Why we introduced online entertainment for remote workers in the pandemic, although we were against it before

New Year’s Eve is great for summing up the results. This year, at the end of December, we want to talk about some of the transformations that “harsh 2020” pushed us to.

Technically, nothing has changed for our work – we have already worked remotely for years. But it turned out that we can and should compensate for the changes in the life of the Maxilek members that are not related to the work process. Today we will tell you how and why informal online events appeared, although we did not develop such activities a year ago.

The remote format of work was laid with us at the stage of founding the company (once our founder already wrote about this). But we have seen that not everyone can get remote access. From the very beginning, we were looking for people who can work effectively at a distance, fit in nature – people who will fit into our team and who will be comfortable working in our conditions. This does not mean that the issue of involving specialists is not worth it for us. But it costs differently, not in the same way as for the average company that went remotely only in March 2020.

The difference is that “our” people in the conditions of remote employment strictly observe the balance of work and personal life, independently choosing what to do in their personal time.

Therefore, we have always considered ourselves not in the right to limit the free hours of the Maxilectites. All the time that a person can “benefit” from a remote format (including from shortening the road to the workplace), he must get at his own disposal.

As with any company, we had rituals that simplified onboarding, knowledge transfer and communication in the team. We held a lot of online meetings, used cameras to see each other’s faces and connect empathy, generated various related activities, like collecting photos for posts on social networks. But in principle, neither work nor other activities took up personal time. Its Maxilekites are used to distributing it between family, friends and hobbies. This practice was violated only by the annual full-time corporate and HR programs for joint conference attendance (only at the request of the specialist himself).

The pandemic did not change internal work processes, but changed the environment around. Our team is dispersed in different cities, and in each of them the scale of the lockdown was different, but in general, access to the usual methods of “unloading” after work was limited. Those who loved to travel had to stay at home. Those who preferred to play sports in the hall limited themselves to jogging almost under cover of night. And those who liked to try food from the new restaurant on Friday night had to temporarily give up this activity altogether.

And we had to react to it.

Why did we have to react?

In hiring, we always give preference to “results” – those who are used to working to achieve certain goals and who, at the same time, have the necessary degree of independence. Unfortunately, against the background of “processors”, “results” burn out rather quickly if their capabilities are limited. In order to notice early signs of burnout, we built a collection of feedback from the very beginning – one-on-one calls, polls, etc. And after a couple of weeks of the pandemic, they noticed that the guys did not have enough “out of project” activities.

Everyone reacted differently to the new reality. But the most striking negative in the team was caused by the fact that they had to abandon the usual rituals of rest and switching from work.

We realized that something needs to be changed! And they began to act in several directions at once.

Training – 30%

We launched a platform for gaining new knowledge and practicing practical skills in a variety of areas – from communications and emotional intelligence to time management and negotiation skills. Hired external coaches.

About a third of the team (30%) were interested in the opportunity to study online. The topic and time for the pilot training were chosen by a general vote.

As a result, we conducted a survey on how to change the format in the future. We stopped for 2-3 hour events no more than once every two months. It is not so easy to fit a lot of practice into an event of such duration (namely, the lack of practice was the main comment to the pilot training), but we will still work out this format. First of all, we will define the requirements for coaches and topics.

Quiz – 20%

Beer on Skype and other ways of informal communication that people began to look for themselves in isolation are all good. But we realized that people “in our circle” need a goal. At the end of the working day, not everyone is capable of taking a chess tournament or a physics lecture as such a goal. So for a joint vacation with colleagues, we have chosen an easy and relaxed format of online quizzes. As a team of 21st Century Nomads, we can get to know each other a little better and even compete with others. It rallies.

Conducted a pilot game – took 97th place out of about 120 teams. Not an enchanting result, but all the participants liked it. Unfortunately, on the pilot day it was possible to assemble a very small team – only 4 people, although initially it was announced twice as many. Most likely, the day and time were chosen unsuccessfully, and many families with whom already had other plans. We made conclusions – in the future we will plan such things no more than once every couple of months and announce the date of the game at least a month in advance.

Quiz ordered here… This company is not a monopolist, but they used their resource and were satisfied.

Online games – 17%

Another goal for spending time together is online games. On Friday nights we started chasing zombies in “7 Days to Die”

The game was not chosen randomly. First, we tried to avoid strict hardware resource requirements. Secondly, this game was logical for us. “7 Days to Die” – team. The overall result depends on how each player performs. At the same time, this is a sandbox game where the participants are not limited in their actions by rigid logic. So the team must be imbued with the spirit of unity – to distribute tasks, extract resources and pump skills in order to successfully repel a zombie attack. We get a full-fledged team building. And as practice has shown, there is also onboarding for those who have just joined the team. Plus, this is a way to drain the negative, if it has accumulated over the work week, since killing zombies is quite realistic.

