I’ve gotten used to often being the only woman in the room in this industry but something that came more unexpected is also being the only one in the room arguing why remote work has a positive impact, especially for marginalized groups, and can open opportunities for those to enter or stay the game industry who were not able to do so before. If you truly care about diversity and inclusion this is a factor you need to take into account.
The majority of the German game industry has started to ask their employees back to the office, some full-time and some in a hybrid model with a fixed number of days you need to be in the office. My personal preference is working in a flexible hybrid model where there is an opportunity to work remotely and also work in person for those who want to be in the office.
In a recent studydone by Microsoft, it states that:
The data reveals a better way to bring people back together to engage and energize them. Connecting with colleagues is a key motivation for working in person. 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with co-workers, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds. Employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%).
This means companies will need to establish structures and opportunities for people to not only socialize online but also come together in person in ways that are accessible to those who want this social connection. I love looking at companies who dare to try different ways of making this happen and think outside the box like Kitfox Games does:
For me getting the flexibility to work remotely means not having to uproot my whole life for a job, being able to stay close to friends and family, and actually having energy left in the evenings to do errands and see my partner during the week. I’ve also seen the positive impact the flexibility has on my friends who recently have started families and can now spend more quality time with their kids.
When we were forced to shift from a mostly on-site to a remote team at the beginning of the pandemic it was a disruption (mostly because of the fear and uncertainty of the virus though). I often see people judge the effectiveness of remote work and the impact it had on people during the pandemic not taking into account that these were unprecedented times and people could not prepare for this shift, losing all social contact due to the restrictions impacting their work and private lives. As Maggie Leung says:
“Telecommuting can work really well. We have six years of metrics on throughput, morale, engagement, talent retention and business results to prove that across our large content team,” says Leung. “But a lot of people are struggling with working remotely right now because they had to switch overnight without any prep. And there’s the stress of a worldwide pandemic on top of that. So my first pointer is that no one should judge the merits of remote work based on these kinds of conditions.”
Our team itself adapted quickly to the new work style, even before we already had team members who were parents working partially in home office and also working with some external team members. For those who did not want to work from home, the office stayed open. During the shift and the period of working remotely with team members from all over the world, I got the best performance review ratings in my career so far. I embraced the change and adapted and am still in awe about being able to work with people from India, the UK, and the US. It opened a whole new world of learning about different cultures, and ways of working and also humbled me. We can do wonders when working together towards a common goal.
I saw team members who usually were quieter in on-site meetings becoming more active in online ones and some made use of the text chat to give their perspectives more frequently than before. The collaboration speed increased as well because quick screen sharing or taking over screen control to show or check something became easier. No need to book a meeting room to discuss something or run back and forth between offices.
As a leader, I am curious about what kind of structures and new ways of working we can establish now and how we can include more people from different backgrounds thanks to remote work. Nevertheless, it was also a big shift for me and my skills. Usually, my strength is to pick up a lot of cues about a person and feel the energy in the room. I often know when something is off long before it bubbles to the surface. I still have not fully figured out how to do this in a digital world where I have only facial expressions or tone of voice to work with. My strategy has been to put a lot more time into 1:1s to be able to ask questions and build trust. Instead of waiting for a water cooler conversation to happen, I’m now way more intentional about reaching out to team members and making time for conversations.
I feel for leadership focusing even more on growth and collaboration with their teams and daring to try different approaches will be the way to go:
The Way Forward The changes that have swept the work world over the past few years are not temporary. Flexibility is a feature, not a fad. And 2019 leadership practices simply won’t meet the moment for a digitally connected, distributed workforce. Leaders who look to data—not just instinct—and focus on clarity, social capital, and career growth can realize both the promise of hybrid work and the full potential of their greatest asset: their people. Now more than ever, positive business outcomes depend on positive people outcomes.
For a great guide to help you rethink the way you work and how to use the remote or hybrid model as an advantage I highly recommend: Struggling to Thrive as a Large Team Working Remotely? This Exec Has the Field Guide You Need
The indie studio Spry Fox founded in 2010 is a remote studio and here is a talk at GDC 2015 on what made them decide to work remotely, why it is not for everyone and how they make it work.
How has your company approached the topic and what are your work preferences?
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A great source about the risks hybird work can have and how to mitigate them: https://www.thefemalelead.com/hybrid-working