Like many other organizations, we adapted to the new conditions caused by the global covid-19 pandemic. In this article, we share our approach. DAC team has already tested some hybrid work procedures before, but continuous remote work culture goes way beyond an occasional home office standards. To work effectively in a 100% remote model, we had to plan the entire workflow well from the operational side and enter the new chapter with the right attitude.
As we are a software development and hardware integration company, it was relatively easy for us to enter remote work, and it was not associated with many organizational problems. Still, it required a lot of focus on solutions that would be optimal for our team. We had to systematize our activities and create new rules that are clear to everyone.
How did we start working remotely?
Changing the work model to remote work was not easy and required increased engagement from everyone – including C-level management. Our first step was a hybrid model, but we switched to full remote work after a few weeks, and we have been working on this model until today.
A year ago, our work culture included the possibility of remote work for some team members, e.g., marketing & sales team, some of the developers, or project managers. However, each team member was visiting the office on an ordinary matter for larger meetings. The development and operations teams, on the other hand, were meeting in the office daily following their ceremonials.
Nowadays the office still stays open, but no one is obliged to visit it. We run 100% of meetings and ceremonials online. Nevertheless, some team members prefer to work from the office from time to time.
Our stand for online presentations
Culture of online meetings
When almost all communication occurs in a virtual environment, it is essential to take care of its proper course. Seeing the other person significantly facilitates communication, so meetings in our company are conducted in Google Meet with the cameras turned on. It allows us to stay in touch and gives a substitute for a face-to-face meeting. On the one hand, we know the meeting course because the Google Calendar Invites have a clear agenda attached, and on the other, we also know that we need to get to the meeting prepared. It facilitates the organization of work and maintains the meetings’ content, and is also an expression of respect for other team members and our own time.
Not being in the office makes communication difficult. All issues have to be discussed online. Our team’s basis was to establish the main communication channels (Slack/Discord, e-mail, GitLab, wiki) depending on the importance of the addressed content and the expected response. However, establishing channels is just the beginning. It was also in each team member’s hands to ensure that relevant information was disseminated to the right stakeholders. The continuous flow of information was crucial in this situation – from information about the start of work, through temporary absences, to information about a system failure.
In the beginning, we set live meetings during planning, grooming, and demos to maintain the continuous development of interpersonal relationships. Therefore we took care of strengthening the relations between the team members enabling effective communication between all company employees. Time and further work verified our assumptions. After a few months, we have developed internal solutions that allow us to operate in both hybrid and remote work models.
We have moved all activities to virtual space, and there is no longer any need to work in the office. On the other hand, we didn’t close the office. It is still open to those who need to change the environment and meet other employees. Therefore, we currently carry out most of the tasks in a hybrid model. Our regular meetings are held remotely, but those willing to can participate from the office. A station with a sofa, large screen, and a webcam created for this purpose allows us to combine both models effectively and agile adapt the form of tasks to the needs.
The most crucial element in the new situation was trust. The main principle: “give people your trust and let them earn your mistrust,” perfectly reflected our approach to working together. It was in each team member’s hands to respect the established rules so that further work would run smoothly.
How did the remote working model develop in DAC?
Looking back, we can see that we have learned to be flexible as an organization, which has opened up new opportunities for us. We also had to move the on-boriding process of new employees to virtual space. Remote work, however, allowed us to reach talented people from all over Poland and expand our team to people from Warsaw or Krakow. The considerable distance ceased to matter.
For me, trust is the basis for building a strong team. An efficient organization can attract the best employees, no matter where in the world they are, but only if everyone responsibly and consciously follows common rules. – Agata Gwardyś, COO.
Conclusions from changing the model of work to remote
The last few months have allowed us to draw some conclusions from the whole process we went through as an organization. It is much easier to change the model if the team is well-coordinated and has a well-established process of carrying out tasks.
Joint ceremonials are significant. They allow the team to integrate and build relationships. At DAC, these are both cyclical meetings – planning and grooming, which are associated with fixed elements (such as a cleaned board), and the habit of saying hello in the morning on Slack, which means being ready to work.
The positive aspects of this model are also noticeable. Although our organization has flexible working hours and can start at any time before daily at 10:15 am, many people start faster after switching to remote work. It is the effect of saving time on transport and the morning preparation. It also has its disadvantages – sometimes it is more challenging to motivate yourself and get to work, but the positives prevail.
We also see the need for face to face contact. Working in the office favors small talk. We again try to introduce these elements while working remotely. In addition to talking about tasks, we also like to talk about what happened during the weekend. Regular meetings do not have to be boring. Frequent and useful feedback is also vital.
Understanding a common goal
Responsibility for the work rests in the hands of each team member. Constant communication and responsiveness on the communicators we use is key to the implementation of tasks.
Our principles are derived from the assumptions of the turquoise organization. All team members are autonomous and take responsibility for their tasks. They impact the technology in which they want to carry out their tasks, on the estimation of time, and no one watches them during implementation. It also has its other side – they are responsible for what they create and deliver.
Fair play is essential to us, and we trust that employees carry out tasks in the time they declare. Therefore, if someone has an important issue – a visit to the office or something else, they must inform the rest on Slack about limited availability. It makes it easier to work together.
“An over and over repeated cliche is “with great power comes great responsibility”, Remote work trims down the burden of unnecessary commute, but creates challenges that come without a face to face communication. You need to establish rituals, that will create a sense of community, even if you’re separated by miles of fiberoptic or copper cable. It’s also really easy to create an imbalance between your private and profesional work. Leaving the office is as easy as walking to a different room. But so is walking back into the office when you should focus on your family life.” – Krzysztof Radecki, CTO.
We are flexible, allowing us to carry out projects without any problems, even for overseas clients, and operate in different time zones. What will work at the DAC look like after the pandemic? We do not have a ready solution for this. However, we are prepared for different scenarios. Our mentality and approach to projects have changed. We have technical facilities to carry out work both completely remotely and in a hybrid model. We are already mixing these models as needed. Hybrid operation is the future.