May 2021. Once the lockdown is over, the state of alarm has ended, and the vaccinations are underway, life gradually returns to what it was before 2020 when the coronavirus hit us harder. Among the "normalization" measures we are all facing now are the reopening of offices and our return to the physical spaces where we used to share projects, breakfasts, and spontaneous conversations with our colleagues every day.
The state of alarm can end, but that does not mean working remotely also has to finish.
But wait, do we want to go back to the office? Are we prepared or obliged to do so? The state of alarm can end, but that does not mean working remotely also has to finish. With everything we carry on our shoulders, going to the office can be a source of anxiety for many or, conversely, a relief being able to escape from the four walls of our houses.
In any case, there shouldn't be a more valid option than another in a sector like ours, that of digital products, in which there are more than enough tools to carry out the working day successfully from wherever you want. We'll come back to this later.
“A large part of the population has no intention to return to the office, especially now that the good times for remote working are about to start, with the lifting of restrictions on mobility.”
Iván Coronado, Remote First's Founder.
Opting for remote working in the new reality that lies ahead, if everything goes well, will once again mean being able to go to the gym at the emptiest hours or live the seductive life of a digital nomad. Iván Coronado, a software engineer, created remotefirst.digital 3 months ago: “I am completely sure that a large part of the population has no intention to return to the office, especially now that the good times for remote working are about to start, with the lifting of restrictions on mobility."
Iván is not doing badly. In Spain, there are not many alternatives where to search for remote work. His site is specialized in this precisely: “There are numerous portals in English with international companies that offer the possibility of working from home, but in our country, there is still a strong cultural barrier due to the language and many people feel more comfortable joining companies here, Remote First is the platform where they can go and look for this kind of offers.”
A bet on freedom and flexibility
But all that glitters is not gold. "There are risks associated with compulsory and prolonged teleworking that can negatively affect us, such as the feeling of loneliness or exhaustion derived from the difficulty in disconnecting from work responsibilities," explains Ángela Arenas, P.hD Psychology. "However, this depends on a multitude of factors."
“There are risks associated with compulsory and prolonged teleworking that can negatively affect us, such as the feeling of loneliness or exhaustion.”
Ángela Arenas, P.hD Psychology.
Indeed working from home can also translate into an increase in concentration and productivity. This is what happened to Rita Iglesias, one of our Front-end developers: “When the lockdown began I thought that I was not going to adapt to always working from home. However, I have realized that I perform much better. I make the most of the time and the day in general. I am in a more comfortable environment, and I can play music out loud. What I miss the most is Z1’s football table!”
Like Rita, many Z1 members feel good remotely but miss human contact and the office environment. Adrian Yanes, Product Designer, is clear that the key is in the alternation and in the possibility of being able to choose: “When working from home I think it is inevitable the feeling of FOMO, but thanks to all the incredible team-building initiatives that the People Department prepare every week we feel much more connected despite everything.”
Fostering a unique culture
Actually, one of the biggest challenges associated with remote working by companies, in addition to increasing the levels of trust in your team, is keeping the feeling of belonging alive. As Bea Gutiérrez, Head of People at Z1 says, “Fostering solid and true connections when you have teammates that you have never seen face-to-face is a big challenge, but we try to make it possible by creating fun initiatives and energizing close digital communication.”
“We strive to build a community and a culture that holds the team together, no matter where they physically are.”
Bea Gutiérrez, Z1's Head of People.
This materializes, for example, in our Slack, where we have the most diverse channels that go beyond the projects in which we are involved: pets, yummy, bookclub, hipsters, families ... Or in the team building activities that Adrian mentioned before. An example is The Mysterious Rooms, where you meet digitally in small groups with different colleagues with the only rule of not talking about work. Or the Agoras on Fridays, where we introduce new team members or organize Kahoot or Gartic Phone games.
“Having grown a lot and very fast remotely, unfortunately not everyone knows each other well. That's why we strive to build a community and a culture that holds the team together, no matter where they physically are,” says Bea.
