Remote Working | Natalie Nagele & Peldi | BoS Online Europe 2020

Everything about remote working you need to know from the Co-Founder of Wildbit and the founder of Balsamiq

Streaming direct from the USA and Italy, two titans of remote working spoke at BoS Online Europe back in 2020.

Even fully remote companies who have been doing asynchronized work for decades have had to change their ways of working when the pandemic hit. In this talk, Peldi and Natalie discuss the aspects of remote worklife that are different now for working at home in result of Covid-19 including productivity, schedules, prioritisation, focus, and much more.

Video

Transcript

Mark Littlewood  

They both work in self funded organically grown very wholesome companies and have been pretty much remote all all the way through so let me introduce firstly natalie natalie do you want to say hello

Natalie Nagele  

Hi good morning or i said that already see i’m not even awake yet hi guys i like the organically grown i feel like it’s like a farm to table you know very perfectly designed thing that like doesn’t exist anymore so yes paddy and me we grew organic organic businesses

Mark Littlewood  

artisinal software companies and where are you where are you speaking to us today from

Natalie Nagele  

I am in rainy Philadelphia where we have just announced our what they don’t want to call shelter in place but we’re sheltering in place so

Mark Littlewood  

here we are wow so there we are that’s that’s one of those life’s milestone moments for me whenever i talk to anybody wherever they are in the world it’s always nicer weather than it is in Cambridge but it’s beautiful and sunny here so i’m sorry to hear that you have our weather and peldi let’s say hello to you

Peldi  

Hey everybody I’m Peldi run Balsamiq and I am in Bologna, Italy and it’s very sunny right now

Mark Littlewood  

excellent so we’re gonna talk a little bit about some of the i guess the the basics the kind of remote working 101 I know Peldi you’ve been in the slack channel you’ve shared a few things and taken a few questions from people but i’m going to try and get involved as little as possible in this because a i’m going to be frantically taking notes even though i will remind you that we are recording everything so

Natalie Nagele  

yeah I mean I will start so WildBit turned 20 in October and so it started  – thanks – and so the entire 20 years it’s been a remote company so we’ve been doing this for quite some time. I think I wanted to make sure that as we talk today we’re conscious of the fact that this is not normal so that even for us you know fully remote teams this is not business as usual I get all these calls all the time from friends who are big corporate companies that have just started to work remote and they’re like oh you must be doing so great and I was like no no we’re all just as panicked as you are and trying to figure out how to make all of this makes sense. Everybody’s got their kids running around at home behind them and there’s no help so I think if we focus today I’d love to talk about remote in general but I also want to be conscious of some of the things that we do in business as usual is not happening right now. 

Natalie Nagele  

So I think like from from the perspective of helping and being valuable today you know I’m happy to answer questions on even how we’ve adjusted to make sure that this is actually functioning in the climate that we’re in right now and we can also talk about remote in general as well. 

Natalie Nagele  

So we’re remote we’re all over the world we have folks you know most of what we do is asynchronous so you know we are set up kind of naturally to do this type of work but you know I can answer questions and also just talk about how things have been different

Mark Littlewood  

Right thank you and if anybody’s come here to follow up i think there was an article in the wall street journal a couple of weeks ago about how people can manage remote working and it had all sorts of great tips like you can set up a webcam so you can take pictures of your employees whenever you feel like whether they know you’re there or not and various things i have really really really bad news for you we’re not going to pay much help because I think as you say this is not normal for my working number one and number two I don’t think that’s any way to work anyway I’m not sure if anyone’s gonna take a strong opposing view on that

Peldi  

yes very similar here we’ve been around 11 years and remote from the beginning and like Natalie said it’s not the same; people are stressed out, people are distracted, you’re distracted and stressed out there’s no difference there really. So I am very interested in in learning from Natalie what they did to adjust, but if people also have some more basic questions about how to go from having an office to being remote we can definitely talk about that too!

Natalie Nagele  

for sure

Peldi  

So natalie what did you do to to help your team right now?

