I asked experienced Divante employees how it is to work remotely for a leading, global eCommerce company.
Benefits of remote work
The topic of remote work has received a lot of attention. According to Forbes, half of the entire workforce in the U.S. will soon be remote. Europe is way behind but the trend is also visible. Remote workers have grown from 7.7% to 9.8% in the last decade. According to Inc., 9 out of 10 workers who currently work remotely plan to do so for the rest of their careers.
Studies show that remote work is a performance boost for employees. They are, on average, 35-40% more productive than their office colleagues. They also produce results with 40% fewer quality defects. What’s more, there is 41% less absenteeism. There are numerous other benefits of remote work for employees including flexibility, saving time, a better work-life balance, and the possibility to spend more time with family.
I asked four remote employees from Divante how it is to work from home for a leading, global eCommerce company. Paweł Abramowicz has been working with the Open Loyalty team since September 2018. He usually operates from a coworking space but occasionally likes to go to a cafe, and sometimes stays home to oversee some process or get a delivery. Kacper Knapik is a Senior Front End Developer at Divante. He worked in the office for more than two years, but recently moved out of Wrocław and is now working from home. Mariusz Gomse, a Team Leader in the Custom Solutions Tribe, has been working for Divante from 2015. He works remotely in his home in Gdańsk but tries to travel to Wrocław a few times a year to meet personally with the team and for workshops with clients. Finally, Paweł Skórka has worked as a Frontend Tech Lead at Divante for 5 years and lives in Wałbrzych.
Trust and transparency
More and more organizations are starting to notice that they don’t need to have constant, direct guidance over their people to be sure that the work will be done properly and on time. Divante is among this growing group of companies that places trust in its employees so they can work remotely.
“At the beginning of 2015, I needed to go to Wrocław for a few weeks to show how I work and see how the company functions on a daily basis. I think that it was the first phase of earning trust for both sides. Each project since then has, in my opinion, been proof that I’m doing my best. I trust Divante and people in the office count on me to deliver. I think that’s nice when the mutual trust between both sides grows step by step. Today I work fully remotely as a Team Leader. I try to be as transparent as possible and I expect the same from my teammates”Mariusz Gomse
Paweł Skórka was initially working remotely only two to three days a week. In his first months, he wanted to be on-site to get to know the company, people, projects, and responsibilities better. Now he shows up in the office only occasionally, just to meet colleagues and talk to face-to-face.
The right tools help in effective communication
In an office environment, you may ask a question face-to-face and get instant answers. When you are working in a remote culture, you don’t see your workmates in person, so you need to find other effective ways of communication.
“It’s a real culture shift to move most of the communication to a written record and on the camera. Sometimes teams or even whole companies fail to do this right. They continue the informal circulation of crucial information. Then everything fails. The remote workers are not performing their tasks 100% and the company blames their remoteness for their failures. The best and most successful remote workers are great communicators. Invest in your communication. It is your organization’s bloodstream. Don’t confine it to the sporadic chat with a workmate. Use the means of both two- and one-sided communication to their fullest”Paweł Abramowicz
In Divante there are two main tools for team communication: Slack (for chat) and Google Meet (for video conferences). There are situations in which people need to call each other by phone but they are rare.
“Thanks to these tools, the performance of remote workers doesn’t differ too much from on-site employees, but a few so-called ‘tricks’ are important”Mariusz Gomse
Mariusz suggests to always leave some a status update on Slack when you are away from the computer. It’s useful to have Google Calendar in good shape so everybody can read it and see your plans, meetings, etc. What’s more, during video conferences Mariusz has his camera turned on so others can see him. Last, but not least, he recommends using a real image instead of an avatar in all online tools, so that people can recognize him.
“There are few scheduled meetings and we launch a Google Meet session on each to enable remote discussion (this is automatically done with our calendars). These meetings are planned and prepared for, and we value punctuality very much. It’s much easier to postpone a meeting when everyone is already in the same room! The only meeting that regulates our circadian rhythm is our 15-minute daily. Apart from that short call, the project management cycle and the ad hoc issues are dealt with in Slack using dedicated channels and direct messages. The overhead caused by communicating all things in a text might be felt strongly in the beginning, but it pays back. We can instantly find what we agreed on, even when the person we agreed that with is unavailable to confirm.”Paweł Abramowicz
Good self-organization pays off
Some people say that remote work is only for those who are naturally self-organized. Those who can easily regulate themselves are good at executing their plans and know how to focus in an out-of-office environment. Such qualities help but it’s not something you can’t learn if you need and want to. In the beginning, it’s good to have a specified frame time and try to be systematic; for example, work eight hours in one window without doing private things in the meantime (which then extends the working day).
