Slack + Google meet.
# Co-design: collaborative planning during the initial design phase to share ideas and define shared solutions based on common
objectives. Thanks to tools everyone can design their own proposals. Tools: Miro, Freehand-Invision, Mural.
#PairProgramming: to encourage interaction between colleagues,
we work in pairs on writing code: one writes, the other checks. Tools: Slack + Google meet or Webex + Live shared by visual studio code.
#Circletime: a topic of common interest proposed by a colleague is
discussed. A moderator guides and enlivens the debate and gives
the floor to the participants on request (virtual show of hands). External guests can be invited and slides or data can be used on a shared screen. Duration; half an hour, extendable to one hour. Tools: Slack + Google meet, Twitch.
Trello Board: interactive virtual whiteboard that allows you to organize the work of individuals or teams by dividing it into tasks.
Tasks can be organized or moved into groups: for example “to do”, “done”, “in progress” etc. Very useful for having an overall view of
the progress of a project. Tools: Trello + Google meet.
#moodic: where the company playlist is shared, where whoever wants can listen to what colleagues want to share. Tools: Spotify
#AMA: acronym for Ask Me Anything, is an online conference in which a person, generally the CEO, answers any questions from colleagues sent via chat. Tools: Slack + Google meet.
#Slack: a series of internal company chats organized in thematic channels; the generic communication rules of the virtual forums are used. Tools: Slack + Google meet.
# Email: compared to chats, the tone is more formal. It is used for
important communications. It is good practice to include your contact information in the signature. Tools: email.
Virtual Meeting: video conference meeting. The rules are the
same as for meetings: speak one at a time (microphone off when others speak to avoid echo). Whiteboards are also shared in these meetings. Tools: Slack + google meet or WebEx, Jamboard.
Meme, NSFW and Random channels: channels for exchanging humorous contents. Everyday posts are exchanged on memes, links and funny articles are shared on random. Tools: Slack.
Pair design: two designers work together to produce a design
concept, conduct research or design some UX. You can divide the roles (for example one deals with UX activities and the other with visual ones) or the tasks to be completed. In this case the two designers take turns taking on a leading or supporting role. Instruments: Slack, Freehand-invision, Abstract, Miro.
#Peerprise: it is used to thank a colleague or a team and express gratitude, telling about how you received support. Tools: Slack.
#Decision: where decisions are made collegially and where collective practices are made to take decisions. Techniques such as
KGotla is used. Tools: Slack
#Empty-Mind: it is used to meditate online following guided meditations, but also to discuss issues related to meditation and personal growth. Collective videoconferencing meditations can also be done. Tools: Slack, Google Meet, Insight Timer,
#official-communications: the channel where everyone can write official communications. Tools: Slack.
UX / UI Inspiration: a channel where interesting links are shared on topics related to visual design, interaction design, user
experience design, user research. Tools: Slack.