December 16, 2020

In Defense Of The Office Building: Eight Benefits Of Physical Workspaces

Sr. Director of Android Engineering at Bottle Rocket, contributing to best practices and innovation throughout the organization.

As more of the professional world adopts a remote working policy (we call ours “Work From Wherever”), there is a lot of focus on the benefits of working remote, but it’s important to remember there are still benefits to having an office space that brings people together for hours a day.

Here are eight benefits provided by physical office spaces with some approaches for reproducing these benefits if your team is remote.

1. Hallway Conversations

Let’s start with the big one. When everyone is remote, most conversations are scheduled. It’s impossible to catch someone in the hallway as they are getting their coffee, and you may avoid reaching out so they have time to focus. Lack of communication leads to bigger issues, so, in remote settings, force the conversation or send messages right before or after lunch or team meetings to prevent interrupting their focus. With tools like Slack, your team can set their status when they’re focusing, and your hallway conversations can happen outside those times.

2. Relationship Building

Especially within company leadership, a videoconference call has had the air of “business” for so long that it’s hard not to want to focus on the topic at hand immediately when the meeting starts. In person, you might find people arriving early, talking about their weekend and generally building small relationships can pay off later. Without carving out this time intentionally, it’s easy for relationships to stagnate, and new members never feel very connected. We try to set aside a few minutes (no more than 10%) at the beginning of meetings for casual conversation and let people take a quick break when needed.

3. Work Brain Space

Never have home life and work life become so intertwined in our society as when much of the population began working from home. Many of us didn’t appreciate how nice it was to have a place to work that could separate us from the distractions and temptations of home. The mental space that a physical separation allows leads to an ability to focus that can be a lot more challenging to accomplish when it’s only a different room in the same place you live. Dedicating a room can help, but for those who don’t have that luxury, finding a coffee house with reliable Wi-Fi might help switch your brain into “work mode.”

4. Sending Out A Search Party

Their status is online, but they don’t respond. Wait, now they’re away. It’s great when people get in the zone, but sometimes they get busy doing something that causes them to forget about their chat and email. I enjoyed the convenience of walking through the office and checking in on them when necessary, plus some conversations are better in person. If they were really heads-down or in the middle of something important, you could give them space and avoid the interruption completely. With remote work, you have to rely on status or looking at their calendar to see if they might be focused elsewhere.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Along the lines of “video chats mean business,” it can be hard to break through the screen and connect with people. Some people are still not comfortable with their video being on regularly and so much of the context around their words is lost. Encourage people to have their video on if they’re remote, and relish the time you get to spend in person, even if it’s just to meet up for coffee or lunch.

6. Change Of View

Not everyone can afford to have modern furniture at home or live in a high-rise loft overlooking the city. Sometimes the workplace is a nice change from the suburban lifestyle or just a different perspective on the city where you live. The commute keeps you connected to the changes going on around you. This changing view helps provide some additional mental stimulation and breaks up the routine to separate the days. In remote settings, encourage your team to have a “startup routine” to help transition between home and work.

7. Customer Space

If a workspace can be mentally stimulating for your employees, imagine how much more it can do for your customers and partners. Visiting a different office puts them in a different mindset and can block a lot of their typical distractions. This helps the two groups engage more deeply, focus on the topic at hand and even connect with other employees. A random encounter during an office visit could change their whole perspective and demonstrate that you have great people throughout your organization. All this is possible remotely, but the focused interactions are much tougher when they can’t disconnect from their home base.

8. Not Another Video Call

It may become known as “Zoom Fatigue” generically, but constant connecting through links in emails and calendar invites, only to hang up just in time to click the next link, has run many people ragged. People need physical interaction and to hear each other directly instead of compressed through a combination of microphones and speakers. Such sterile interactions remove the humanity of the people we work with and allow us to retreat behind mute buttons and virtual backgrounds. Being in the same place at the same time reduces many types of friction, and it’s hard for me to believe that some people would never want to return.

Look For Success In-Office Or Remote

Whether your whole team has gone remote permanently or will be returning to the office soon, you should think about what you want to do with your physical space. Don’t underestimate the benefits of having a separate work area for your team and customers to meet together, and be sure to value the in-person moments you have, as they become more rare as society adjusts to more remote working.

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

September 8, 2020

Remote workers are being recruited aggressively, but work from home doesn’t work for some

‘Many of these remote jobs are not for people who are unemployed now,’ says a labor expert.

Working from home has become more than a way to get through the pandemic.

It’s now a favored perk for some employees and a necessary lifestyle for others. For some companies, it’s also become a powerful recruiting tool.

AmeriSave Mortgage Corp. has been hiring people from around the country to report to the office in Plano. By leading with the opportunity to work remotely, it’s attracted a flood of candidates even while raising the qualifications to apply.

“I jumped on it because I’ve known about the opportunities at AmeriSave, and I didn’t want to leave my family in Nebraska,” said Noah Peters, who worked for the city of Omaha before becoming a work-from-home loan originator in July. “I’m an in-person kind of guy, but this was pretty seamless. I love what I’m doing and I’m happy I made the change.”

