June 2021 By Kathryn Norwood

Boldly going into a remote first future

Our lessons from a year of working from home

Back in March 2020 we, like many other companies, moved to work 100% from home. A year later, after a tough time with a lot of change, remote working has become the new normal at GeoSpock. In fact, we’ve adjusted so well that we’ve taken the bold step of becoming a remote first company. All team members are currently based at home, with no obligation to visit a centralised office. Remote first definitely doesn’t mean remote only, and we’re certainly looking forward to meeting up in future for periodic meetings and events, but our experiences over the past year give us confidence that our approach is the right one for our company.

What works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to remote first working

As an organisation, we adjusted to home working very quickly. Internal communication via Slack was already high and the teams embraced the transition to virtual meetings overnight. Most people chose to take their sit/stand desks home, along with (sanctioned) raiding of the office for monitors and chairs. With cameras on, our connection to colleagues was still there — coupled with the novelty of a 20 second commute!

Initially we tried to replicate virtually how we worked face to face. Short daily stand-ups, regular team meetings and 1:1s have worked well. Over time each team has found their own way and rhythm of working together virtually using the tools available to them. We have also changed the format and frequency of our other meetings to maximise how we collaborate and communicate together, whilst giving ourselves bigger blocks of time for focused work.

Continuing in this vein, a shorter, punchier business update has banished the tumbleweed of the All-Hands Q&A. We also discovered a smile and a wave on a call makes all the difference, even though it might seem a bit strange to start with. Throughout it all, technology has been key in helping us keep in touch and giving us different ways to collaborate at a professional and more social level — whether it be sharing team news, discussing fun and random facts, pictures and, of course, the occasional work-related update!

Fact of the day has showcased a treasure trove of random arcana and artistic talent!

Inevitably, not everything successfully survived the move to remote working. The much celebrated GeoSpock tradition of a Friday pub lunch didn’t quite work as well over a video call. Instead it’s morphed into the odd game of 'Among Us'. However, everyone has loved the new opportunity to push their colleagues into outer space!

Keeping true to the core

Most of all, we have learnt that we are still a single team on a single start-up journey. There continue to be lots of challenges and opportunities but we should never be afraid to ask for help. If you have an idea that you think will work, give it a try and share your experience. It is all part of the learning process, a mentality we try to foster wherever in the world a colleague’s desk happens to be.

Steve, our Founder & CEO, likes to remind us that in a business there are 'makers' and 'managers' but in a start-up we all need to be both. Therefore, we have tried to structure our working day so that we have calls and meetings in the mornings, leaving the afternoons free to concentrate on development and project work. This maximises the time available to catch up with our colleagues in Asia and also supports the thinking time needed in all our roles.

Productivity has remained unchanged despite the distractions of home working

Team highlights

Overall, our employees like the flexibility and work-life balance that home working affords, with 94% agreeing they feel supported in a recent survey. Working from home has also created an unexpected extended community and given us an insight into each other’s lives. We have particularly enjoyed:

  • sharing a window on our homes, the evolving workstation set-up and hangout backgrounds;
  • the calls with children giving us a cheeky wave unbeknownst to mum or dad;
  • the pets (mostly cats but also a few dogs and even a parrot!) joining in on the action.

The latest GeoSpock hire getting to grips with home working

We have also welcomed a few new starters into the fold. One of the more unexpected benefits of going fully remote is that we are able to spread our wings geographically when hiring, as well as giving the team full flexibility over where to live. Our UK 'office' has now extended from its Cambridge origins to the London hinterland and even further afield to Germany, mainland Portugal, and (temporarily) Madeira!

As for the future, I am sure we will be meeting up for face-to-face team meetings and a socially distanced chat soon. For now, we are grateful to have the opportunity and flexibility to be able to work from home and the chance to shape our remote working experience to be the best it can be.

Kathryn is HR Manager at GeoSpock.

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