Work From Home For Game Teams

Links from Joakim’s presentation

Links from Sophie’s presentation

Transcript from the webinar (AI transcribed by Otter.ai)

Joakim Achren 4:02
Quick introduction. So like, we a month ago, me and Sophia decided we should talk about work from home for for games company people. So there’s, there’s a lot of people who are working now from home as everybody notice. So it’s, in a sense, the topic couldn’t be more relevant, and I think it’s not gonna be ending anytime soon. Everybody would go back to Office life, and it’s probably a lot of permanent changes. So we’re gonna keep it that way for sure. There’s a quick question here and attack. So please just start sending questions in. You can do that into q&a here in in zoom. So there’s like participants automatically muted. Yes, that’s how we’re doing this. So rather than making this, like a regular, like zoom call, we wanted to do it this way that we’re going to be talking with Sophie. And then everybody can ask questions in the q&a section here inside zoom. All right, I’m going to share my screen first here and we’ll get going from there.

Joakim Achren 6:51
Sophie, do you see my screen? Yes, I do. Good. Okay. So I’m gonna really like Focus on the startup phase of a company like when you have

Joakim Achren 7:05
less than 30 people, or even 20 people like what is? What are the important things that you should think about there that are now happening. So a quick introduction of myself for everybody who, who doesn’t recognize me, I’m Joachim ocher. And the founder and CEO of elite game developers, which is a basically a game startup School, which teaches people about the business side, focusing a lot on the games as a service model, how you can scale that, first of all into a face where you can pay salaries, which is already a big achievement for for a lot of small companies. And then going from there, what happens after that, so that always should be the first aim with the games companies. So there’s a lot of topic things that I discuss on the elite game developer stuff. Calm if you go there and check it out, though, blog, a podcast and a book that came out recently called the long term game. So my background in gaming I founded my first company in 2005 called iron star Helsinki, which did this kind of virtual worlds for Nakia phones back in the day when it definitely wasn’t the obvious place for virtual worlds to be happening, but it was a interesting time to see if we could pull it off. No devices just weren’t get becoming available at the pace that it would make sense. Now it would make total sense to have something like that, if there wouldn’t be a lot of competition of course in the market, but we eventually pivoted to Facebook games, got to a profitable stage with the company but ended up eventually closing down to company as we didn’t really know how to grow the Oregon the user base. of organics. So when Facebook started stopping viral growth through the newsfeed for games, then we, our game basically went down and we’re close to company. I went to Supercell. They were founding the company at that stage, and I was they were doing the gun sign game. I was there on the analytics team for about a year. Then when things got really big and mobile Clash of Clans came out, the numbers were crazy. I decided I want to build another company, and left to start next games in 2000, late 2012 got the company running, mid 2013 build few Walking Dead games I left last year to start elite game developers, I felt that like it’s the time for me to kind of like go into into the realm of helping other founders because I’ve been doing it for so long. I wanted to step outside of the company building stage to actually start giving things to people and building a business around helping entrepreneurs. So I’ve been working from home for the last year already since I left in March 2019. And I was really fanatical yet last year about reaching out to companies who are also working from home because I noticed that I was feeling so happy because I could, you know, enjoy a working environment where I could set all the rules and have also like the possibility of not commuting and doing this kind of like annoyances that were, we’re in the world of office work. I’d like today I want to focus in my specific specific talk here on three different items that are really important for work from home sort of areas that I’ve discovered. And the first one that I want to talk about is a guy called Heaton Shaw was the founder of kissmetrics back in the day, which is a big analytics thing in 2010. I remember But I was at Rovio. We were looking at it for a while I was doing a radio gig actually before Supercell when I left iron star, and it looked really interesting and, and this guy’s really somebody who thinks a lot of forward thinking. And he’s recently said that he’s been working from home for 17 years. So he never had a startup that actually had an office. So and last year, they released this remote work report, which you can find on his Twitter profile. It’s, it’s really like goes into a lot of details with the tips, everything and all of these irrelevant now more than ever. So his current company, FYI, which is like a search tool for documents they were they were outlining what are the nine ways to be successful in work from home for their company, and if the first point that they brought up was that you need to acknowledge difference between a Coronavirus work from home and a non Coronavirus work from home. Like you have people who have kids at home you have people who also suddenly need to work in a small apartment together with their spouse or their partner who is also working there maybe they’re sharing the WiFi where things are going on so it’s it’s not the usual like where you can really like go to a cafe to work for half and half a day if you want. That’s out of the question at the moment. So there are differences going on. And then having a meeting etiquette that you can you can set up in the company how people want to work how, how required is a video feed when you’re having a call call especially when it’s like two people talking or like you know one on one call do that specifically need video or maybe not.