Natalie Nagele  

So I think one of the biggest question that people keep asking a lot is around productivity, and like how do you stay productive? I feel like there has to be like a before COVID and after COVID answer to that question so we look at productivity very differently right now and the way i’ve shared with my team is kind of what i’ve asked them to do is look at wild but as it needs to be today and not wild but what it was before this whole thing started so like we don’t have to be as productive and doing all the same projects that we were doing before this whole thing kicked off we need to look at it today and say what’s really important today and then let’s put everything else aside so from a productivity standpoint we’ve really just kind of lowered the bar pretty dramatically on like what needs to get done and the type of work that needs to get done so just like as an example you know for a lot of the team like two working parents kids at home for the foreseeable future they need to be somehow homeschooled none of us are homeschool you know so there’s like add all this combination of things so one of the first things we did is really just encourage everybody to just take the time that they need this last week and this week and figure out what’s a schedule that’s reasonable or that functions well so while that only does 32 hour work weeks so we don’t normally work on fridays anyway so that kind of helps but kind of just starting to look at internally the schedules and seeing how people can split things up we have some some folks on our team who really just said like i’ll take two hours in the morning and then two hours later in the afternoon and then their spouse or partner takes the other two out you know kind of just tag teaming that seems to work decently well it’s not it’s hard because then you got to move meetings around and things that have been consistently on the schedule and then from a what we’re doing perspective where we really just internally said let’s examine what focus work what deep work is really necessary right now so you know for us one of our big kind of tenants of what we do is really optimise focus work and it’s kind of why remote work works so well and why i promote remote work so much is because it enables this opportunity to do deep work in a shorter amount of time so you have to work as hard right or work as long and so that deep work requires focus time and space and mentally to be there and so we just assume that there’s just not a lot of space in our minds for that right now and so as a team we’re looking at like what actually requires focus work like what work do we need to do right now to move things forward so we had a bunch of projects in the works we were supposed to launch several big projects in april that we’ve been really pushing hard towards and we kind of just said you know what let’s finish what feels like we can get done like this just to get it kind of over we’re not going to launch anything big for a while and then let’s examine projects that don’t require deep work we have a bajillion help docs to update we have you know process things we want to think about there’s maybe cleanup and bugs and things like that and so we’re just looking at it and say what’s work that we can do that smaller scale that’s still productive because everybody wants to feel good and do something and like we’re not you know and we want to be ready for one thing start opening up and we’re ready to go again but let’s not do anything that we know we’re not going to do well you know or that we’re struggling with so that’s kind of been the two fold approach and i also keep saying you know this is maybe very personal to me but part of me believes That the uncertainty is really what’s causing a lot of the this this mental load. And so at least like in the States, there’s just there’s a lot of what what are they gonna say tomorrow? What are they gonna say tomorrow and there’s a part of me and Pelley I’d love to hear how it’s happening in Italy. Maybe this isn’t part of this conversation. I’m just super curious. But you know, is there a point where we’re kind of like, Alright, we’re gonna sit put for the next 90 days, you know, and then I think a shift will be able to happen where people can say, Okay, this is the new normal. Like, we know, like, right now, we don’t even know how long schools are gonna stay closed, you know. So once that kind of transitions, I think we’ll have a regroup in what productivity looks like, what the team’s working on how we collaborate together. But right now, we’ve just really released and said, let’s just let’s just do what feels good, and just support ourselves as much as we can.

Mark Littlewood  

That’s great. Peldi. I’d love you to answer that same question. But I think given where you are in Italy, people will be interested to know a little bit about that kind of more general Zeitgeist of what’s been what’s been happening. And I think you’ve you’ve been experiencing a few things in advance of other other people. So let’s focus on the good things are going to come out of that. But I mean, it sounds sounds like things are common there.

Peldi  

Yeah, so it’s interesting how, psychologically while he was still in China, and nobody really was afraid of it, then when you start arriving, that’s when really the panic happens. But then as soon as it’s all around you, now, it’s not panic anymore. It’s more of a low key anxiety. But, but it’s not as intense. But it’s, it’s very distracting and nevertheless, um, so yeah, we’ve been in lockdown since March 10. As a country. And so on March 9, I was just looking up on Slack, I told the team. If this is causing you stress and personal errands Don’t hesitate for a second and slow down your personick word. We Masami but I think, in general, the people that come to boss are very privileged, because we don’t usually have too many people breathing down our necks to ship, ship, ship, grow, grow, grow, we all build sustainable businesses, so we can afford to slow down for a couple of months. In the grand scheme of things, nothing’s gonna really, the company’s not gonna go bankrupt, which I realise it’s an incredible privilege that we have as a software, entrepreneur intrapreneurs. So then, so I told everybody work less. Then another thing we did a few days later was to create a COVID-19 channel in Slack, so that people can self regulate how much news they want to listen to, because that can also create a lot of anxiety. And also, because one day, I know I can archive the channel, I’m really looking forward to closing that channel. It doesn’t pollute our regular channels. Um, and then a few days later, we had our admin HR team, say, send the message to everyone. I was like, if you need to talk, we’re here. Don’t be shy, and I’ll take your time. Don’t feel bad. And then, last week, I finally sent this reminder where I said, I expect everyone’s productivity to be cut in half for a while. And that’s just a number. That doesn’t really mean anything. But it I think, it like Natalie was saying it’s all about the uncertainty. So given a clear expectation, like work half the time, and that’s plenty, I think that everybody can can work with that. It gives you a little more clarity and a little more calm. You don’t feel guilty about not working as much, you know. So, so that’s really it. Um, you know, I also said in the life of 100 years plus company, two months are just a blip. So who cares? You know, let’s, we’ll go faster when we’re gonna go faster again. Now, again, we’re not a restaurant, we’re not a, you know, a movie theatre. We’re not a so many jobs can’t afford to say that. But those of us who can, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t. Everybody’s slowing down, including your customers so often, we’re b2b. So that’s all slowed down for a while and care about it. families and our health and our mental health. And then we’ll start again later.

