We’ve been working at home for over a month now here at Quin. All of us have been working hard behind the scenes as our Quin app goes live on the app store. Despite COVID-19 and the sudden change in our routines, we’ve made it work. It’s been 5 years in the making after all. Here’s a quick glimpse of how our work routine has changed in the business. This time, with our Product Owner, Ashley. Ashley works within the Product Team to help decide what we build in the app, and make sure that what we’re doing is having a positive impact on our users. She also works closely with our Research Programme participants.
When we received the news to work from home, it was a bit of a shock. We had a group conflab in the office, as we normally do when we get any news, good or bad. We took photos of whiteboards and allocated test phones to people so they could continue testing at home. We cleared the fridge of any food that might go off. I started searching my mind for anything we might have missed. Thankfully, the only thing I missed was a camera for making product videos. Fortunately, I have a phone I could use instead (Jamie Oliver’s latest series on Channel 4 has all been filmed on a mobile phone!)
I’ve got quite used to the routine of working from home now, and although I miss spending time in person with our Quin clan, as a possible-introvert I’ve actually got more energy than I did previously. I’ve also previously worked with remote teams, so the reliance on video conferencing and even asynchronous working was not new to me.
I’d love to say that I’m a morning person and I use the extra time not commuting to meditate, then exercise, or work on hobbies. The honest truth is I’m using the extra time not commuting to get some much-desired shut-eye!
I wake up at around 8:45am, and start the day at 9. I check the crash logs that might have come in the previous day, check the analytics tool Mixpanel for user activity for the previous day and work out my priorities, check the go live countdown slack channel for any exciting news, and check email and slack. Shortly after, we all meet for the daily standup, and decide what we’re working on as a development team for that day.
Later in the morning, my other half wakes up (his work operates on multiple timezones) and if I’m on a Zoom call, he brings me tea silently.
So far no-one has noticed my tea fairy on our calls!
I then typically have a day with calls working with the rest of the team, interspersed with golden hours of solo tasks, punctuated with queries about the app’s intended functionality from the development team coming on slack. All in all, pretty much the same as in the office, just with some tools to help. Miro is a favourite tool at the moment, as we are all lovers of whiteboards.
Being online and going live on the app store remotely has made our communication more deliberate. This meant we were more formal about our planning than we perhaps would have been in the office. It’s had unprecedented benefits, including documenting the outcomes of discussions better and including the right stakeholders earlier on in the discussion, rather than allowing a pair to brainstorm separately and then having to repeat the same session but with a bigger group, allowing us to work more efficiently. It has also allowed us to pool the whole team’s brains, increasing the quality of work and ideas we have produced.
Something that has been lost a little is how best to articulate our excitement about going live. I’m sure this is the biggest event that Quin has achieved, and we are looking forward to seeing the product in the hands of users giving them a tool that will help with their diabetes management, especially during lockdown when most peoples’ routines have been disrupted. I think the whole team feels it, but there isn’t those after-work drinks or lunchtime coffees and chats to get that buzz, so we’ve put in a go live countdown channel in slack to celebrate our achievements more.
I really miss lunch with the team at the moment. We catch up about all sorts of stuff, and I’d got used to the local shops and cafés. The selection round my flat is pretty nice, but it doesn’t feel the same as sharing stories about the odd service in a particular cafe, or sharing new food with other quinners. So when Chris suggested the lunchtime cook off on Zoom I was excited to see what others had been cooking. This was all with one nominated ingredient – peanut butter. We had a huge variety of food produced, from soup to glazed aubergine to energy balls.
We then check in after lunch at 2pm to see how everyone else has been doing for the day on their tasks. I normally stay on at the end of the big Zoom call to answer queries about app functionality. I then usually have a meeting or two to discuss future functionality in the app, to plan which future users we are working towards sharing our app with, or to learn more about our existing users, or to determine if future functionality will be safe to use, or planning our journey to go live.
As a non-morning person, I find it difficult to switch off at 6pm, as that’s when my brain is most wired – I often continue beyond that time, until I’m reminded by my other half. Something I’ve been doing is ending my day with a bath or shower – I find that helps me relax and turn off from the day.
I’ll end with my top tips for working from home:
- Set a work space and schedule, and stick to it – don’t answer emails in bed, no matter how urgent they may seem. Sleep hygiene and avoiding screens in bed is just generally a good thing for your sleep quality and hence your long term productivity
- Designate work and non-work outfits, and stick to them. I’ve banned pyjamas from my work area, and it helps designate work and non-work times.
Pick collaboration tools that work for you, rather than you for them. We abandoned Google Hangouts fairly soon as it just wasn’t working for us.
- Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your coworkers! If you would normally crack a joke while waiting for a meeting to start, go for it.