Joakim Achren 12:58
And also like feeling comfortable like that. Home, Where do you work? Does it really need to be an ergonomic setup? Or can you just work in bed, that’s what I usually do is that I’m working the bedroom, I use the bed for my office. It’s so, so convenient and nice and feels comfortable.

Joakim Achren 13:18
Then then what you want to look at is how you build documentation and communication to support this kind of more asynchronous fashion of working. But then also facilitating the synchronous moments where you’re doing design work, for instance, like two people doing stuff in Google Docs, which is a good place for synchronous work, because if you can see where the other person’s cursor is moving around in a document, and then then creating more boundaries between work and life that there is, but you’re not kind of like working until the evening and then you’re like super exhausted, but rather that in your startup, you could have these kind of points. Take today at four o’clock, we’re gonna start you know everybody meet up in, in an MMO maybe, you know Animal Crossing, everybody goes there today tomorrow we’re gonna do Minecraft. So that there’s also this kind of mingling outside of the work, which just can’t happen. Now you can’t really do physical happy hours or anything like that. And also the post mortems come more important because you want to have a process in place that that everything that you’re doing is kind of constantly being iterated. There’s more of a loop where you can make everything better, especially now that you can’t really like casually walk up to somebody and talk about like some kind of learnings from a certain project like how did that go? But like having a process for postmortem is now very important. Building in accountability, like having people commit to do stuff in a certain time box or a time frame. becomes even more important, and defining all the responsibilities. This is again one of those things that this kind of loose rip responsibilities that were, like easy to kind of like go and live through in an office work where it was more loose on who’s doing what. Now that’s kind of like off the table because there’s so many balls that can be dropped if, if it just wasn’t like, discussed communicated, and, you know, things can start suddenly slowing down a lot more. And then final point that they brought up his health like that they actually say that burnout is much more easier when you’re working at home because there is no real limitation of you know, you’re at the office versus at home because you’re constantly at home. It’s a crazy situation in a sense, if you don’t create more boundaries and and also having this Moments of where you take a break, you go outside and walk. And you constantly have good food good drinks available. So sort of like facilitating that at home is super important. Second point I wanted to talk today, this is actually a picture from 2013, when next games was in one room in downtown Helsinki. The moment there is that, like if you’re at this situation, now, you can pick if you want to do a fully remote company that never has an office, it’s totally doable. Just start, you know, understanding all of these ways that certain companies like Keaton’s company here, FYI, doesn’t have an office never had an office. What are the learnings that you can incorporate? So I’ll share a bit more here from CEOs that have been doing interesting things. There’s this company called loom, which I’ve been using for some of my lecture videos where you basically create presentation video clip where the person who is presenting is also in this this kind of like bubble in the screen. So the CEO there writes a notion wiki page for like a weekly SEO update where there’s like, Hey, we had a board meeting last week this is what were the important things that came up. This is what is important for this week, what kind of behavior changes are we going after things like that. So, this is for remote work, then you have this kind of easy hierarchical wiki environment where you can look up what is being talked about, rather than an email which is very static. This is very cool, dynamic, more modern way to, to share come in and and communicate. And especially like the automatic which is the company behind WordPress, their CEO says that, that I will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distance. reputed company. WordPress actually never has had an office. So they built the company, like from 20 years ago already as a as a remote company. And then having a 24 seven Zoom Room, which is basically the water cooler place that you can jump into and have a chat like this should be allowed. It’s like the accountability and the responsibility that you put on top of people now should still allow for the space there to have this kind of like mingling and casual discussions happening on somewhere. And then paired work this this came up in a study that I was looking at recently where the companies that have instituted paired working now we’re 30% more likely to view working from home positively in the long run that you know, you’re working on stuff together in a synchronous fashion because everything is so asynchronous now So if you can facilitate something where two people are really like, jamming together, it can really show positive results. And then Basecamp which has always been a big inspiration for me as ways of how to build businesses, so they actually published a book called remote mode I think it was 2015 like years ago on like, how they thought about this and they have a podcast called rework way where they talk about like how to do design work when you’re remotely like two people using a whiteboard application and then being on the call at the same time discussing things and having a back and forth there’s there’s a lot of things to learn from there. And then the third and final point for me what what do i think is the future going to look like so I was, I wanted to kind of like have the the eight ball the kind of like the crystal ball to see what’s going be happening. And I bumped into this remote first capital, which is a. It’s a venture capital firm that backs remote founders. And they, these, the people who are running this venture capital firm are also these digital nomads who live all over the world. And they were like pointing out that here’s their few interesting things that let you know people will want to focus more on asynchronous works or having a slack alternative, which focus is mostly on asynchronous discussions, which could be in the form of a more of a forum, some kind of like pull requests, Google Docs, but then also allowing the synchronous chatting where it’s useful in certain places and there’s a there’s a company that they have backed in their portfolio called threads comm you can check that out. And then for loneliness and mental health how because like you’re working from home very lonely. I bumped into a lot of like horror stories now where there’s like game developers in, in a foreign country in a city they just moved there before the Coronavirus started and they’re they’re you know lonely in their apartments they don’t know anybody besides the the people that work with them. So there’s there’s a lot of tools in place coming up like Cody calm, which is a interesting application where you can see people in your neighborhood who are also working remotely so you can build a community around people who