Natalie Nagele  

Somebody asked with work half the time is that permission to take unpaid holiday or salary being reduced? Also?

Peldi  

We don’t track anything anyways, we pay everybody full time all the time.

Natalie Nagele  

Yeah, same. So for us. It’s it’s not PTO time or I mean, we don’t really keep an eye. We have PTO for vacations. But this is nobody’s going on vacation right now. But, yeah, it’s just kind of standard operating. And I think Peldi said something that’s really important. And I was doing an interview with the press last week. And I think that this can really that’s similar, kind of similarly can apply to bigger corporations, if we’re talking about remote work is really designed for knowledge workers, right. So we’re talking like office workers, for the most part. And most of these big, big companies, people work in the office, and they spend 90% of their time doing crap, right? They’re not doing actual work. So if they just spent an hour or a day saying, like, what’s actually important, you know, what do we actually need to get done, like what’s actually going to support our customers or prepare us for when this turns around, and whatever, they probably could cut their time by 50%, too, and give their teams that ability to kind of back off and be less productive. It’s just they’re choosing not to do that, because a lot of those big corporates are designed to reward and kind of measure by physical butts and seats, not by actual productivity or actual, like accomplishment of something. And so they just can’t do those are like mental, massive mental shifts that they have to do. But they I think they could do it easily.

Peldi  

Yeah, sorry, I forgot. The other thing is similar to what you said, Natalie, is, let’s cut down on ‘non essential’ if we’re only working half time, well, let’s focus on support. Right, that, you know, that comes first or issues that in development that affected that can help the support team. So let’s work on those things, and not on big new features that will require all this effort, you know, let’s table those for now. Yeah,

Natalie Nagele  

yeah, that was for us. A big two is just making sure the support team is the only team that really can’t slow down unless the load slows down. So there was a big conversation very early on, it was the day that we kind of the, the state kind of really started shutting down almost two weeks ago, where we were like, everybody focus on support first, like, what are that? What does that team need? Because they have the same pressures that we do and the same kids at home that we do. And so like, how can we all chip in and help them? So that’s been like a big part that we’re still trying to figure out,

Peldi  

what thing we did was, we decided to ship a lot less often. Because that way, support doesn’t have to keep up with what’s in the product. You know, that helps them in that way as well.

Mark Littlewood  

I’d be very curious to know if anybody’s got examples of some, some larger organisations who are taking a similar approach, because there do seem to be a few different tracks around this work from home thing from the gym, we’ve just got to get up. We’ve got to do all our work and get our employees through this. And it’s a total pain that they can’t be here. And I think that’s going to come back in in the software industry and bite people quite badly. Because if you’re constantly Steven Wright, the American comedian has this line about, you know, when you’d like lean back on your chair was that moment just before it falls backwards? You know, that’s how he feels his whole life. And I think a lot of people feel like like that at the moment. So, you know, are people really realistically going to be doing their best work? or anything like their best work? Or can they do mission critical work, product development, you know, sort of work on product when there is that, that that sort of thing going on? I’d say, you know, please share any any examples from people listening in where you see companies taking those those sorts of approaches would be very interested.

Natalie Nagele  

 definitely.

Peldi  

Overall though, I would say that in the last few days, we’ve all felt strangely productive. I think that this fact that you know, work becomes a distraction, they’re relaxing distraction, but the fulfilling part of your day, more and more. And so I don’t know we’ve we’ve accomplished quite a few tough projects already. In You know, the capacity of humans to get used to anything is just amazing. And so after a few days, you get into a rhythm, you know, it does become the new normal.

Mark Littlewood  

It was surprising to me, I would echo that for our team here. And I mentioned earlier on, I have no idea what I would have spent my time doing. If we didn’t have this to put together this week, I think, well, the world is very filled with distractions. And I’m very conscious, and I’m quite cognizant of what we do next. And clearly, there are a bunch of things that we need to do as a business to, to react and get through this and help the community get through this that we, we work with, but it’s also something that we need to think about as a, as a as a business. So there are different things to focus on. But I think we need to take a, a measured approach to that we can’t all be full on. And, you know, I was gonna say, I’m not expecting anyone in the office for the rest of this week, but I wasn’t expecting anyone in the office for the rest of this week anyway.

