This article first appeared on Kolibri Games' blog, and has been reposted with permission from the developer.
The Kolibri HQ has never been this quiet for so long. Similar to many of you out there, we have been working from home for the past weeks. As the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic evolved in Germany, our entire studio transitioned to home office to protect the health of our teams and the surrounding community.
This is a new challenge for us: we rely heavily on direct communication to support our agile workflows and to stay on schedule in tightly packed sprints.
In this episode, Dennis, our Entrepreneur in Residence, explains how we tackled some of the challenges that we faced and how we are doing our best to make the most of rainy days.
Even when all Kolibris are at the office, running a 100-plus-person company can be complex on an infrastructural and organizational level.
Just send em’ home! They all have laptops, right?
Enabling home office for the whole company simultaneously, however, was a different ballpark.
Bringing the Office Home
Early on, as more cases started to emerge in China and beyond, we set up a remote work task force to make sure we were thinking ahead in every way. We had to quickly figure out how to move all the organizational measures that we had established over the years, like our IT and tech support services or our office management structures, out of the Kolibri HQ and into the homes of over 100 Kolibris.
We started by talking to each team member to identify and understand their specific needs: How could we recruit without on-site interviews? How would we distribute test devices for our QA testers?
The whole team switched to video calls to make sure scheduled meetings could still take place and to keep everyone together, albeit virtually.
We got used to video meetings pretty fast! Here are three tips that might make your virtual meetings more productive.
We provided all of our teams unlimited mobile data usage in case anyone experienced an internet outage at home and found ways to maintain our internal service tool Kori, to figure out solutions for any unforeseen IT problems.
We thought of every problem that could possibly come up and worked to find solutions for each situation. We knew that it would be more complicated to deal with spontaneous issues once all of our team members were spread out across Berlin, so we prepared for just about anything.
Thanks to these preparations, we were able to ensure a smooth transition to remote work, and whenever issues came up that we hadn't foreseen, we did our best to solve them as quickly as possible – we all aligned around the goal that everyone at Kolibri should be just as comfortable working from home as they are in the office.
When we realized that not everyone had a proper office setting at home, we set aside a budget to make sure each team member has access to the equipment they needed to work in the best conditions possible. Our Office Management Team, the real heroes here, rented a van and drove office equipment across Berlin for a day.
Keep the Work Flowing
In addition to adapting our infrastructure and organization, as a team, we had to put in place the right workflows to ensure everyone could continue to move forward on our projects.
In the beginning, this meant that previously normal work practices became high communication priorities. Due to the change in environment, the simple processes weren't as obvious anymore.
While at home, we all do our best to be available and responsive, and we are more punctual than ever in meetings and pay even more attention to project timelines.
We try to continue business as usual as much as we can. That involves dressing up for work and, when possible, finding ways to separate work space and personal space at home. We prefer video calls over pure voice calls, simply because seeing each other creates a feeling of belonging and togetherness in times of isolation.
The more distance a message travels to reach its destination, the more difficult clear communication can become. Therefore, communication, even over-communication, has never been more important. We provide regular updates to help all team members make well-informed decisions without having to constantly ask for progress updates.
Constant communication across all teams and departments is now more important than ever
Embrace the Uncertain
Lastly, we had to accept that issues would arise that we hadn't anticipated.
Yes, thoughtful and thorough preparation reduces the impact of the bumps along the road. Preparing for the worst early has given us a headstart that will help us to adapt quickly, whatever the future may bring.
As we move forward, we have to be even more flexible, attentive and open if we want to successfully tackle issues that we weren't able to foresee.
Detecting weak signals early on is key. Constant communication across all teams and departments is now more important than ever.
We may not be able to control what the future holds or how long we will need to work from home, but we can make sure that everyone is safe, heard and supported.
Many things in our everyday work life that were once natural and obvious now need extra emphasis and attention.
Support Your Community
At Kolibri Games, we know we are lucky to work in an industry in which it is possible to work from home. As we all adapt to spending more time at home, we are also glad that the games we make can offer comfort, escape, and togetherness.
We also know that many people are not able to continue business as usual from their homes.
That is why we are supporting Quinoa Bildung, a Berlin-based charity that aims to provide all young people in Germany equal access to education and educational diplomas, regardless of their social and cultural background. Click here to help support this worthy cause and help provide homeschooling in the weeks and months to come.
If you're in a position similar to ours, we encourage you to get active in your community and see who is in need of help right now.
There you have it, a few of the measures we took to empty out the Kolibri HQ and build a personal HQ for everyone at home.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and follow the WHO’s basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.
Written by Tom Weber
Art by Barry McWilliams