Remote working in our DNA
The culture of a distributed workforce has been in Z1's DNA since our inception in 2015. However, the vast majority of the team that lives in Seville, where our headquarters are located, chose to come to the office every day before the pandemic.
Although Z1 already offered the possibility of working remotely since its inception in 2015, most of the team chose to go to the office every day before the pandemic.
We have always offered the freedom to work from home to anyone who wanted, but having breakfast with your colleagues, playing ping pong or table football from time to time, commenting on the latest episode of your favorite TV series in person are things that everyone loves. For this reason, although we strive to transfer all of this to the digital field, and we are proud that 90% of the team claim to feel integrated despite being at a distance, human contact is irreplaceable. That's why in this "new normal," most of the team has decided to adopt this hybrid model in which everyone has the freedom to choose which days they prefer to go to the office and which days working from home is best for them.
That empathy is one of our main values refers not only to the relationship we maintain with our clients but also makes all the sense in this context. "The choice of going to the office or staying at home has to be made by each one, depending on their personal circumstances," explains Héctor Giner, CEO of Z1.
“At Z1, we are going to continue betting on a hybrid model in which we will try to make life easier for each member of the team, regardless of their circumstances.”
Héctor Giner, Z1's CEO and Cofounder.
“It will never be the same for a young person who still lives with their parents and is a 10-minute walk from the office, than for someone with two little children who has to take the car and juggle to get there on time. At Z1, we are going to continue betting on a hybrid model in which we will try to make life easier for each member of the team, regardless of their circumstances.”
Tools to successfully manage a remote working design studio
Since March 2020, when the pandemic “officially” began in this part of the world, at Z1, we have doubled our business and increased our workforce by 27%. Undeniable is that a part of this bonanza is associated with our positioning already before the coronavirus crisis. The decentralization of our market, the rise of digital products, with the global population deprived of freedom of movement spending more time near their screens, and our previous experience managing remote teams since 2015 have helped us to face this crisis without getting messy.
That is why we believe that we are in a position that allows us to contribute to banishing fears of working from home. Actually, some companies have already asked for our advice on this issue. That is why we want to share some of the tools we use every day to let the productivity flow:
👉 Slack: 10 million users connect to it daily. It is no secret that this internal communication tool has established itself as a must for remote work. But for us, Slack goes further; it is also an ally that, thanks to its integrations, allows us to be more efficient, delegate to the team, and build a strong community.
- We offer loads of flexibility, but we have a set schedule when we all have to be connected to Slack. Thus, we take advantage of this time to solve specific doubts and move forward together if necessary.
- We use Slack within the team, but we also invite clients to join shared channels, so project communication is centralized here. The following point is very important in this regard.
- We have many different channels but we are very scrupulous with their order and nomenclature. If not, you can end up submerged in a chaotic swarm of channels that is just the opposite of the efficiency we are looking for.
- Each team organizes an update of their tasks (daily or weekly) on their team channel so that everyone knows how everyone is progressing.
- We use multiple integrations that make our lives easier: surveys, connection with Twitter, Typeform, Cooper… the possibilities are endless.
👉 Notion: It is the jewel in the crown. Our operating system is documented in this no-code tool, from the selection process to the onboarding manual, through the Wikis of each department and the projects' CRM. Thanks to this collaborative and agile tool, we can access the increasingly complex universe of Z1 in an updated and orderly way.
👉 Loom: We bet on asynchronous communication, but this does not mean that everything should be reduced to messages in Slack. So when there is something important to explain, sometimes we record a video with Loom and share it with the team, offering a much warmer and closer communication.
👉 Figma and Webflow have revolutionized collaborative work in digital product design and development, not only between members of the same team but also with customers. Their versatility and built-in version control have made it possible for multiple people to work on the same project simultaneously, making collecting feedback and implementing new options a breeze.
👉 Engine: Last but not least, it is the only tool that you will not be able to find out there. We developed it a long time ago to synchronize Jira and Everhour, which helps us control and report the times dedicated to each project, as well as managing team holidays.