Thriving in a remote environment
How we foster happy and productive remote teams
At Mighty Bear Games, we want to create the best possible games as well as the best possible culture and work environment. With more people working from all over the world, we want to make sure we create a great environment for everyone — no matter the location or timezone.
Working remotely has many benefits, like reduced distractions and nonexistent commute time. But it also comes with unique challenges. The good news is that you can overcome these challenges and maximise the benefits of remote working to foster happy and productive teams.
The most important thing to make remote teams work efficiently is great communication. We always like to choose the most effective method of communication first. If you have a quick question in the office, you can just walk over to somebody’s desk. In a remote environment, the most effective way is often giving them a quick call. You’ll be amazed how many text message conversations that go back and forth over hours can be replaced with a quick 10 minute video call.
Great documentation is already extremely important in an on-site environment, but it becomes even more important when working remotely. There always needs to be a single source of truth where all aspects and decisions of a project are documented. This makes sure everybody is on the same page.
The remote environment also offers the opportunity to make meetings shorter and move from one meeting to another quickly. In the office, if I had a meeting at 10:00 and somebody asked for a spontaneous meeting at 9:54, I would have answered: “Sorry, I don’t have time at the moment, I need to go to another meeting.” But in a remote environment, I can say: “Sure, I have 6 minutes”, because my next meeting is just a click away. And I’m often surprised how much you can discuss in 6 minutes.
There are many conversations that just happen naturally in an office environment, without having to plan for them. You might run into a colleague in the hallway and have a casual conversation about what you’re working on, and they might suggest a new idea you haven’t thought about. Or you might go to lunch with a colleague and discover that you both share a passion for board games. Or you might meet a colleague in the kitchen and find out by chance that the problem you are currently trying to solve is something they also worked on for a previous company.
The thing is: All these conversations can happen in a remote environment as well, but they don’t happen naturally by themselves. You have to make a conscious effort to make them happen. One great place for these conversations are regular 1-on-1 meetings with the people you work with. In these meetings, we want to check in with colleagues, see how they are doing and what they might need help with, but also reserve some time for casual conversations. Getting to know your teammates beyond work will make you feel more connected, happier and, at the end of the day, more productive.
Pair Work Sessions
Another very effective way to connect with teammates and make sure everybody is on the same page is to work on something together. You’ll be surprised how well this works in a remote setting. You can use a video conferencing software that allows you to share your screen and give the other person remote control, so you can both control the same computer at the same time. You can both move the mouse, click, drag, and type. Zoom is great for this, and so is the dedicated screen sharing software AnyDesk.
As an example, if two engineers work together an a feature, they first discuss how they want to approach it and then write the code together. One person might start typing a few lines of code and the other one can jump in any time when they notice something, spot a potential issue or have an additional idea. This not only leads to higher quality code with fewer issues, but it also shares the knowledge of the code between teammates.
In addition, pair work sessions are very effective for teaching new concepts. This way, your partner can practise using the concept from the very beginning and you can give them guidance and help them along the way. With this method, you can not only teach how a piece of code is written, but also the reasoning that goes into writing it.
At Mighty Bear Games, we try our best to create the best environment for everybody regardless of their location, so as to make working together as enjoyable and as productive as possible. For more ideas on how to make remote working effective for your team, you can check out Valerie’s article on how she dealt with time-zone differences.
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