“I start the day as if I were working in an office. I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, take the kids to kindergarten, make coffee, and sit at the computer. I try to keep the same time frame because I then work more efficiently and the people in the office know that I am available during these hours.”Paweł Skórka
Paweł Abramowicz, who has been working remotely for the last four years, has a similar approach.
“Recently, I’ve been trying to work in a set time bracket and for now it works. Before my fiancée was offered a fixed-hours job, I scheduled a part-time, six-hour workday to synchronize our day timetables. Back then, it was another great thing about remote work, but now I consider it a trade-off: more flexibility for less focus. I don’t schedule anything outside these hours unless I need to and I have stopped working while traveling. I might one day return to either flexible hours or the idea of a workcation, but only on specific terms that I’d have to keep with myself”Paweł Abramowicz
If you like your work, you may easily fall into the trap of working overtime. Experienced remote workers know how to avoid it.
“I just remember not to work longer than eight hours. Sometimes you have to because of some special events in the project like a release or fixing an important bug. But this is probably the most crucial part. Many people work longer because ‘the computer is always close’ and they think they can fit in one more task quickly. That is a dangerous approach.”Kacper Knapik
Preparing the plan for next week in a little advance helps to keep your work under control.
“I make a work plan which can only include eight working hours each day. Thanks to this, I can inform other people that they need to wait a little longer for my help at times. Additionally, I’ve got a trick that I start working when my wife leaves for work. When she returns, it means it’s high time for a hard stop!”Mariusz Gomse.
Organization is important to remote work but saved time and improved comfort are some benefits that come as a given with home work. In wintertime, it is very nice when you don’t need to leave your home early in the morning and you are already at work. And you can work from anywhere; even if you change where you live, you automatically take the home office with you.
Have a physical and mental space to work in
Troublesome cats, spouses that need a helping hand, noisy flatmates, empty fridges… there are so many small things that can break up productivity for remote workers. Even if it’s just a few minutes of lost attention, it takes time to get back into focused and productive work.
“Being a remote leader at Divante is possible. Remote working does not prevent you from leading your team properly.”Paweł Skórka
These small things can be the biggest challenge for many remote workers, but they are problems that can be solved.
Firstly, if you are not living alone, inform your spouse/kids/flatmate how it works. They have to understand that the home is your office space and you need to perform well to make a living.
Second, it’s good to have a separate room or home office where you close the door and focus easily. It also helps to not connect your work and private life at home.
“Please, please, please remember to have a dedicated place to work: a separate room or a small desk hidden in the corner of your room. It needs to be a place where you don’t spend time outside of work hours, otherwise you won’t be able to tell the difference between work and home.”Kacper Knapik
Paweł Skórka also has a separate room for work. It’s his place where nobody bothers him and he can focus.
“A large apartment allowed me to have a separate room where I set up my office. This is a very comfortable situation for me because I don’t have to share a common space with other members of my household and I can fully concentrate on my tasks. This helps me to build the appropriate work-life balance.”Paweł Skórka
Paweł Skórka takes 10-minute breaks every two hours of his work. He goes outside or to the balcony to get some fresh air. It’s good to give your eyesight, mind, and limbs a rest. He also likes to exercise a little after work or in the evening, because sitting down for extended periods can cause a number of health problems. Paweł also suggests preparing a high-quality workstation which includes a suitable chair that can be adjusted to your height. When working in the office, you don’t have to think about things like this, as it is dealt with by the company. Remote workers need to pay attention to the health of their own eyes and spines.
Is remote work a huge deal for you?
Divante trusts its employees. They can work remotely, although the atmosphere in the office in Wrocław is so good that many people enjoy working there. You have the freedom to choose.
“The ability to work from anywhere in the world, move to another city without changing your job, be with your family when you need that – these are some of the most visible benefits of remote work. But it’s also good for the company. Remote work means a reduction in office floor area needs. Access to global talent is also a plus. The simplicity of moving the knowledge from a communication channel to education resources if the comms are done right. This area of work will surely explode in the next decade.”Paweł Abramowicz
If remote work is a huge deal for you, drop us a message. We need people we can trust, no matter where they are working from.
Published March 31, 2020