With Covid being sprung on us, I believe technology had been ready for many years to work remotely, but the people were not. Managers, Team Leads and Executives were left with a “now what” feeling as they sent employees home. One of the best examples I have of that before the pandemic was with a previous employer. The company was nationwide. They had major locations on the west coast, central and east coast. The director of security would fly to each location to meet with all the security teams he controlled. One time he was discussing with me about coming out to the west coast location just to socialize. This request seemed weird to me not because it’s just something I didn’t want to do, but because we live in an age of technology. Where at any moment you can be connected with another person but when it comes to running a company, traveling was the only option? I asked him if the company expanded to maybe a southern location or maybe outside the United States, then what? What would he do to build relationships? He just said, “Just have to travel more.”
Don’t get me wrong, I believe face time and socializing can be a key but is this the best use of time? How much money would it cost to do this? Is it even worth it? I don’t think corporations are the first to face a remote workforce. Actually, I think in some ways this has already been seen and it’s been shown that it can work and people don’t need face time to make it work. I believe the esports industry has already faced this arena and is excelling. What can we learn from them?
I found a great article of some things that work for esports that I believe need to be embraced by offices everywhere. I’m just going to talk about a few from this list that are, I believe, key to working remotely and being successful. Managing Virtual Teams – What eSports Can Teach Us
Have a collective purpose and goal.
This is SO important, remote or in the office. I feel this aspect is lacking in both places but being remote, it’s compounded and needs even more emphasis. In esports I think purpose is easily identified. It’s to win a match, game, run a dungeon, complete a mission or beat a boss. Even when random people that have never met have the same goal, they accomplish many things. If the team doesn’t have a defined goal, it’s very easy for the team to feel like they’re lost. In the business environment it might not be as easy. When it comes to engineering I believe using jira/scrum/agile might be a real platform to get everybody on the same page and give the team one goal every two weeks and that’s to finish a sprint. When it comes to a SOC analyst, it might be a little harder. It’s like if you played a hockey game every day; it gets tiring and repetitive and that’s why I think it’s important to celebrate often (another tip in the article) with members of the team when something good happens.
Remote work I believe encourages diversity naturally. Imagine if you’re a small city, your selection of candidates might be hard to come by right off the bat. The only way you might get a good candidate is to poach them from another local company. That person will probably have a similar background as others since they might have gone to the same school or college, or have the same work experience. As soon as you enable a remote workforce, suddenly you open up the possibilities of getting a candidate out of state. Just having somebody out of state increases the possibility of a different background with their education and work experience. Having a different perspective can lead to new ideas and more efficient ways of completing tasks.
Have fun inside and outside of work.
Something you will see in an esports team is talk about other things. This could be pets, plants, music, meats or even pastries where they have a dedicated channel on discord about these topics. There’s much more than just work and they develop an environment for those other interests. When everybody was in the office these topics would naturally come up and people were able to share. Being remote this is no longer the case so you have to provide some kind of platform for these topics. Also, it’s common to have people go out for happy hour once a week just to chat. There’s no reason this can’t be the same case remotely.
Inside a game it’s easy to create fun. You can make small competitions like who has the most damage while running a dungeon?, most heals? or for a first person shooter the most head shots during the match? These are small competitive goals amongst the group, but pushes them to be better. Once again it might be a little harder in a work environment but you can use platforms like TryHackMe or Immersive Labs and see how many labs can be done in a week or a set of labs completed the quickest. I don’t have all the answers, but that’s why additional effort is needed and not trying to keep business like usual.
One site that I feel like is on the right path of taking remote work to an online game feel is http://gather.town In this you’re able to design a virtual character and move around a virtual office. If you’re out in the open, people can come up to you and video or audio chat, just like real life. You can have a private room and just do work, maybe come out for lunch and mingle with others or maybe you want to play a card game with one of your colleagues, you can. I won’t say that gather.town is the solution to every remote workforce issue, but I believe it is a platform that helps bridge that gap we’re facing and it’s trying to enhance the remote workforce experience.
With working remotely trial and error is needed. Maybe have double the meetings, ensure happy hours every week, team get-togethers monthly instead of quarterly, play online games together, or create channels in the chat client for employees to share their life. Maybe some of it would work, maybe not but new things must be tried for this new frontier. I believe looking at online games and communities can give corporate businesses ideas but they need to start trying and embracing them.
Editor: Emily Domedion