News coverage these days has been understandably overrun by features on the Covid-19 / Coronavirus. Through a variety of circumstances including workplace infections and measures made for preventative means - several people have been compelled to comply with ’Social Distancing’ and the need to work from home, if their type of work allows such.
When we founded Affino back in 2009, we established the company to take advantage of the benefits of working remotely. Bricks-and-mortar businesses sit under an enormous amount of overheads and physical restrictions - many of which can undermine the finances, productivity and well-being of a company and its staff.
The launch of Amazon’s AWS cloud services at a similar time empowered us and our staff with numerous benefits - not least the ability for most of us to live exactly where we wanted to. Beyond customer face-to-face staff who need to live in the UK and be able to commute in for essential customer meetings, most staff can live and work from wherever they choose - as long as they are sufficiently disciplined to comply with the accepted home-working framework and have solid and fully-connected Internet access.
Working from wherever in the world means that several staff operate on different time zones - there needs to be a degree of flexibility here to allow for overlapping timetables so that proper real-time communications and meetings can take place.
Our Affino Unified Business Platform was developed to take advantage of this new home-working / remote-working paradigm - using essential tools like Forums, Team Time / Project Logging and CRM / Account Management to record essential details. As a software business we also needed a Universal Code Repository, Help and Production Wikis, and various means for staff to communicate and share ideas and experience.
Our main, and preferred audiovisual communications tool is Skype - and we’ve used that pretty much solidly right from the start - with only the occasional niggling blip in service. There are other back-up services that have been called into action at times - like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Teams and Slack, but for the main part Skype has served us very well, and has been particularly stable for the last couple of years or so.
Communication via email is not really a foolproof method - so most of the formal communications get logged in our own Affino Forums system - which can be targeted and shared with anyone as required, and which offers a permanent, time stamped, and universally accessible record for project and task management.
Many will tell you that the first few days of working from home are fun, just because of the novelty of it, but later on people can become bored and too easily distracted - and can fail to be fully productive if not properly focused. The key advantages of working from home - saving hours and a tonne of money for not having to commute, being able to eat your own food at all the times, and having an inherent flexibility to mix in family and life duties which would not be possible within office or factory working environments.
Essential to keeping everyone motivated and on-track are regular briefing meetings, where all staff are fully clued-in on what everyone’s working on, and what the shared goals and responsibilities are for each working week. In fact much of what we do - Project and Task Scheduling for instance are based on 1 and 2 Week Agile Sprint agendas. The key secret of those is having sufficient discipline to see things completed to a timetable, while at the same time having enough flexibility to handle and resolve unplanned arising issues and essential change requests.
Groups including the development team have daily sprint meetings, and most other teams are in continuous communication through the forums and Skype groups. All members also write up a daily report covering the work done over the course of the day, and when working on paid projects log their time against each project task over the course of the day. We also use an In / Out board (Clocking In System) called Affino Team Time that we use to log whether or not we’re in our out and what our status is in each scenario, e.g. travelling, holiday or meeting.
We used to timetable sporadic but somewhat regular team get-togethers, but the increasingly dispersed nature of the team means that this is more difficult to coordinate nowadays - so we make do with a few essential meet-ups over the calendar year. One of the critical paths to successful remote working is team dynamics and how easily and how well everyone gets on with each other.
A part of our recruitment process has always been a team-based approach to candidate selection - where a significant number of staff meet the key candidates - to ensure that everyone gets on well. We have been lucky over the years in attracting and retaining the most exceptionally capable of staff - who all get along pretty fabulously. This feels like an extended family business of sorts and everyone fully gels and has flourished within this environment.
Affino has throughout its time supported and sponsored our teams to work from business clubs and hot design environments ranging from Soho House to One Alfred Place. This is always on offer to our staff, but typically after a relatively short period there is a preference to work from home or more flexibly than having to go to any one location. Some staff will live in a number of countries over the course of a year, although that will likely slow down for the next few months.
So in terms of the Context of Covid-19 and Coronavirus, it really is business as usual for us and therefore we are far less likely to be impacted by the virus (no commute etc.) or by other productivity impacting outside influences. Except where we need to meet in person with clients, prospects and press. Wherever possible we’ve moved these meetings to be video or audio conferences.
We’ve been working to our formula for over 10 years now and it’s as fluid and natural as anything can be within this context. We would be delighted to share our recipe for success with those embarking on home-working for the very first time. We have found generally that the advantages far outweigh any inconvenience brought about by location and time. Of course some degree of flexibility is essential to making this work - and we have numerous backup processes and tools to keep things flowing no matter what gets thrown our way.
We are singularly better prepared and better equipped to handle situations like the Coronavirus - which is disrupting most every other type of business. When you choose to work and collaborate with Affino - you are in safe, stable and reliable hands - we are on constant standby to help you succeed and thrive through these challenging times.