Peldi  

Yeah, guys, one thing, one challenge that we have as remote companies is that it’s harder to notice to notice if someone needs help, or someone because they just might slow down the amount of chatting that they do in Slack, right? Or did you don’t even know there. So what we’ve done is with some of my teammates who are in a more of a HR role, we said, Alright, let’s make sure we monitor these slack channels, for any sort of message that could be a veiled cry for help, right, and jump in, make sure there’s one person that checks in on that person, you know, just in case. So it’d be even more mindful of these up and down. swings that we all have.

Natalie Nagele  

So I think, for us, we’re still in that place. For those who have young kids at home, it’s there’s no productivity, it’s like that part is just is really, really challenging. I was talking to somebody on my team yesterday, and she had just got off maternity leave, and this all hit. And so she’s got a really little one, and then a three year old and her husband, and it’s just like she’s just struggling. And I was like, just just put it away. I mean, it is what it is like, there’s nothing we can do. So I don’t know that. I hope that we get to a point where there’s a good flow, but for now, I think a lot of us, depending on what’s going on at home, right? Like the the family situation, you know, if you were relying on older parents, or grandparents to watch the kids, and you’re not asking them to come over anymore. And so those are like really big, big, impactful things. And the same like, I think to answer Joe’s like what’s been the hardest part, I think, is understanding or just supporting people’s mental load for me personally, because I have so much of it on myself, right? Like I’m trying to figure out how to be there for people. But I’m also like, sleep has been tough, and the kids aren’t sleeping well, because they’re feeling the anxiety. And I’m not actually physically there. Like last week, Chris and I barely worked, it was just, it was so hard. And we kind of committed to it, we did lots of baking, lots of cooking lots of spending time with the girls. I have a five year old and a 10 year old. So you know, those were really, really like difficult times to be a leader when you’re also kind of on your own trying to find sense and purpose. So what on Thursday, Thursday is our last week of the day of the week. And so last week, on Thursday, we just did a zoom call just to just look at each other and just talk and hang out and share kind of one thing that was important to me was to be able to share ways we’re all helping in our communities to give ideas of how others can help because I think there is this feeling of helplessness, our business, you know, is going to be more resilient than some of our favourite restaurants and, and, you know, other services that we’ve all used. And so how are people helping donating blood, things like that, like that was really powerful people were able to share and think through those things and collaborate on some of those ideas. And then just, you know, crack few jokes see each other, we put our kids on our lap. So like my five year old was on my lap, and you know, a bunch of other kids were there that the kids were sharing their Legos that they built while on quarantine. And so that was really nice. And I think that was just like an important way to end the week to just say okay, like, we’re all struggling and then me being very transparent saying I’ve gotten nothing done this week. I’m struggling myself. My mind is not working. I feel for you guys. I know this and we just all kind of have to try it day by day and see how we can how we can repair it. I think there’s some questions I don’t want to ramble on about things. We

Peldi  

also have a share how you’ve been helping session on Wednesday scheduled. Mr. Rogers right. Always look at the helpers. It’s, it’s so uplifting. It’s a wonderful there.

Natalie Nagele  

Yeah. So the question was tips on potential mental health issues, people seem to be working harder and longer hours at the moment, not necessarily detaching at home time. 

Natalie Nagele  

For me, I don’t I don’t know that people are working longer and harder. I think people are definitely struggling with the drawing that dark line, or at least any line because there’s no set schedules right now especially we’re talking about like with the anxiety and the kids and the kind of disruption of daily life. So the best thing that we’ve been able to or we’re trying to do is really just help people set those lines. So we do one on all our everybody on the team has a lead. And so like those leads are having one on ones with everybody and just continue, you know, it’s coming from me consistently. And then it’s also coming from the lead saying, like, What do you need? How do we cut your schedule down? How do we move things around, if you need to alternate your schedule, like our head of director of engineering, she posted her schedule, she’s like, here it is, like, I’m only gonna be here for two hours, and I’m gone for four hours with the kid, then I’m coming back. And so kind of leading by example, as well to give that permission to adjust and figure out what what works. Probably I don’t know if you’ve anything? Well, no, I

Peldi  

mean, the the challenge is, is that it has to come from the top right, you can’t you might get pushback, but that there will be pretty terrible if you couldn’t say, Hey, you guys, I can’t work as much right now. But I would be surprised if there are any leaders who are saying, gotta go, gotta go. Gotta go. I don’t care. 

Natalie Nagele  

Peldi, you can’t be that surprised! I’ll send you a list.

Mark Littlewood  

We’ve all got the list. We’ve all got

Natalie Nagele  

DHH has been compiling a list. Yeah. Dan asked advice on how to avoid micromanaging people. 

Natalie Nagele  

Man, that’s a good one I’ve been. So for Peldi and I, I’m gonna speak for pelvic because I think I know this. But you know, when you’ve been doing remote for so long, you realise that the beauty of remote is that you don’t micromanage. You just have trust.

