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What is Brightec life like online?

Jotham relaxed at work

You know how it is. People ask how you are, and as humans, we tend to give a generic answer. We can tell you we’re doing well. But what’s really going on behind what you see and hear from Brightec at the moment?

Having onboarded two new members of our team last year and another developer at the start of this year, we were all set to transition through a new phase of growth. We didn’t see Covid coming but it has been a catalyst for change at Brightec.

In March, like the vast majority of businesses in the UK, we cleared our cupboards and packed up our desks in preparation for an undefined spell of working from home. We left behind the smell of bubblegum flavoured hand sanitizer and found foster homes for the office plants. We bought screens to cover washing machines during client calls and lost dining tables to mousemats and laptop stands. A utility room became a virtual meeting space, the corner of a bedroom became the ideal place to squeeze in a makeshift desk and a conservatory was transformed into a jungle of cheese plants and succulents.

We were used to remote working so the shift was far easier for us than it was for many. But still, it all felt temporary.

Gradually it became clearer that this was going to go on longer than many had anticipated so we started to pay more attention to the working from home set up each of our staff had. What did people need to feel comfortable and work safely at home? Was everyone ok? How were people coping with mental adjustments and family life? What could we do to help our team feel more productive? We delivered desk chairs, we ordered new routers, staff had a budget for buying headphones and because coffee and snacks are good for happiness levels, we delivered care packages to each of our team too. Unfortunately, it seems there is now an expectation to share sweets and cookies with the kids. No wonder we miss the office so much.

Working collaboratively online

We’re a team that works well together. We scribble on whiteboards, we love sharpies and can’t get enough of post its. How then, does a team like this, operate over video calls and slack?

We had to accept that no one knew how long it would go on for but we knew we had to work with the situation we were in and make it the best we could. We held a retrospective to discuss what worked well in the office and used this information to recreate the physical tools we loved. Utilising an awesome online collaborative white board platform for our overview and kudos boards as well as for brainstorming project work has helped us continue to work collaboratively in an online space.

Our stand ups involve a little less coffee these days but our trusty friend Olaph keeps us accountable for letting everyone know what we’re doing that day. It won’t be news to you that the stand-ups happen via Zoom. We’ve been loyal users of Google meet and continue to use this for many reasons but we’ve found for full team meetings zoom is a little easier to navigate the slightly awkward meeting temperaments. But why is no one listening to me? Oh, I’m on mute... Like the majority of other businesses, we’ve had our fair share of ‘video call blunders’.

During our Monday team meetings, we’ve spoken about personal changes and financial support as well as the ‘health’ of the company. We believe it is this open, honest and nurturing approach that has led our team through this storm together.

Connection

At home, there’s no one else to blame if the coffee pot has only the dregs left. There isn’t a water urn so it takes longer to make a cup of coffee or tea, AND there’s no one to talk to while you wait. It hardly seems fair.

The flip side is that there is no one to comment on how much milk you have in your tea (did you want any tea with your milk Nick?). Caz isn’t nagging about which recycling bag the cardboard should have gone in and no one can moan that they had to walk to the other end of the corridor to collect someone else’s Amazon delivery.

We’ve promised not to judge each other’s parenting skills when a toddler tantrums on the floor behind, we’ve seen our team member’s children pick their nose, we’ve cooed over the baby who kept their parents up all night but now looks as cute as pie, we’ve waved at the wife who really just needs five minutes to go to the loo in peace and agreed with Jotham’s toddler that dad’s signal system only works if the red sock (that signals ‘don’t come in, I’m busy) doesn’t fall off the handle while he’s on a call.

In short, we recognised that being at home has some advantages, but a dedicated space to work is unbeatable. The balance between home and work life has blurred spectacularly in a swirl of PE with Joe Wicks, emails at 10 pm and maths lessons at lunch. The time it takes to walk downstairs doesn’t feel enough to complete the transformation from developer to daddy.

The biggest surprise, initially to us as we realised the decision, and to clients, is the decision to move from Brightec towers. We loved that office and anyone that visited will know how much care went into creating a space that was productive and comfortable. We have an incredible team of talented individuals, who work well together and enjoy being together. Our intention for the future is to have a physical space for Brightec but in the current climate, it feels appropriate and safest for our team to remain working from home with the flexibility to use a new micro office we’ve set up. We’re really enjoying slowly integrating small social gatherings into our monthly calendar to fulfil the connection we’re each craving.

The micro office is set up with all our favourite office furnishings and aside from the loud retro carpet, it provides a peaceful space for two people to work from at a time. It offers solace from children, a commute to ease context switch and a socially distanced lunch buddy.

Leadership

We’re progressively driven as a team and are always looking for better ways to work.
Having taken on new team members in design and development, we knew that we’d need to make shifts to how the organisational and management side of Brightec worked this year. With the right people on the bus, our plan for 2020 was to focus on ensuring those people were in the right seats. We know we have an incredibly talented team of individuals and recognised we could reposition roles within the company to play off people’s strengths. This largely ties into our coaching system, which empowers our team to develop both personally and professionally.

Almost overnight it became impossible to manage a team in the same way and as we settled into the new reality we noticed more how stretched our multitasking was. The overlapping and knowledge sharing that happened so naturally in the office became much harder online. Communication needs to be more intentional and job roles/responsibilities more defined. Our planned changes within the team needed to be more immediate.

This all culminates with the decision to welcome a new member to our leadership the team in August. We’ve known her for a while and have spent time over the last year getting to know her and how she works, and visa versa. Now feels like the right time to add a Head of Operations to our growing team. We can’t wait for you to meet her, virtually no doubt. We’re feeling super excited for the knowledge, insight and organisation she’s going to bring to our projects and our team.

We’ve always been proud of our onboarding process and doing this remotely will be another learning experience. Just as well we enjoy a challenge.

How are you doing today?

Our team are all at different stages of their lives; some live alone and others might have wished they did during lockdown. We’re parents, spouses, friends, children, grandchildren, pastoral careers, employees but we’re not superheroes. Wherever life was or is at for each of our team, Covid has brought different challenges and experiences. It was our role as an employer to support our team and our clients. For the latter, we held our rates from 2019 to reflect our intention to support our clients during this uncertain time.

One of our company values states that ‘we care about our craft, each other and the world. We want to change things for the better and strive to put our ethical beliefs at the heart of everything we do’. So, we’re SO proud of our latest venture which is all about the wellbeing of our team.

We’ve worked hard to keep the relational meetings that we’ve always had, but how do you pick up on the subtle signs of how an individual is when you’re not having face to face contact.? You might want to have a chat with someone just to see how they are, but you can’t follow them to the kettle, or coincidentally leave for lunch at the same time. You have the socially awkward experience, likened to asking someone on a date… ‘do you/would you like to, erm maybe we could grab a coffee… but online, through a camera, at this specific time to talk about the fact that you might not be ok right now’.

Someone isn’t likely to announce to a group that they’re having a rough day, but they might let a little bot know that today quite frankly, they’re feeling about a 3 out of 10. So we developed a new tool, Happy Track. This slack integration sends a daily message to each of our team, making us individually stop for a moment and consider how we’re feeling. The answers are recorded in a spreadsheet that certain team members have access to and use to monitor how everyone is. If someone records they’re having a bad day, we can give them a call and provide that little connection that can make all the difference.

For the past three months, we’ve been using it to help us to monitor how everyone is doing. It means we can keep an eye on our team’s wellbeing and offer extra support if it’s needed. It reminds the team they are valued and helps individuals to feel supported. Its been a lifeline in replicating what we call ‘the little chats’.

Business as usual

We’re feeling a bit perplexed but we’re busier than ever, with three new clients and a new social media campaign on the horizon.

We wouldn’t have requested a global pandemic but being forced to become a fully remote team overnight has encouraged us to reassess our why and our how so that we can keep on improving. We started 2020 full of excitement and plans, and we’re confident we’ll finish 2020 with a happy team, our client’s expectations fulfilled and a list of achievements we made during a time of challenges, growth and change.

We’re immensely proud of our team, their continued dedication to our company and our clients. We’ve supported each other professionally and personally through one of the most challenging times many of us have ever experienced. We’ve always said Brightec culture extends far beyond the office walls, and now we know it really is true.


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