24.06.2020 - Aaron Markie

TheUltimateWFHCommitment

We needed a WFH Commitment to maintain trust and collaboration, ensuring our projects continued to be successful in these unsettled times.

Our teams are often in client offices, working closely with multiple divisions and companies. We needed a WFH Commitment to maintain the trust and collaboration, ensuring our projects continued to be successful in these unsettled times. So, I created one.

My motivation for suggesting the COVID-WFH Commitment was not entirely altruistic. Well to be fair, it was in fact, about 95% selfish!

I loved working with the client. I loved the people, I loved the location, I loved the building facilities and I really loved the Kablamo team I was working with. But, project teams can come and go - especially in an economic squeeze!

With a WFH policy imminent my utopia was at risk if we weren’t fully engaged and completely transparent with the client.So I pulled together scraps of ideas on how I could protect our engagement and prepare the team for full-time remote working.

I floated the concept to my colleagues Ben and Andrew. I was expecting to receive some red flags but instead, they were immediately supportive, and added some points to my own:

  • We needed to demonstrate that we were at work, and not watching TV all day
  • The client needed to know they were getting the same value for money while WFH as they did when we are at the office
  • We have a very social and interactive environment across the teams and we wanted to keep that alive
  • Last but not least, we wanted to make a commitment to each other that we will be fully engaged in our work. This couldn’t be something that I’m directing; it has to be something that we are all happy to commit to.

As luck would have it, our client Product Lead requested an immediate Kablamo WFH proposal.

So I grabbed the rest of the team and presented the COVID-WFH Commitment…


FACT (maybe)

There are two types of people in the world: normal people, and people who are just wrong. The normal, well-balanced human says hello to everyone when they arrive at work, and continues to say hello to other people as they arrive. When they step out of the office, they let people know what they’re doing. Finally, when they leave for the day, they say goodbye to everyone.

Not doing this, is just a little wrong. But, there are many talented people in our workplaces who do not greet or notify their colleagues of their whereabouts…I was worried that these types may not like what I was committing us to. However, I was relieved when the team didn’t oppose them. Over time, I even noticed behaviours evolved beyond our original commitment.


So, what did we do? What was this fantastic, successful, ever-evolving COVID-WFH Commitment?

It was built in three parts:

  • A Virtual Office
  • An Etiquette Outline
  • A Promise

First, we built a virtual office of hellos and goodbyes.

Using the tools we already had (mainly the team communications tool, Slack), we added a system to it that allowed us to know who was “in the office” and when. We set up a virtual-office Slack channel in the client’s Slack Workplace. When we arrived at work, we’d say hello. When we were going to be AFK (away from keyboard) for more than 10 mins, we’d let our colleagues know, and, when we’d leave for the day, we said goodbye.

There were some wonderful behavioural changes, support mechanisms and team morale building moments that came from instituting these small actions:

  • When people said good morning or goodbye, everyone started waving back (emoji style).
  • Despite not requiring people to announce when they were back from AFK, people just did anyway.
  • When people announced they were going for coffee it reminded others to also get off their arse. This also occasionally led to random video chats or audio catch ups (just like we would heading out for coffee every morning at the office).

In response to the ad-hock coffee catch ups, we set up a permanent afternoon Zoomoffee (which usually moved onto Discord after a while!).

For those who wanted to remain active on Slack after work for social purposes, such as the Beer And Coffee channel, announcing that they were clocking off for the day drew a clear line for the client and for the team. For me personally, it was a mental transition just as if we’d stepped out to the pub.


THINK DIFFERENTLY

I totally get that for some of you this reeks of the archaic punching in and out system that made us feel like drones. But for the teams who decided not to do this, I would encourage you to look at it differently.

It’s a really simple yet effective way of demonstrating to the client that you’re on deck. It enables your client contacts to confidently communicate up-stream that Kablamo is fully engaged on a day to day basis. Of course, it also keeps your team interacting at a social level too - just like we would if we were on site.


The next part was the actualisation of a new etiquette for a new workspace:

  • We arrived at work by 9am every day.
  • There were less private work chats, so work-related discussions were visible in the client’s Workplace Channels, keeping discussion and decision elements of the conversations out in the open (this allows things to be ‘overheard’ as if they would be in an open plan office).
  • Being punctual to meetings was an etiquette must - working from home means there is no excuse to be late to a meeting (however, “internet interruptions” is the new “unexpected traffic”).
  • We started all ceremonies and meetings with our camera on (they can be switched off during the meeting to save bandwidth), and we used our headsets to give the best clarity on the calls.

Almost all of the WFH Etiquette items came from the team, and many of these items would push people out of their comfort zone, as some of us needed to start earlier in the day, we could flood slack with chatter (albeit appropriate chatter), many of us had to deal with terrible internet, most of us had to buy new equipment, and no one likes to see themselves on camera!

But, as before, things evolved beyond the commitment. The most significant development was the number of people who turned up early for meetings so they could catch up with other team members.

Finally, the promise. Most important of all, was our promise that if something wasn’t working for us or for the client we would do everything possible to resolve it.


FIGJAM (F* I’m Good, Just Ask Me)

It was pure luck that I’d thought about this commitment concept the same day it was requested. Within just a few hours the team had developed and agreed on our commitment, delivered it to the client and then we were all promptly sent home.

I was stoked with how quickly and effectively the plan came together and so was the client. The cherry on top was seeing the client adopt OUR Commitment for themselves - word for word!!


Right now is a great time to look back at your current team’s WFH commitment and see if it is still working (if at all - I’ve heard some horror stories!). Make some additional commitments to fill any gaps that would otherwise be occurring naturally in the office.

And if it’s been lacking in your commitment, do something that encourages informal interactions - EVERYDAY.

All in all, we want to make sure we’re having a good time, supporting each other, and that the client understands that we’re committed to their business.

Author

Aaron Markie

Iteration Manager

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