Oddly enough, Friday night was the most convenient for games. He was chosen by vote. “7 Days to Die” is not a game that you can run for 15 minutes. We have somewhat reduced the gameplay – on our server only 5 days pass before the zombie invasion, while 1 day lasts not an hour, but 40 minutes. Even with such cuts, a game session takes several hours. Therefore, the main limitation here was the evening calls on projects on other days of the week, which all end at different times. If you wait until everyone is free, then the players will finish by midnight. This is difficult to implement on the eve of the next working day. And after the game on Friday you can sleep well.

The tradition can be said to have taken root – the game takes place every Friday. About 5-7 people play constantly (about 15%).

Most likely we will not stop at this game – we will try others as well.

Secret Santa – 94%

In remote work, there is a lack of the opportunity to accidentally notice the “cooler’s” personal qualities and hobbies of colleagues.

Secret Santa is an activity that lifts the veil of secrecy over this side of their life, gives a reason for communication. This idea went surprisingly well. Participation in Secret Santa is voluntary. But the initiative was shown by almost the entire team – 94%.

We used a generator to select donors and donees https://www.drawnames.com/… He unloaded and involved HR in the process. They didn’t have to refuse to participate in order to manually draw up signs who sent the gift and to whom. We set everything up honestly – even the organizer of the group does not see the internal mechanics. At the same time, we opened wishlists for all members of the group – this reveals a little the personality of each. In a working project, you are unlikely to find out that your colleague loves funny socks or is buying equipment for moonshine right now.

At first, my colleagues had a lot of questions about the service itself, and especially about delivery. Somewhere to send you needed a middle name, somewhere you needed interaction with customs. But in the end, everyone was able to decide. We have a gift exchange deadline today. Almost all of them received them a little earlier.

We will definitely keep the initiative for the next new year, especially since the group on the service is not deleted. But we will most likely not replicate the idea on other holidays. Still, gifts to colleagues are expensive. You may get the feeling that you have to give up on something all the time. It will be like in the famous film:

Online corporate

An online corporate event is always “a little wrong”. But we don’t have to choose. We planned to hold a full-time corporate in the first half of 2020, then, for obvious reasons, we postponed it until the fall, and now we have postponed it indefinitely. But the expectation of the opportunity to hold a face-to-face meeting does not prevent you from meeting again online.

We studied the experience of holding corporate events in large IT companies – with hype and on a large scale, and realized that we would not get it. Having a successful quiz experience, we hired an organizer to conduct a more “intimate” detective game. To provide a buffet table, we invited each participant to order food in their city with delivery for a certain amount (the company compensates for it).

For an online corporate event, we are not yet ready to report on the results – we have not yet managed to collect and analyze the opinion of the team. Based on the results of the event, a video will be edited for us – we will publish it on social networks along with a more detailed description of the initiative.

How we implemented it

It is important not only what to implement, but also how to implement. We did not try to arrange a revolution, but introduced everything gradually, preparing the team for innovations through polls and discussions. As a result, there are not so many activities, but only one can be called “unsuccessful”.

We wanted to compensate for the lack of conference attendance with deleted reports. But this practice has not taken off in our country. For a conference to be in demand, it needs quality content. And for this, we need to either have a line inside of those who want to speak (and with our policy of non-interference in the personal life of employees on the job, this is difficult to do), or invite external speakers. We rethought the situation and realized that for us labor costs will not give the desired effect – we will not be able to compete with well-known conferences, which are gradually moving to the online format.

We did not make any activities mandatory – we do not have a KPI for the share of attracted or a mandatory “turnout threshold” for the initiative to continue to exist. All only on their own. And we see our task in providing the very opportunity so that in a pandemic, everyone can choose those activities that are interesting to him and help to relax after work.

Based on the results of each pilot, we conduct a survey – we ask about the general impression and willingness to take part in something similar again. We leave only those ideas about which the Maxilectites themselves speak well.

For new people, all these initiatives become an integral part of our workflow. But first we try to cover the basic needs – to equip the workplace, create a working environment, etc. In general, we continue to focus on tasks and an interesting technological stack, rather than on games and quizzes. Whatever we come up with to defuse the atmosphere, work should be in the center!

And, of course, as long as the restrictions are in place, we continue to look for ways to improve. Now, for example, we are thinking about the topic of online sports. According to the results of the mass removal, RBC counted 19% of people who received health problems due to a sedentary lifestyle. We have always had an HR program to compensate part of the sports expenses. What exactly to pay was up to the Maxilek members themselves. It could be a payment for a gym membership, individual sports or sports equipment – from a bicycle to spare parts for a Niva to participate in dirt races.

Now the gyms are already open. But if you approach the issue formally, visiting them is an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. For our part, we want to give everyone a choice – to walk or not, depending on our attitude to the situation. Let’s try sports in an online format 🙂

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