Natalie Nagele  

Everything for remote is built on trust, and it’s built and your trust is designed based on outcomes. So you know, doesn’t matter how many hours you work doesn’t matter what you do. I mean, you don’t want you to work too many hours. But the whole idea is you make a promise you deliver on it or you communicate why it’s not coming through. And that back and forth is how you trust somebody to disappear for a week and come back and have something great to show you right? For the teams that are just coming into remote work. I think this is such a massive shift that we have to treat it very differently. And I think some of that micromanagement is actually it should be okay, if it’s treated as like a temporary thing. So the way I’ve been kind of trying to coach some teams and just think it through is if we if you were used to managing a person face to face, and now all of a sudden you’re behind a screen, right? And there’s this, you know, let you’re not staring at them anymore, you’re just waiting for them to deliver on work. I think early on starting with daily check ins even to start to connect accomplishes two things, I would structure a daily check in very practically to say, what let’s make sure we’re on the same page and what what’s the priority and what we’re actually hoping to get done so that there’s no ambiguity, there’s no questioning of like what’s expected my expectation, your expectation, we’re on the same page. And the second part of that checkout would be like, just a check in on how they’re doing and like what needs to be adjusted. Because even and I did a panel with a few folks, and somebody brought this up, and I thought this was brilliant. Your best people in the office might not be your best people working remotely, right? You’ve changed the entire environment. So you want to have those course correction chances early on, so that you can adjust. So like I would say that you don’t, it’s not micromanaging, it’s readjusting early on to make sure that everybody feels good. And they’re now learning how to work together in this remote environment where, you know, your manager doesn’t know how to evaluate you, in most cases, because they’ve only been evaluating you based on whether you showed up to the office at 911 at five. And you don’t know how to present your work in the same way that maybe you used to because, again, like you didn’t have to communicate so much because maybe you just showed up or maybe you guys talked about something and that felt like it was work right now you have to like present a thing and you have to like post it somewhere and you have to share it, you know? And so I think like early on, I don’t we don’t do daily stand ups at all right because I just trust my team and they do their work. But I think this is a different environment where we have to give people the chance to learn how to be remote leaders and remote employees. Make sure that that trust is built. Because if that trust breaks, that is much harder to repair, if at all on remote teams, because there’s just so much ambiguity, and you don’t get that kind of face to face opportunity to fix it.

Peldi  

Yeah, I agree. One thing that is kind of hard as a leader is that it’s so easy to check on every Slack channel. And of course, you have an opinion, when you see anybody sort of the conversation, slowing down for a minute, that’s, that’s why that’s why your CEO, right. Um, but every time you jump in, you’re undermining their ability to make decision on their Alright, so what, what we used to have was a few slack channels, one per team. And I will follow every channel and sort of not micromanage, but be present all the time. And then we switch to another model, which makes it much harder for me to do that, which is, every project has a channel for the lifetime of the project, and only the project team, which I’m rarely a person a part of, has access to that channel. So everything about that project happens, you know, and they fill me in and other channels, right, more and more open channels, and they’re all hands or whatever. So that made it easy for me not to butt in and gave people safe space to make their own decisions and cut their own speed. So that’s a practice simple, practical thing. And about one on one micromanaging. Definitely I agree on having daily meetings, until it’s no longer necessary, then you switch to every three days, then you switch to once a week, then you switch the once a month, then you then that person is better than you when they teach you. So definitely give it make sure that everybody knows that it’s a phase. It’s not forever,

Natalie Nagele  

which is kind of how you onboard new people anyway, right? 

Peldi  

Exactly.

Natalie Nagele  

Right. So it’s like it is that you want you know, the more you can course correct early on, the better everybody feels. 

Natalie Nagele  

Alright, Mark asked, Are you taking things day by day or trying to come up with plans for three months, six months lockdown? 

Natalie Nagele  

For us, it’s day by day, with the assumption that it’s it’s indefinite, but it’s day by so I you know, we’re not putting together like a six month plan. We’re also I think, for us, at least I don’t know, probably how, because you guys have been ahead of this. We’re not really sure still, what the impact is like, on us, it’s kind of been hard to. So we’re making small adjustments, like keeping an eye on things like expenses, and, you know, and certain projects, but we don’t have a plan to launch in June, because we were supposed to launch in April, right? We’re kind of just like, everything’s paused and we’ll take it easy. And if things kind of stabilise maybe we will we have a couple projects that I actually think might be really valuable right now. So like we might launch those, but it’s just kind of I, I’m trying to stay off of Twitter in this three months, six months, 18 months, it’s too much all these all these people became experts. All of a sudden, I don’t you know, I saw a guy yesterday was like, I only had a fever for three hours, this fever testing isn’t valuable. And I was like, okay, we’re done here. Like, I don’t you know, everybody’s a scientist and a doctor now. But yeah, so for us, it’s day by day, with just kind of a longer term, pressure removing and calm.

