In the summer of 2020, the technology team of Ebury became remote-first, which means that working remotely is the default option for all the employees. One year later, how are things working? In this series, we intend to offer a sincere portrait of the transition from in-office work to remote work, and the learnings the Tech team has achieved along the way.
“Before 2020, we were pretty ‘traditional’, and if we weren’t in the office, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to maintain productivity”, says Juan Carlos Gómez, Channels Engineer Director. Less than two years later, four of us are preparing this article through a videoconference. Each of us is working from home today. How did we get to this?
Before the COVID-19 confinement in 2020, approximately a quarter of the Technology team were dedicated remote workers, and a flexible working model was being tested by the rest of the employees. This hybrid model consisted of a mixture of in-office and remote work once a week that they enjoyed voluntarily. That’s why, when the global pandemic led to the confinement of the population in many countries of the world, some of them had already begun to test the waters of remote working. But many others were forced to set up a home office by the circumstances, as millions of workers around the world.
“At the beginning, most of us didn’t even have our homes correctly equipped to work remotely”, says Javier Vázquez, CRM Engineering Manager. “People were working in the living room dining table” adds Juan Carlos Gómez. “There was a feeling of wanting to go back to the office.” Nonetheless, just a few months later, in summer 2020, it became official: the Tech team would be remote-first, and they were not going back to the office.
Work-life balance and better organization
Once the initial difficulties were overcome, the team discovered that working fully remote came with some perks. “Personally, this has helped me to better organize my time, both my working time and my personal time”, says Inmaculada Vazquez, Team Lead. “As a Team Lead, now I take special care to organize each sprint —the two-week periods into which the work is divided in the Technology team, within the agile scrum framework—. “In my team, colleagues are working from Málaga, but also Croatia or Brazil, and we must be able to organize our work without blocking each other. Working remotely forces us to better organize, and that’s a good thing”.
For Javier, working remotely has given him back some of free time: “I don’t have to invest time commuting anymore and flexibility is much greater, so this has helped me out to better organise my free time. I can go and have lunch with my mother, for example”. Inmaculada agrees: “For me, being from another city, it’s great having the possibility of working from anywhere. I love being able to travel to my parents’ house for a couple of weeks and working from there”.
“For me, the greatest change has been the possibility of balancing work and family life”, says Juan Carlos. “Now I can take my children to school in the morning and I also can have lunch with them, and before I wasn’t able to do that. In fact, I often say that I know my younger son better than my eldest. When thinking about when my older son was the same age, I was only able to be with him two hours a day at most before he went to sleep.”
Communication: Defying the distance
It goes without saying that not everything is so rosy, and some obstacles do exist in the process of leaving the office behind. When asked about the main challenges of remote working, the three of them agree. “Communication within the team is the main challenge”, Inmaculada says, and Javier agrees: “There’s less of a family feel than when we were in the office”.
“The engagement of the people of the team is a great challenge”, Juan Carlos explains. “Understanding that helping out your colleague is the right thing to do, not because it is good for the enterprise or the platform, but because he or she is your colleague and a person that needs help. That may no longer come as naturally as before, but we are slowly figuring out how to make up for the lack of face-to-face interactions”.
The technology team is indeed working on it. They’ve been improving the remote onboarding process for months, says Inmaculada: “Each Technology new employee has a ‘buddy’ in the team to accompany him or her during the onboarding, and at the end of the process, we ask the person how it was, to improve as much as possible for the next one.” Also, the teams try to engage in team-building activities remotely when possible and are planning to recover face-to-face meetings as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“It’s also important to notice that we began working fully remote at the same time confinement measures were implemented worldwide, so at the beginning, we linked working from home with a lack of social interaction. This did not play in favor of the image of remote working for us”, points out Javier. “It wasn’t until we began recovering a normal life months later that we began recognising the advantages working remotely could have”.
All things considered, one year and a half after becoming fully remote, Inmaculada, Juan Carlos and Javier don’t think they made a mistake. “Do I miss things from when we went to the office? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t go back to it”, says Juan Carlos. “I think we have gained more than lost”.