Our Remote Office

We’ve been operating as a Remote studio since 2020 and this is what we've found works.

Our Remote Office

Thoughts
Mckenzie Urquhart
a small studio
By 
May 2, 2022

We’ve been operating as a remote studio since 2020.

When everyone went home to work at the beginning of COVID, it just kind of worked, so we stuck with it. We’ve learned a lot along the way and we’ve made countless changes to the way we work.

In the beginning, it was just no rhyme or reason, figuring things out as we went, then we snapped out of it and started making processes and systems left, right, and center. About 1 quarter into 2021 we realized we may have been overly thorough in the process department and we started to trim the fat and think about what was actually needed and what was overkill.

Ultimately, what we ended up with, and what we’re still operating under as a virtual studio is the stuff below.

Time Zones

We have people in EST(Toronto, Cleveland, Atlanta), PST (Seattle and Vancouver), and AEST (Sydney). We have a requirement that each person can offer 3 hours overlap with PST for 4 days of the week. Once we get into a groove, get a feel for everyone's routines, we learn what those overlap hours usually are, making it easier for the team to catch up and overlap. When there's a routine switch up, a life change, or simply an off day, we just let the team know.

Equipment Standards

We are lucky enough to have someone on the team that has a passion for hardware so we have a guide for equipment standards that includes specs, makes, and models for everything from a keyboard up to a computer. Everyone at the studio gets a setup package when they join so even though we're far and wide, we'e all empowered in the same way! Everything purchased as studio equipment is, of course, studio prop and tracked in our inventory database.

Stipends

This is a little extra fairy dust we have for each member on the team to splurge on items to better their office space. This stuff is for the team and is not studio property. If it’s going to make you happier working at home, it’s valid for the studio stipend! Think air purifier, co-working space gift card, lighting, new chair, etc.

Total Async Fridays

Our first step toward a completely asynchronous studio. No mandatory meetings on Fridays, make them what you need them to be. If that’s working all day one Friday and logging on late after a hair appointment the next, we don’t mind. All client deliverables are due on Thursdays to make it extra simple. Work ebbs and flows, and so will your Fridays.

Async Check-Points

Because of this asynchronicity, we have some mandatory async check-points that everyone participates in. We currently use these throughout the week, in hopes that they could lead to a fully asynchronous studio.

  • Daily Ding - This is a slack channel meant for a short bullet point list of items you worked on that day. Everyone sends it at the end of their day, whenever and wherever that might be so when everyone wakes up, they can check in on progress, pick up where needed, and offer feedback when asked.
  • P&P&B - This is our massive studio Notion housed KanBan board that we plan out each week. Everyone has 5 tasks per week. That’s it that’s all. We update the status of the tasks, do our very best to get all 5 finished and if we can’t, we ask for support to get things done!
  • Tool Notifications - We @ each other ALL the time. Notion, Figma, Slack you name it, we are writing and tagging, editing, and feedbacking. It’s important that everyone on the team get super used to checking their notifications every day.
  • Toggl (for now) - Even though we are all on salary, we currently track our time to understand if we are far over or under on any projected time for a project. We never expect anyone to work a traditional 9-5, nor do we care if your weektotals to 40 hours. All we care about is that you’re doing your best to create the amazing work you said you were going to do and that you'll tell us if it's too much!. (Also we're starting to track R+D time for tax credits!)
  • Loom Weeks - This is a client-related async method and this is our first year offering this meeting cadence with clients. Some appreciate it and some like the face time - Basically we have an in-person jam session or presentation on alternating weeks to a video submission of new work via Loom. We’ve grown to love this cadence and most of our clients do as well. It’s not only async for us, but it also alleviates scheduling pressures for our clients. Win-win.

Standing Meetings

We do need you to show up at certain things but we keep it consistent so it's easy for you to block out your own time.

  • Monday Connect - This is a 45-minute all-team that is meant to just catch up after the weekend. It has zero structure and is just a really pleasant way to start the week talking about whatever. We schedule this when all time zones can attend, at the same time every Monday.
  • Office Hours - This is our 1-hour all-team Tuesday-Thursday that is all about sharing work, getting feedback, updates, and team approval for client work. It’s ok to show up to these meetings empty-handed. In fact, that happens all the time. We do a quick round-table, see who has something to say or show or jam on so we can allocate time for everything on the agenda, then we dive in! These are scheduled at the same time Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday when all time zones can attend.
  • Client Meetings (Monday, Thursday) - Every client has a 30-minute Monday check-in and a biweekly 1-hour critique on Thursday (working in tandem with that Loom week mentioned above).

At this moment these are the integral pieces of our virtual studio. They hold everyone accountable, and keep everyone connected, while also giving everyone the freedom to have a life, go to therapy, leave early for date night, or sleep in late after date night.

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