Peldi  

So for us, we we always operate on pace over deadlines. So sometimes we go faster, sometimes we’re slower. So we we have quarterly team meetings where each team makes the plan for next quarter, and that those are happening in these days. And so we had one on Friday, where we put half of that stuff on the roadmap that we would normally put, because we know we’re going to go half as fast. So the the cadence is the same, but the speed is lower.

Natalie Nagele  

Yeah, actually, our quarterly is April 6. So I guess we’ll see what happens. But that’s given me enough time because at that point, we’ll be like, 4 weeks in and I think hopefully we’ll have a better sense on what that’s going to look like.

Mark Littlewood  

The session that we’ve got just after this is actually going to be looking at some of the scenario planning that people can do over longer periods of time. So I don’t think anyone has any real definite sense of how long things will be like they are. I pretty much guarantee that anyone thinks that this is a oh how do we get through two weeks working from home is going to be very surprised at what comes out the other end? But I think there are, there are some different things that we can think about there. And so let’s focus on a couple of these other questions. There was a great question here. So Neil’s about a good daily shedule. And I think also something that feeds into that is Jack’s about they went remote 10 days ago, meetings are just depressing, miserable, fear mongering video calls, what can we do to do something more constructive?

Natalie Nagele  

Ah, so I think, to Neil’s question, schedules are – to me – very personal. And they really rely heavily on your understanding of how you function, how you prioritise deep work, or how you’re able to kind of do that deep work. So that book, deep work by Cal Newport is one of my favourites, and I sent it to everybody on the team, and it helps you kind of think through what your schedule should look like. 

Natalie Nagele  

But on a general sense, you know, you should be creating those breaks, when you slow down your your ability to do good work, right. So if you’re writing and you’ve been writing for 45 minutes or an hour, and you’re starting to see it slow down, and like generally speaking, you should be getting up. And relocating, readjusting, and that’s just kind of your brains, you know, is like, kind of like a muscle, right? So it needs like that rest, and then kind of recovery, and then rest and recovery. 

Natalie Nagele  

I’m not a morning person. So all those people who say the CEOs have to get up at 5am 4am, and do 90 minutes of exercise and read 20 books, I woke up at nine this morning. And I think I do a pretty good job. So I think like those things are much less important than it is forcing yourself to go take a walk. And that’s actually what makes remote work so beautiful because in offices, I think a lot of times people just sit at their desks because they don’t know or they go and they like get water and then come back like that, that ability to go outside or actually physically do something. So doing laundry is always one of those things that I love talking about. But like folding laundry is a really, really good exercise for your brain because you’re doing something mechanical and you’re moving and you’re kind of like fixing something or, you know, kind of moving your hands, but your brain is actually working in a way that you don’t see. And that’s just like a really beautiful thing because it gives your brain the time to rest and recover. And then it comes back and answer and does better for you, when you sit back down. The other one that I always tell the team is when you’re switching context, like don’t just switch contexts like physically get up, move, come back and switch. So if you have a laptop, sometimes that means working from a different spot it or it could just mean getting up and going take a walk, getting a snack coming back down. But those like different works, you know, like a video call to them doing some kind of focus writing or, you know, code, like a lot of our engineers do that all the time. Like if they’re sitting down to write code, they physically get up, they kind of move around a little bit, they change something on their desk, and they sit back down again. And again, it just sends these triggers, the books great, there’s all kinds of science around this anyway. But like, it’s a great trigger for your mind to be able to like, Okay, I’m doing something new now. And it leaves the other thing back there and it puts the other thing up front and you’re able to like process better.

Peldi  

Yeah, what I’ll also say is, you know, work around your family needs, if you have a family, take the kids to school, go pick them up, help with the chores, you know, and, and let that dictate your working schedule, that it’s not the other way around. Because now you’re home, you can do these things. You have no excuse. Yeah, and so. But the other thing that I would say is take it easy, give yourself a break. 

Peldi  

For sure there’s going to be the problem that you work too much because it’s right there. And so after dinner, you go back to work, right? That’s okay. You’re not a failure if you do that. And you’re not a failure if you take a nap after lunch for an hour. If that’s what your body needs to be productive later. That’s an hour well spent

Natalie Nagele  

You’re a superhero if you could take a nap like that is the best thing you can do.

Peldi  

That’s the best. I think that just like with everything, give yourself time to find a rhythm. Try different things. There’s a lot of literature online on how to do this, but just uh, you know, it takes a while to get into a rhythm and it will change because your needs will change. But we’ll okay.

