5P’s of Lockdown Worklife, Play, Potential, Purpose, Punctuation, Presence.
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
10 months after we initially dispersed the Village team to our homes, how are we doing. Well operationally and commercially things have been OK. We’ve been able to help clients get stuff done and software engineering is certainly an area where you can get things out of the door. But it would be fair to say that no one is having a ball. Like lots of business leaders I have read bits and pieces on how to keep things together, and we have experimented with different ideas.
I tend to come back to 4 P’s (not the marketing ones), three of them Play, Potential, Purpose come from an article in Harvard Business Review, they have a pretty helpful Coronavirus (hbr.org) section. The fourth P, Punctuation, was suggested by one of our friends at Form who also have a handy resource Resources | Form. Now for the new year I’m adding a fifth Presence, we’re going to try some new ideas to be there for each other. I’ll discuss that at the end.
By play we mean the things of work that we think are fun. We really miss for example getting in the meeting room with the whiteboard. I managed one attempt at this in our works roof garden in the summer but it will be a while until we can sit in meeting rooms and do this. So we look for other ways, we have experimented with miro.com and other whiteboarding approaches with some success. We encourage pair programming where people get to work together. We are lucky we like what we do, who doesn’t like data and programming, we just have to find ways to do that fun stuff.
This can’t we a year wasted in peoples careers we seek to help us all reach our potential. We have put on weekly tech watch parties, encouraged as we always do some interest in technical exams. But a key point of development is working with colleagues, so we look for opportunities for different team members to work together.
There is more to do on this, we are now discussing formalising some parts of our development process such as code reviews, and are setting up a cross company group with a fellow BI company looking at BI visualisation.
With always try to encourage an environment where people love and learn their craft, it needs a bit more focus in Lockdown but somethings are standard some of our colleagues are about to get their second annual review on Teams. It’s important not to forget these opportunities for people to discuss their career.
For many office workers stuck at home it can seem a bit Groundhog Day easy to get listless and think we are going nowhere. But we do build things, make things maintain things which have purposes. There are robo forklifts running around that didn’t know where to go at the beginning of lockdown. There are companies smoothly running identity checks and getting people into jobs, we’ve prepared software to track equipment around sports events if they ever happen again.
But often being spaced out it is easy to miss what your team and the other teams are doing, so one of my colleagues now organises a weekly show and tell where we look at something we have done.
We get stuff out the door, it helps clients keep their shows on the road good to remember that.
Again not everyday should be the same, like many companies we now have a roster of project and team meetings to coordinate and touch base. Alongside the tech watch and the show and tell like many companies we have a weekly all hands meeting to gather and give a wider picture. We’ve also been having monthly ‘away days’ albeit these are afternoons in your own house largely training in softskills. We want the days, weeks, months to have a texture of punctuations, commas, fullstops, paragraphs perhaps a semicolon if were feeling fancy.
Our week ends with the show and tell, for those who can face it there is the chance to hang around have a drink and chat on Zoom.
The pandemic isn’t over so we need to try new things.
For the new year I'm working on a fifth ‘P’ Presence, as in the opposite of absence, it can be lonely working from home, so we are looking for ways to be present and supportive without being too in your face. We use Microsoft Teams a lot now, but we have also made sure everyone has a working office phone at home too and try and maintain some banter as we go.
Our latest experiment is the ambient meeting. This is a silent-ish meeting trying to create the experience of working on the desk next door. Anyone can join the meeting, you can see people working and you can have the sort of brief discussions you used to have at the desk at the office, exchange ideas a remark here or a joke there some of that unstructured ambient information and banter that used to spread in the office. I think this will be a marmite experience but it is optional and occasional we will see how it goes. There is the suggestion of coupling that with the Pomodoro Technique time slots, we’ll give that a try after all next week shouldn’t be just like this week.
How to Keep your Team Motivated, Remotely by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi.