September 2020

Bitville tackles remote work during COVID-19

2020 stirred up a whirlwind of challenges for businesses, chiefly COVID-19. Many office centric companies were forced into the unchartered territory of remote work. Bitville smoothly navigated this transition with a few key practices that we’re happy to share with you!

Digitizing Kanban

Kanban is the lifeblood of our organizational success. A wall in our office is dedicated to its glory, full of sticky notes outlining the ins and outs of our day-to-day tasks. As the guiding force behind our way of working, we knew a fully functional digital Kanban was non-negotiable.

We used an application that let us mirror our Kanban board down to the finest details. Luckily, with great organizational effort from the start, we kept the same overall look and feel of the physical board, making our first digital Kanban as painless as possible. From there, we fine-tuned our methods until the process was smooth and simple.

Making the most of Microsoft Teams

Our way of working in the office revolved around the comfort of ad hoc meetings, quick coffee breaks with colleagues, and customer calls in private meeting rooms. We needed to keep this same collaborative, up-tempo feeling in the digital format, so we decided to sharpen our approach to Microsoft Teams.

Teams offered the ability to chat instantly, post within customer-specific channels, and host video or audio calls. With these tools at our disposal we could keep communication flowing seamlessly.

Practicing clear, consistent, easy communication

While we had everything we needed to get talking, we still had to make sure the talking actually happened. So how do you digitize the comfortable office chatter? We started by establishing clear expectations about how much and how often communication was needed (hint: it’s a lot).

We implemented daily posts to make sure projects were progressing smoothly and to maintain transparency about the work. We also encouraged ad hoc video calls (camera on!) to keep the warmth of F2F meetings as present as possible.

As a company, we agreed that it would be better to overcommunicate and cut-back, rather than take the risk of missing out on important information. Everyone was encouraged to respond to chat messages, posts, and meeting suggestions as fast as their schedule allowed.

Prioritizing team spirit and emotional wellbeing

Making the transition to remote isn’t easy for the company and in many cases, it isn’t easy for the employees. Some find it isolating and demotivating, but we found a few ways to lift everyone’s spirits:

  • Coffee
    Coffee is more than a hot drink at Bitville, it’s a way of life. We sent a few bags of each employee’s favorite roast right to their doorstep. We also scheduled tea and coffee moments via Teams meetings to keep the coffee tradition strong.
  • Food
    Second only to coffee is our love of food, and we continued to feast together from our separate locations. For special occasions, we ordered treats directly to the employees’ homes. At other times, we emailed food delivery gift cards so each person could order their heart’s desire.
  • Team activities
    15-minute game breaks were added to the schedule throughout the week so we could have some fun together, using Online platforms like Jackbox games. Furthermore, the creation of a Chatter Channel in Teams also kept light-hearted conversation flowing.
  • Wellbeing check-ins
    With a new distance wedged between us, it was important to make sure employees were coping with the change. We created an anonymous weekly vibes survey asking employees about their workload and mental wellbeing during the pandemic. If concerning responses popped up, we could intervene quickly and offer a helping hand.

Respecting ergonomics

The fast transition from office to home meant many employees did not have a proper workspace. Good ergonomics is essential in an office job, which is why we offered to deliver electric desks, adjustable chairs, ergonomic mice, and extra monitors to our employees. We also did some online shopping to make sure the home workspaces were as safe and comfortable as possible.

Building an information depository

Most our daily operations are learned and handed down by working with veterans in the company. To make things easier during remote work, we began gathering this tacit knowledge into a digital information depository. The depository includes best practices in our daily work, company guidelines for common practicalities, and other more detailed instructions.

Keeping information secure

The switch to remote work meant a more diligent approach to information security. We gave a special effort in making sure important customer and internal information was shared in a safe, secure way across Teams, email, and other sharing services. By establishing some basic rules of thumb, confidential information stayed protected.