Working online is efficient, but how do we keep in touch with each other?

Working from home is the new normal. Of course we do that at Beeliners too. In fact, we are now used to working like this. In the beginning it is a bit uncomfortable and it gives some troubles. But it certainly also has advantages. In this blog we tell about our experiences with working remotely. What we encounter and how we look for solutions. 

First the context

We are a company that helps customers with innovation. We do this mainly by building prototypes at lightning speed. Our discussions are therefore mainly of a technical nature. For example, we are talking about potential problems that need to be solved or about new technologies that we want to apply. It is important that we understand exactly what the customer is looking for. Technically everything is possible and we are of course enthusiastic about great solutions. But it is all about what the customer wants and which functions must be fulfilled. This is sometimes difficult to figure out when we sit around the table together and explain what we mean with gestures and drawings. This gets tricky when everything goes online..

Yet we also see the benefits of working online

Firstly, it saves travel time and costs and a lot of frustration due to delays and traffic jams. The ease in which you jump in the car in the past to drive by for a conversation is now certainly much more conscious.

Second, it is more effective because you will be less disturbed. You can completely shut yourself off from the outside world and immerse yourself in certain information. The pitfall is that there is also distraction at home. The children who want to have a chat or something to drink together when they come home from school. Or the dog who wants to go around the block. With working from home you are often flexible enough to just do that. Then you work an extra hour in the evening to complete your planned tasks. Working from home can make it easier to balance work and private life.

What are we still playing around with?

We miss the exchange of great ideas at the coffee machine (the most important device in our office). In addition to the weekend, we also discuss our new ideas there and we are curious how colleagues think about this. Often these casual and free conversations yield new ideas. Drinking coffee online is a bit less inspiring.

Furthermore, we miss social contact, conviviality and involvement. There is no longer a colleague at your desk who just wants to have a chat. Or tells a strong story, such as my colleague Henk Kalk, who can always tell a nice anecdote about a project. Of course we do call and we see each other in online meetings. Yet that is different.

Also important: it is difficult to watch each other online and to check whether everyone is on the same page. We work with prototypes, where there is still a lot of uncertainty, especially in the initial phase. Normally we look over each other’s shoulders and discuss findings in the corridors. We ask each other questions such as: “Why did you solve this on such way?” And so spontaneous conversations arise about the approach and goals. That way we know if we have the same ideas and that there are no wrong assumptions. Because that is not useful within our team, but also not in our contact with customers: it leads to wrong outcomes or pointless work.

What is the solution?

Of course, we don’t have the wisdom in store either, but we do like to experiment and adjust. Even when it comes to working online. That is why we have devised three tools that, in addition to our Agile work process with short sprints, work very well for us.

  1. The daily morning meeting

During this meeting we go through all actions and possible problems. A joke or a private story is also allowed. Because you miss some of the non-verbal communication, it is important to articulate things clearly and to check afterwards whether everyone has understood what you mean. Only then will you achieve your goal: everyone knows what is expected and how the subsequent processes are geared to each other. As a bonus, a positive morning meeting also gives an energy boost to start your work well.

  1. A pitch at the start of a project

We pitch our ideas to each other with photos and sketches at the start of a project, because images often say more than words. This provides a brainstorm and then it leads tot the best solution direction, in which ambiguities and showstoppers are tackled. We work out this solution direction, after which we present it to the customer.

  1. Kick off when we start building

When we have all the information to build the prototype, we organize a kick off. We agree on who does what, when and how. We record this in a schedule of requirements, which we draw up together with the customer. Mutual expectations are now clear. And then we get to work. We then discuss the daily issues again in the morning meeting.

Are you also struggling with working remotely? Or do you have ideas about that?

I am curious about your story and what you encounter. And of course also to your solutions. I would like to hear them during an introductory meeting. And yes, that is also possible online.

Dennis Wissink has over 20 years of experience in the technical secondment. He is co-founder of Xelvin (internationally operating in technical secondment). He lead this company for 9 years as CEO. Where he has gained experience with company strategy and startup new concepts, offices and companies. Specialities are strategic development, Design Thinking and business Models.

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