Bottle Rocket, a local technology firm, adopted a “work from everywhere” policy early in the pandemic and said it was permanent. That caught the attention of three former employees in Seattle, Austin and California, and the company quickly rehired them.

“These are very valuable hires who have the institutional memory of our culture and processes,” Bottle Rocket founder and CEO Calvin Carter said. “They were up and running instantly.”

Read the entire article on DallasNews.com

September 6, 2020

After COVID-19, the future of work is at home — and the office

Hybrid work arrangements are coming because workers want to spend time in both places and employers are worried about productivity.

Like many people, Jon Kollman is working from home, and he’s outfitted better than most.

A sales manager for AmeriSave Mortgage Corp. in Plano, he has an upstairs office in his Frisco condo with a big computer, three monitors and plenty of privacy. Downstairs, he has a 49-inch screen to keep an eye on mortgage work while enjoying time with his 1-year-old son.

“It’s amazing how I get to watch him grow up,” Kollman said.

He misses the camaraderie and energy of the office, and after COVID-19 gets under control, he’d like to return to seeing everybody in person. But no more than a few days a week, if that.

“Because of where I am in life with my family and son, I definitely prefer working from home,” said Kollman, who’s 30. “We love all this additional time together.”

Welcome to the new future of work. The pandemic that has caused so much pain and suffering has also accelerated a revolution in remote working. And some changes appear likely to stay after the public health crisis fades.

Read the entire article on DallasNews.com

August 19, 2020

Reflecting On My First Few Weeks at Bottle Rocket

This is my fourth week with Bottle Rocket and I am so delighted to be here. Before joining Bottle Rocket, I did my own due diligence and found that they are one of the best companies to work for in Texas. I heard some really amazing things from people that work here. But all of that did not even come close to the experience I have had in my first four weeks.

Bottle Rocket is a very different and unique organization. It is a place where people have a real camaraderie. It is a place where people have empathy, not just for customers, but for the people that work here. It is a place where people are always happy and smiling. It is a place where people are happy to take responsibilities. It is a place where you don’t have to ask for help, people just reach out to help you.

One of the coolest things about Bottle Rocket is the number of former ‘Rocketeers’ (yes that’s what we call ourselves) that have come back. In the month of July 2020, three out of the four people that joined Bottle Rocket are folks that have returned from other companies.

A Welcoming and Enthusiastic Culture

What I have loved about Bottle Rocket so far is that everyone is looking out for you. There is an intentional effort being made by other Rocketeers to help you succeed. There is transparency — no it’s not lip service. There is true transparency. People are sharing information with each other, so you really don’t feel like you have been left out of communication. People are bouncing ideas and sharing knowledge. In my four weeks, I have been able to talk about what is going on in product, how we are shaping our product practice, what else is going on in the industry and what can we apply to our practice. I have discussed how we take the consulting practice forward, why our clients love us, what we do good and what we are not so good at. People are open to listen to ideas and when I asked tough questions about Bottle Rocket’s weaknesses, I got very clear and honest responses.

Innovation is Key

Bottle Rocket is in the business of delivering amazing digital experiences, but it goes beyond that. The reason why Bottle Rocket is able to deliver these amazing experiences is because we are not afraid to take risks and innovate. The Bottle Rocket team is able to do this because the leadership here has been able to create a psychologically safe space where the team has been empowered to take those risks. People here like being challenged. It’s not just something Rocketeers say, it’s in our values — “Embrace the Impossible.”

Judgement Free Zone

Another thing that has made me feel super comfortable at Bottle Rocket is the ability to show vulnerability. Brené Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Organization wide, it has been made possible for Rocketeers to show vulnerability. I have felt this in number of meetings I have been in. There is no unspoken rule that certain questions are prohibited. There is no fear of getting judged. There is no fear of looking bad or weak. This creates an amazing space to share, speak-up, make mistakes and keep going.

The last four weeks have been amazing for me. I am so happy to be a Rocketeer. One amazing thing that allowed me to be a Rocketeer is Bottle Rocket’s ‘work from wherever’ policy. I am the first Rocketeer to be onboarded in our ‘work from wherever’ reality. Yet, I have been able to experience the amazing culture of Bottle Rocket. That just goes to show the amazing organization that Bottle Rocket is. Of course, the credit goes to the people that work here that embrace this culture and everything that comes with it. Rocketeers are an awesome group of people — they are smart, empathetic, hard-working, collaborative and energetic people and I am so glad to be part of this group.

July 24, 2020

Does a Raise or Remote Work Sound Better?

Telecommuting is emerging as a coveted perk. Workers and their companies see the benefits, but how will they feel in 2021?

Dick Black still remembers the guy he worked with years ago who logged on remotely from a beach in Bali.

“He’s like, ‘I got strong Wi-Fi,’ ” Mr. Black, a 38-year old senior engineering manager, recalls. By late February, Mr. Black was ready to give the work-from-anywhere dream his own shot. He asked his employer, tech firm Twilio, if he could move from his Denver office to the Atlanta area.

To read the rest of this article visit WallStreetJournal.Com.

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