Welcome to our fourth and final week of the Remote Work Diary, where Juan, Andres, Diego, and Elisa—members of the tight-knit product team at Spanish startup Jeff—share their thoughts about the new challenges of WFH.
Last week, we read about new squads forming, and how they faced remote collaboration challenges and tried new solutions. This week, we wrap up our experiment with the team at Jeff, who after the ups and downs of working from home for six weeks, shared their thoughts on adopting remote work on a permanent basis. As one of Spain’s fastest growing startups, the challenge for Jeff has not only been how to scale and innovate in a time of global crisis, but how to stay connected, aligned, and motivated while separated by physical distance.
Juan Pablo – Head of product design
This week, we received results from our Working from Home survey. We asked our employees five questions: Do you think working from home makes you more productive? Do you have enough support to develop your work? Do you think communication remains effective in the company while we all work from home? Do you think that, by working from home, your visibility and career growth are limited? We also asked for feedback on how to make working from home better.
Survey results were overwhelmingly positive in support of WFH. Many people said they prefer working remotely and feel more productive than they had in the office. On the flip side, it seems that lack of regular communication and human contact with teammates is still something many are struggling with. We’re working on developing communication best practices to help with team alignment and avoid things like duplicated messages and unnecessary distractions.
While we still have some kinks to work out, overall WFH has been a positive transition for the company. I’m really excited because Jeff has decided to adopt a new, fully-flexible remote work policy, which will let our employees work from any location from now on. Not only is this great for our team, but as a company, we’ll be able to recruit the best talent from anywhere in the world.
Juan Pablo Costanzo, head of product design at Jeff
Andres – Head of engineering
For the most part, I prefer working remotely for one main reason—after the Coronavirus, I imagine myself traveling around Europe, living and working like a digital nomad, and getting to know other cultures.
While I’m pretty happy working remotely, I do miss my teammates and things like having a beer together after work. Working from the same place without any human interaction every day can be difficult. But just today I was having a virtual coffee break with Diego and some other teammates. We just talked about stuff, not necessarily work related. It felt good to connect that way, though it’s just not the same as human contact. But in the end, I’ll still always choose remote over the office.
Andres Rodrigues Perez, head of engineering at Jeff
Diego – Engineering team lead and senior front end developer
I prefer to work from home, mainly because of the freedom and control you have over your time. But my colleagues in the office are good friends and we do a lot of things together. It’s hard not being able to do stuff with them and maintain relationships at a distance. We chat after work and have lots of WhatsApp groups to talk, and play games together, but it’s not the same. I feel much more isolated and separated from the team.
I also miss riding to work on my motorbike, and the moment of freedom without anyone talking to you or having to think. I also have a tendency to work more hours at home. It’s harder for me to know when to take a break and stop, but this is also because I’m now leading a team.
Diego Pertusa Irles, engineering team lead and senior front-end developer at Jeff
Elisa – Product designer
I’ve really enjoyed keeping a diary through this time to see how we matured on working remotely: First, we struggled with documentation problems, then it was collaboration, and now—little by little—those problems have settled. Now, we’re more worried about technical things or colleagues’ feelings and our relationships.
Above all, I’ve learned the importance of communicating well with colleagues, taking care of yourself, creating routines more conscientiously, and learning to listen to yourself. I’ve changed small things like working for a while standing up or changing rooms at home in order to be more efficient. We still have a lot to learn, but I think it’s a good start.
Overall, I love working remotely. I feel it gives me more freedom to do what I want and I have more structure to my days. I also have more time to take care of myself. Some time ago, I started a routine where I got up before work to do some activities that will help me to not constantly think about work problems. The result has been quite good: I get up, do yoga, take a shower, and take my time to have a coffee. When it is time for work I feel more happy, positive, and calm. I feel like I’m not in such a hurry, and I can see things with more perspective. As a bad thing, though, I still work more hours than I did before.
I do miss the human contact, though, and being able to help my colleagues when they’re low. When you’re in the office, it’s easy to see when someone is having a bad day or has a problem. You can just say, “Hey, you need to talk? Let’s go for a coffee.”
Elisa Babiano, product designer at Jeff
Week 4 Recap
For Jeff, remote work is here for good. Like many companies around the world, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify, to name a few, they made the bold decision to move away from the office and adopt remote work permanently. Not only will this offer Jeff’s employees more flexibility and autonomy, research has found that it also increases productivity. Remote workers also tend to be happier and stay in their jobs longer, largely as a result of better work-life integration. And it has a number of business benefits, such as being able to hire on skill, not location, and spending less on maintaining offices.
Though as Jeff’s team experienced, there are real challenges to overcome when transitioning from an office-centric culture to a remote one. But as Ben Goldman, director of InVision Films said, these challenges are solvable, and designers are uniquely equipped to solve them thanks to a particularly valuable skill—empathy—needed to create experiences that actually improve people’s lives.
“In the context of remote work, developing empathy means appreciating the people on the other side of the screen—our colleagues—as human beings,” Goldman added.
And while empathy is worthy for any team, in any environment, it has never been more important than it is today, Goldman said. In a world of uncertainty, empathy has the power to refocus our attention on the important things.
“My hope is that after all of this has passed, what we’ll take back is an appreciation for what’s important,” says Stephen Gates, head design evangelist at InVision. “That this is a reset that allows us to see alternative ways of doing things, like being able to trust your employees, or that it’s okay for leaders to be vulnerable. Because there’s always been awareness of many of these problems. There just hasn’t been a willingness to change. And now is that opportunity.”
Thank you for following Jeff’s remote work journey in our four-part series! We hope the insights shared over the last weeks have helped you and your team transition to your new work normal, whatever that may look like.