Mark Littlewood  

We’ll see if we can crowdsource some from I know there are people like Jamie Lawrence, who works remotely over in Ireland who well is with us today and I think he’s written some or put some interesting things together if anyone’s got any resources any places any thoughts with writing about this put it in slack and the collaborative notes and we’ll we’ll compile and distribute that. Yeah, we have Jack who asked the question actually saying he’s watched many Marie Kondo folding videos since this started. I haven’t but I know other people have.

Natalie Nagele  

I think to answer Jack’s question though I on that panel that I did last week they were there was a bunch of examples that I wrote down for our team to try but people have been doing like dance parties, people have been doing movies together, they’ve been playing video games online together, I think something that we do is we do a Friday demo day once a month and this was pre-COVID but you know like you could kind of give people something to share like I said we did with the kids – I mean having the kids do their shares and they’re seeing their other like other kids on the screen one a bunch of these kids haven’t seen other kids in a while so it was nice to see kids and share I think just spend five minutes thinking about something that’s not COVID. And like figure out something that you know you know hobbies or or an activity or something you know do you have anybody funny on your team you know something like that but i think you know the pub quiz like that’s great and anything you can do . And also maybe you don’t have to do them every week if you don’t need them. I mean do them as much as you need as it feels right as well

Peldi  

Social engagement is a problem with remote work and so you really have to work at it we’ve been doing things for years and maybe we’ll do something for a couple of years then people lose interest but there’s something else there’s the secret is really to give it a little bit of structure so that it’s not just everybody moping around so we do personal pecha kucha presentations so 20 slides five seconds per slide and you can either teach something you know or talk about your your history we have media club where we agreed to watch a movie and and then we just we got online and we discuss it we have friday fun times which is for random people in a in a breakout and they just talk about weekend plans we have friday philosophical times which is instead discussions about tough topics like can you separate the art from the artist you know stuff like that um so it’s a it’s a lot you have to sort of throw everything at it especially right now i would think but you have to keep working at it

Natalie Nagele  

and we call it the intentional watercooler and I think like a lot of these teams they throw up slack and they have a slack general and they hope that’s going to be the community but what happens is just hi hey hi brb back okay see ya have a good weekend like that’s the entire slack channel and especially if you’re distributed it’s just completely useless so we do little things like Monday morning an email goes out says like how was your weekend and you can upload photos and share and people post pictures of like their kids and things they’ve been doing and so like you know just like there has to be some we learned this a few years ago like really has to be very intentional and so now like we have somebody on my team who handles that

Mark Littlewood  

I’d add that i think same goes for working from home if you’re blessed with a family or particularly a family who are young or somewhat alpha certainly our behaviours at home are changing as well I’m just going to share a powerpoint presentation in slack that my eldest did which she presented at the weekend and they both seem to be thoroughly enjoying things like that so that powerpoint is her explanation of why I am Shrek as far as I can see. So yeah I wouldn’t necessarily recommend having children!

Mark Littlewood  

Okay let’s have another one this is a great one on sync versus async; and we’ve done a number of talks over the years where I think one of the things that comes out of remote working is that async communication is an incredibly important way of doing things and not having to have everybody on video conferencing or video meetings, for a start is that is a good thing. But maybe you guys can address that.

Natalie Nagele  

We optimise for async as much as possible. And the reason we do that is because we have folks on different time zones, and everything at Wildbit is around focus work. So you know, we do 32 hour workweeks, because we maximise the amount of time that everybody can get their deep work done. So most, most things get posted to like a base camp or an email or like, you know, JIRA, or whatever, it’s for discussion. And the discussion happens there. And that gives us two things. One, it gives people a chance to reply when they’re ready, when they’ve had some time to process, which is really important. And also just when they’re physically ready, because we’re now not adding more meetings to their calendar and trying to have discussions around stuff. That said,  we go to zoom calls pretty regularly, if anything, involves a discussion if it starts to feel hard. 

So if we’re like back and forth, two, three times, and it’s not getting anywhere, it’s a zoom call, it’s like, let’s just get it out of the way

