Thanks to COVID 19, we have been working from home for a year now: we all work remotely, each for herself in one’s own rhythm, which we needed to find first. Some of our team already worked remotely before, but for those who made the daily journey to our beautiful facilities at Münchner Freiheit, it was a huge change.
How the situation was before:
Interaction between colleagues and the daily exchange was a constant feature at interfacewerk headquarters, not only in the kitchen while making coffee. Every day there was tea time with cookies and a fruit plate at around 10:00. Lunch was eaten together at the big table, followed by a game of table soccer or Mario Kart. The last two activities were often repeated in the late afternoon to free the mind and make a short sportive break. In the evening, the working day was closed with an after-work-beer…The beer has expired in the meantime. And we had to realize that the office activities could not be transferred 1:1 into the daily home office routine: the teatime scheduled as a slackbot reminder was rarely visited in the video calls...it was the same with the Online Mario Kart time in the afternoon. Playing Mario Kart remotely is simply not the same.
How we keep team spirit alive despite the distance:
Monday’s stand up call: State of the Union
Every Monday, the whole team meets to discuss the upcoming milestones, sprint changes or special events for the week. In addition, every week there is a question of the week, such as "What is your personal challenge for this week?" or "If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?”. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn more about your colleagues despite the current physical distance and start the week with a conversation that is not necessarily work-related.
Every week we are picked together with one or two team members to arrange a mystery date. Time and type of activity is left up to the individual team: gaming, a joint digital coffee or tea, an apartment tour or just chatting.
Academy and Innovation Days
Learning and developing should of course not stand still with the lockdown. So we have moved our internal workshop days, which take place every 6 weeks, to a digital format. Previously, the whole team would have travelled to Munich to meet each other. Now: we spend half a day together via Zoom: either taking part in interesting lectures/workshops or work on our own small ideas for internal projects, such as the Corona Rules App or the founding of a Sharing Task Force for more activity on our social media channels.
Regular exchange in the UX and Software Engineering departments
Our designers have a weekly UX Coworking: it is a time when usually all designers are available so that they can work together on projects, get feedback, or work on internal UX tasks. Our developers in their turn, are having a weekly Dev Open Hour to exchange learnings and solve problems. Sometimes, this hour is also utilized for a gaming session!
Didigital team events
We didn't want to miss out on a Christmas party despite the fact that all the restaurants were closed in December. So we came up with an alternative: boxes with the ingredients for a 3-course menu, with drinks, cookies and gingerbread, new interfacewerk gear like hoodies, t-shirts and Christmas gadgets for dressing up found their way through Munich, to Berlin, Piestany (Slovakia) and Amsterdam. We used Wonder, an online gatherings tool, and created different digital spaces there.
The smaller groups, which had been set up in advance, met in a fixed time frame with different members of the team to cook and enjoy the three courses together. The official part for all together came afterwards with a few nice words from our management and the unwrapping of the book gifts that everyone had sent to a previously assigned colleague and a cheerful guess from whom the book might have come. Afterwards, we split into smaller groups again to play games or just drink wine and chat. It was a very nice evening and everyone agreed that this calls for a repetition, and so we are planning another digital team event soon!
So if you are planning on a digital event, we highly recommend:
A food box with simple ingredients that can be served easily (pasta
with pesto is a good option), sweets and drinks
Corporate wear that is comfy and nice-looking
Some gadgets for dressing up and make some memorable pictures
A good plan when, where and how many people meet
Bonus: prepare a secret santa activity in advance (books are a good present option)
When the pandemic is over….
It will probably be a while before we non-systemic people can get a dose of vaccination and then also bring life back into the premises at Münchner Freiheit. But with the measures we have found, we will not lose contact with each other completely and can look forward to hopefully one day crowding together again as a group in front of the coffee machine in our little kitchen and exchanging news without a mask!