Remote work is quickly becoming the norm in the tech industry, but that was definitely not the case pre-2020. At D&D Beyond, we’ve always had some remote staff, but the vast majority of our team has been collocated at our office in Huntsville, Alabama. Historically, there were two main concerns around embracing more remote work — communication and culture.
As I mentioned, we were already working with some remote folks, but that certainly had some challenges. Most of our important communication happened in-office and in a lot of cases required you to be in close proximity to the conversation or else you’d probably miss out. Even having a desk on the opposite side of the office presented problems, let alone on the other side of the country or world.
Not only was there a huge gap in communication, but we also had issues translating our office culture into the remote world as well — key word being office. Awesome amenities like team lunches, unlimited snacks, and kickass gaming computers don’t mean much to somebody working on their laptop from their couch. Neither do happy hours and team-building events that revolve around being in the same room.
Needless to say, the idea of going fully remote was just not something we ever considered — and then came 2020 and the world as we know it changed overnight thanks to COVID-19.
At first, it was everything we feared. Many of us only had laptops that barely work and Internet speeds that crumble under the pressure of remote desktop, video streaming, and everything else that we’re doing to get our work done and stay sane. Fortunately, Fandom allowed us to bring equipment home and offered to subsidize some of our Internet costs which was a great help.
Besides access to equipment and resources, we also missed each other. Gone were the morning catch ups over coffee and camaraderie that seems to come effortlessly from just being together. Many of us aren’t alone at home though, which can be both a blessing and a curse. While we are able to spend more time with our families and pets, those loved ones also provide a nearly endless amount of distractions. Staying focused at home is an ongoing battle as we debate whether we’re working from home or living at work while wearing our noise cancelling headphones.
Overnight, our development teams, that already struggled with effective communication, had to figure out how to keep the conversations going online. Our calendars filled up with Zoom meetings and impromptu conversations moved to Slack calls. Not being able to rely on quick answers while in the middle of doing something meant that suddenly we needed to document EVERYTHING — which is a much welcome change and has already improved so many of our processes.
We’ve even found ways to keep our culture alive and well. As it turns out, virtual happy hours are a great way to blow off steam even if they are BYOB. Fandom also just hosted their first company-wide hackathon and it was a massive success. There have even been swag and snack deliveries to help make up for some of the lost amenities. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this experience though is that a recent survey revealed that workers that were already remote now feel a stronger connection to their peers and more involved in decision making.
At the beginning of this crisis, it was generally accepted that our productivity might suffer as we adjust to the new normal. However, I’m proud to say we were wrong and D&D Beyond has already released more features this year than we did in all of 2019 — including the Combat Tracker, a brand new Character Service, Digital Dice, and the long anticipated Player Tools app. That doesn’t mean we weren’t working hard in 2019 as we started working on many of these things last year, but its a strong testament to our resiliency and ability to adapt that we’ve been able to get these things out the door and keep everything running despite navigating through all of the challenges that COVID-19 has presented.
The world has definitely been forever changed by this pandemic and D&D Beyond is no exception to that. While most of us would have never dreamed of working remotely, many are starting to consider it as an option even after the world is safe again. We’ve learned how to be more effective communicators and to appreciate the greater work/life balance that comes from less time on the road and more time with our loved ones.
This experience has also opened us up to new and exciting opportunities! Fandom Tabletop (the folks that bring you D&D Beyond and Cortex) has officially updated our hiring policies and will now be considering remote workers for our open senior-level positions. We’ve proven that not only can we make it work remotely, but we can deliver truly awesome products for our customers no matter where we are in the world.
Interested in joining our team? Visit our careers page!
Originally published at https://dev.fandom.com.