Natalie Nagele  

So if we’re like back and forth, two, three times, and it’s not getting anywhere, it’s a zoom call, it’s like, let’s just get it out of the way. If there’s even a tinge of frustration in somebody’s voice. And you learn this after a while working with people, if you send something in written word, and there is tone in written word, if you send even a little bit of something that goes to Zoom, because I don’t do passive aggressive, and I don’t let anybody go to leave WildBit at the end of the day, feeling frustrated about each other. And then anything big strategic goes to zoom. So like, I’ll give you the our standard face to face meetings every week, pre COVID, were a 30 minute check in on each team. So each product team has a 30 minute check in on Monday, and then a 30 minute check of when their lead at some point through the week. And then the leads our leadership team meets for 90 minutes every Thursday. And that’s the only standing meetings that we should all have. And then I have one on ones with my team, right. So like that with the leads. So those are so we kind of for most of the team, they have an hour standing meeting. That’s it like an hour’s worth of time. So out of their 32 hours, they have an hour worth of standing meetings, those little like we work just like Peldi like we work in small product project teams, those teams probably meet synchronously more often as needed to just get stuff done. And so we really rely on them to be comfortable. But because they work in such small teams, there’s a lot less like sharing and having to explain yourself. So sometimes it’s just a lot easier to pop into something and be like, I’m doing this thing, what do you think about this, like, let’s, you know, let’s just decide on this and move on. So we try to do as much asynchronously as possible. And it really does help with the time zones. And it really does help with giving people space to think. And one thing we do to make sure things don’t go to die, you know, like whenever you post something and then, you know, nobody replies and no answers we require every post has who needs to answer it, what am I looking for? And when is it due? So if you’re needing an answer from somebody, you say, I’m specifically looking for, you know, feedback from Natalie and Chris, and I need feedback directly on this decision, not like the colours or the you know, the load, like I need this decision. And I’m gonna go live with this, or I’m gonna move on at the end of the day on Friday. So I’d really like a response by Friday. And so then it puts the responsibility on me to be able to say like, I got to schedule this, give myself some time to think and respond.

Peldi  

That sounds nice. Um, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about this topic, because somehow is it seems like if you’re not doing everything async, you’re not really we’re doing remote. Right. But we don’t we have a lot of meetings. We have people in California and Italy. So that’s nine hours timezone difference. So there’s only what we call the golden hour, which is 8am to 9am, California, and 5pm to 6pm, Italy, where we can sort of overlap working hours, although 8am for California is pretty early. 

Peldi  

In that hour I probably have a meeting every day and a lot of the teams have meetings every day, because that’s the only hour we have to sort of do a lot of things: work on projects, things that came out that are not working synchronous as synchronously you know, like you said, but even just, you know, working from home gets pretty lonely after a couple of years. And even just having a weekly with your team just to spend 20 minutes checking in on everybody how you’re doing, to seeing other humans, that’s definitely valuable. So we meet whenever it’s necessary. Also, I think it comes from me because I can’t write down what I’m thinking without discussing it with someone. I just I have to talk it through with someone in order to think it. But meet as much as you want to see what see what works for your team? Depends on how many time zones you have depends on other things. But asynchronous is the default inevitably, because they’re asleep while you’re talking about what you’re writing down: the next project or whatever.

Natalie Nagele  

I mean, we used to have, our team was in Siberia for a long time before they moved to the States. That was a 12 hour times timezone difference. And so they when they moved to the States, they realised how much more productive they were back, then they moved to the states for like, Oh, shit, all we do is talk to each other. I don’t want to talk to you, I just want to work. Because it’s like, they’re asleep. Chris and I are doing stuff. We’re asleep. They’re doing stuff. And it’s like, you kind of have that golden hour, like you said, but other than that, it was like “we were so productive.”

Mark Littlewood  

So the question from Bridget, that’s Bridget Harris from you can book me. Who’s, I know doing some amazing things at the moment making you can book be available for various kind of school projects and things as well as kind of normal stuff. So great to have you. Thank you. “Given the constraints of the golden hour, are there compensations for having someone working for you West Coast? Would you recommend that over and above the contract habits?” So what are the what are the benefits of not being synced up? 

Peldi  

It is a benefit for sure. It is a benefit we can. Well, the reason we are spread out like this is because we compete on customer service. And I want us to be able to reply to support tickets for as much of the 24 hours as possible right now. I think we’ve covered 17, which is awesome. And also testing, you know, the developers are here to go to sleep the morning they have a bunch of bugs, because it’s been tested. Ops, we have a web services that need to stay up. So we have people here there that know how to turn up. It’s amazing. There’s better benefits that I would never give up for sure.

Mark Littlewood  

A follow up question. If you if you did it again. Would you still hire on the West Coast? 

Peldi  

Yeah, for sure.

Natalie Nagele  

So we are saying was my one timezone restraint is I won’t hire anybody that won’t have overlap. So Peled is a golden hour probably wouldn’t be enough for me, I would want a little bit more than one hour, and that our culture and our like, our team community is so vital to our success that like for us to not have, like we’ve never been able to hire in Australia, because we’d never see each other. And I don’t want anybody to feel like contractors. That just became really important. That was like a cultural decision that we made. So we can’t have 24 hour support, which we’d really love to at some point. But either WildBit gets big enough, where that becomes its own team kind of hopefully was able to have like a California team. I know Bridget has a Spanish team. We don’t really have single locations like that. We’re just spread out all over the world. And I just wouldn’t want one person somewhere in New Zealand or Australia and has no contact to anybody and feels like a remote like a contractor and not a part of our core team.

Peldi  

Same here. Nine is I think, the most we can do. 

Mark Littlewood  

Brilliant thank you so much everybody we’ll see you soon

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