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Blog / Why we can work remotely with confidence

Why we can work remotely with confidence

Seenit has always had a relaxed attitude to allowing staff to work from home. Last year we began trialling a few different approaches to formalising this policy. The first iteration was “work from home 1 day a week, whenever you want”. Whilst this was a popular approach, we found that the balance between the people at home vs. the people in the office often caused issues with meetings and workshops, where it was difficult to include those working remote. The remote voice was often not heard, leading to a tendency to push meetings where we needed everyone to participate. This was not a working solution. This led to a review of the policy, and rather than abandon it, we took what felt like brave decision to ask the whole company to WFH on Wednesday - no more hump day… 🐪

In engineering we were 100% sure this would work for us. We were already making use of so many tools that allow us to still function as a collaborative team, even when we aren’t working in the same space. By allowing the entire team to work remotely, we eliminated the imbalance between those in the office and those remote.

Our approach

Like most tech companies we work in an “Agile” manner, with its stand-ups, retros, and planning sessions. This way of working is very communication heavy, and one thing I value about the Seenit engineering team is their excellent communication skills. Combined with the usual suite of tools, Jira, Github, Slack, and Google hangouts, and a very much “Asynchronous Communication” approach, where unless an immediate response is required, the developers are allowed to focus on their code, and then review PRs, reply to feedback/questions in Jira, and respond to Slack messages when the time is right, allow us to work when remote, and allow full flexitime across the team. We still have some way to go to move to a truly Asynchronous model, there is still a lot of chatter from Slack, where demands on our time can sometimes squeeze through, but gradually we are moving these requests to our Hubspot service desk tool, so these can be managed in a more structured manner. We have ditched our old Confluence wiki, and moved to using Notion, which has helped again. As a decision documentation tool its proved very effective, you are able to fully fledge out your ideas, and then use the commenting functionality to get feedback from other team members or stakeholders at the time most convenient to them.

This approach does require a certain degree of self-discipline, you need to self-manage your time, and make sure you are responding to things in a timely manner, but we make use of standup to ensure these things get progressed.

Does it work?

WFH Wednesdays are always mentioned in our employee feedback surveys as one of the top benefits of working for Seenit, so it’s popular with the team, but how can we show the Leadership team that there is no impact to productivity? We use scope.ink to monitor engineering efficiency, so we can see there is 0 impact to performance. Scope gives visibility to the time taken to get a PR reviewed and approved and shows really clearly where any bottleneck is. Due to the success of our remote working, it has allowed us to begin working with a fully remote developer, and one of the current in-house devs is getting the opportunity to move to a fully remote role.

COVID-19

Whilst COVID-19 is forcing us to work from home for an extended period of time, I am fully confident we have the ability to keep track on what is working for us, and make any changes required. My biggest concern is always going to be my team’s welfare, as I sit here writing this at 22:00, I am fully aware of the problems with allowing work to eat into your evening when WFH, but likewise I know that my team will no doubt call me out for it tomorrow. We have added an extra, optional, online Hangout check in post-lunch, where work talk is optional, in an attempt to keep up the social contact, and will be moving our end of week recognition session to online hangout, replacing the whiteboard with a virtual one, I am looking forward to seeing how this works out. There are numerous studies that show that remote working can provide a productivity boost, so this is definitely something we will be aiming for.

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