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The Rapport Report

April 28th, 2021

Working Remotely at Rapport and Why We’re Going ‘Choice First’

by Cristina Baniceanu, Project Manager
by Holly Condeco, HR Manager
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Last year was challenging. Ok, it was more than challenging, but for a lot of companies used to working in person, it was a huge adjustment.

Even if working remotely was something many of us dreamed about for a long time, the change was so abrupt.

We were in uncharted waters. And we all had individual ways to cope. But until the waters began to settle, it felt a bit like each of us was in a different boat. Sound familiar? Working from home was a global trend bound to happen sooner or later, but instead of happening gradually, it was triggered by other forces of nature. 

And everyone was frustrated. Some people missed the office, and some people who had loved the idea of working from home, found it wasn’t quite what they dreamed it would be. And others loved their new work from home life, and weren’t looking forward to returning to an office. One thing everyone did agree on: there were too many meetings, too much information, too many hours of fatiguing screen time, working long hours with no real work-life balance. Remember this article from last year? It summarizes the whole thing. It wasn’t terrible, but we were still adjusting and trying to find the right formula in the midst of all the chaos. And we’re still figuring it out, with slow and incremental changes.

What changed, you ask?

Since the previous article came out, we took a moment to breathe, and rethink everything. Steph Smith’s (Senior Manager, Head of Trends.co at Hubspot) presentation during last year’s Running Remote conference was the most revelatory. We’re paraphrasing here, but in short: you can’t copy-paste what happens in the office and expect it to work in a completely different environment, you have to rethink everything.

Of course, that was easier said than done, but with patience and determination we succeeded to reach a new normal, our new normal. We’ve considerably reduced the time spent in meetings, without losing clarity and efficiency, because we have better processes and everyone is clear on what they have to do to move the business forward. We’ve also welcomed new members to our team, so we have better work distribution, and our HR, PM and QA teams are doing their best to support the development teams.

And while it’s still a work in progress, it has gotten easier, and it finally feels like we’re all on the same boat now. Even if we still have different workplace preferences (remote vs. office), we’ve all adapted to the current conditions, and we’re all 100% involved in working towards the same goals. So regardless of being spread across multiple countries and only communicating virtually, we are more connected than ever. 

In order to do this, we have lots of social initiatives going on: we discuss mental health, we meet for an online coffee from time to time, we have multiple Slack channels where we share our hobbies and interests (like books we’re reading, music we’re listening too, films to watch, food recipes to try, etc.), and of course, weather updates and beautiful landscapes from everyone’s corner of the world :) 

We really needed this connection, especially with what’s going on outside of work, and I believe we can honestly say we feel a lot closer to each other, despite the physical distance. And we’ve noticed that feeling relaxed and comfortable with each other has brought with it an increase in productivity as well.

Currently our HR department is strategizing for a future “normal”, that will include solutions for everyone’s preferences!

It was important to ensure everyone had a voice in our new HR policy, so we started with a questionnaire, collecting everyone’s feedback about working remotely and future preferences. It helped a lot knowing every team member’s opinion is valid and taken into consideration.

We thought it’d be interesting to share some of those results, so here’s what our team had to say about working from home: 

  • 43.3% of team members found the switch to remote working “very positive”, 16.7% found the switch “mostly positive”, 33% experiencing both “positive and negative aspects”, whereas the remaining 6.7% started remotely or found the switch “mostly negative”. 0% found this change “very negative”
  • Some aspects our team members found most enjoying about working remotely: Flexibility to work around other responsibilities (83%), Flexibility when making their own schedule (83%), Regaining time that would have been spent commuting (76.7%), Absence of office distractions which can interrupt flow (56.7%), Ability to complete tasks without having to leave at the end of the day (43.3%), Spending more time in their local community (30%)
  • Biggest challenges of working remotely: Difficulty separating work/home life (56.7%), Isolation from colleagues (50%), Communication: harder to get your point across to colleagues (33.3%), Communication: harder to understand what your colleagues are trying to get across to you (33.3%), Distraction from other household members (26.7%), Lack of adequate physical working space and/or equipment (26.7%), Poor connectivity/internet speeds (20%), Lower than usual motivation levels (16.7%) - You can find out how we are looking to combat these issues as part of our new “Choice First” policy below!
  • Most of our team members said they were surprised by the following aspects: More focused and well rested, an increase in productivity and motivation, the ease of this transition, the importance of a proper setup, enjoying wearing comfortable attire (yes, this was a common comment, even in our previously casual dress workplace!)
  • 46.7% felt more productive and able to achieve more, 40% consider their productivity stayed the same, and 13.3% found it difficult to remain productive without the office environment
  • 70% said their ability to solve problems/innovate stayed the same, while 30% noticed an increase in their problem-solving and innovating skills
  • 83.3% are interested in using the office “some of the time”, 13.3% are not interested in using an office space, and 3.4% prefer to work from the office daily
  • In terms of ‘working in the office frequency’ for those who prefer to work in the office ‘some of the time’: 26.7% would be happy to work in the office “only when required for specific meetings/events”, 13.3% would opt for 3 days a week in the office, another 13.3% would like to work in the office 2 days a week, 10% would like to work in the office 4 days a week, and another 10% one day a week
  • Ideal working patterns: Flexibility was by far the most common response here! Although a large number of people still work within a usual 9-5 work period, the survey results showed most people wanted to be able to adapt to changes in their life and work when they felt most productive. 

Based on these results, Holly, our HR Manager, worked on a new HR policy, which takes a “Choice First” approach to remote working. We plan on having our HQ Office in Edinburgh and are hopeful that we may be able to reopen an office space in San Francisco - all of which have been closed throughout the pandemic and lockdown. Choice First allows individuals to choose a way of working that works best for them, whether that’s office based or home based. It allows for greater flexibility in working hours and setting a schedule based on when you are most productive or what is most efficient for you and your individual team. Not being expected to work set core hours has been great for improving work-life balance.

To address some of the issues raised in the survey, we have put real emphasis on inclusion and effective communication, so no matter how you choose to work you know you will still have the opportunity to connect and engage with the team in meetings, and have a clear overview of the discussions being had. We also developed some best practice resources around Slack and calendar use, helping team members better manage their time and have a clear overview of everyone's availability and when to expect responses. To help combat isolation from team members, we started the social channels mentioned above, and provided access to the Togetherall platform - an online anonymous platform designed to provide community support for individuals’ mental health and wellbeing. 

As part of the Choice First Policy, team members have also been given a budget to improve their home set up beyond the devices and basics provided by Rapport. This can be used to purchase anything from coffee machines, to desks and lamps, or even plants! 

Allowing individuals to choose how they work best has also been great for recruitment and building a diverse team of people from all over the world.  Our team is currently made up of talented individuals from 19 countries and five continents, working from the UK, Hungary, Romania, and the US!  

We are also always looking for stellar people to join our team, so check out these job openings and see if you’d be a great fit!

This sums up our work experience over this past year--we hope you found it interesting! We’re also looking forward to the new Running Remote conference this year to get more new ideas (May 21st, 2021), and see how everyone else has adjusted to their “new normal” since last year!

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