Like many companies who employ off-site team members, Spatial Networks brings everyone together a few times a year for a week of handshakes, hugs, good food, and better beer. Amazingly, some code usually gets shipped as well. Our most recent visit was punctuated by a long awaited change of venue as we moved into our new, custom-designed space, leaving behind an office that never quite felt like home. These visits are important for a variety of reasons, but here are a few that stand out to me each time we have a meeting of the remotes. Here’s a recap of what got done:
Everyone in the same place means more direct communication, presentation, and collaboration to attend to smaller, nagging issues that usually get pushed aside in lieu of large(r) scale tasks.
Currently an entire third of our team works from somewhere beyond the glass doors of our St. Pete headquarters. Modern companies with well-established remote communication practices have Google Hangouts and Slack chat rooms, but nothing beats having a beer 2 feet away from someone who’s usually 1000 miles away and pixelated.
This relates specifically to our recent move, but still goes for those who’ve been in the same office for years. Sometimes the pile of coffee cups in the engineering room suddenly gain cloaking abilities making them all but invisible to daily office goers. A set of fresh eyes isn’t just good for spotting a mess, either. If any feng shui needs doing, the extra muscle can make things a lot easier on everyone.
One of the things you hear about but still can’t prepare for is the isolation of working from home. Yes, I can talk to my cats and yes the kids get home at 3 so I have someone to yell at for not doing their chores, but that doesn’t really measure up to the conversational stimulation a healthy office environment provides. While this may not be the primary goal of getting everyone together, it’s definitely a welcome byproduct.
Back in September of 2010 there were precisely zero remotely working employees at Spatial Networks. I found out a little while after I joined the team that they’d given it a shot a couple of times before with mixed results. Luckily for myself and everyone else who calls their home “the office”, they reconsidered and the results speak for themselves. And while chatting with an avatar or meeting with a group of people crowded around someone’s Macbook may not be the pinnacle of human contact, at least we can all convene a few times a year to ship some features, play some ping pong, and remember what our laughs all sound like.