Joakim Achren 21:35
sort of like work remotely. Maybe when when social distancing isn’t that bad anymore and that you can actually like meet up with these people. And then global payroll. This was a common problem, especially up next games. We had people who we had wanted to hire who didn’t want to move to Finland and it’s super tricky to pay by unemployment, like all the fees when you have the person in another European Union country, for instance. So remote.com is trying to fix this payroll fragmentation. And then like day to day, they’re looking for a Starbucks competitor for remote workers where there could be a cafe chain more focused on remote workers who want to casually hang out at a third space, which isn’t their primary workplace more of like a quiet hidden, focused, maybe a small member’s feed air. And then final words from me. I think this is like I would say more and more companies won’t want to go back to the office. There’s like seeing us chief operating officer was hinting that they could do remote forever. So Twitter just recently a few days ago announced that all dairy employees will have the possibility to work from home forever. So they’re not going to change things anymore. Back to office. So this was what I wanted to say. I’ll give it to Sophie now and we can do the q&a after both of us have been talking.

Sophie Vo 23:12
Yeah, thanks. I came in not sure if I can start the video. Just I wanted to let you know that so yeah. Oh, no. Oh, that time.

Joakim Achren 23:22
No worries. We can hear you perfectly. So we’re gonna leave with that today.

Sophie Vo 23:29
Okay, so hearing that not the video, right. Yeah. All right. So then let me see. Okay. Sure. Again, all right. So you see it’s right. Yes. Yes. Perfect. So Hi, everyone. So yeah, I hope some of you see how I look like, I wish but really happy to be part of that webinar today, and I want To change a bit of a topic as instead of work from home, because what this is what we do as a team and I guess for a lot of our game developers, we develop in play from home. And I wanted to change a bit like here as a start, what I will share about over or then from home up so about a myself, I’ve been working over a decade in the mobile gaming, and I’ve worked in the past for company like game lost will go and rodeos where I live to so few years in Finland, which I miss, especially these days, I really miss the nature and move back to Berlin for a new job opportunity. And see I worked annamaya focus over the best years and maybe why I care so much about the topic today beyond developing games, It’s been a lot of focus on teams and building creative teams. Because it’s a it’s a mysteries young, I would say until these days, how do you create things or original innovations. So that has been my focus. And yeah, in that context, I joined VUDU, middle of last year to build a new studio in Berlin. And that’s also what I will share a bit more in details today. So, at the beginning of the year I wrote an article on the deconstructor of fun, and that’s where I wanted to give you a reference here about my whole process of how I hired and build a team my dream team. And I started the process so September last year, and I would say it took me a good six months to hire properly the team to even gain clarity and vision How I wanted to build a team spending time on my why, or why is this to do? And in March Finally I had the whole core team who join. So this was a photo we took when everybody joined early March. And yeah, very diversified team as well. We are, I think, eight nationalities if I’m correct. And yeah, some of us knew each other. So for example, Marco we worked together at wooga in the past new friends, Nick, so some of us knew each other before we started, and some were new. So there was a 5050 have known and knew that that was a context when we started earning much and when that happened, so during March, it was announced and because also as a company, we wanted to be behind what we happening in the world. We made it official very fast as well that we should stay and work from home. So that happened a week after the whole new team rolling. And yet for me you can imagine it was a bit of a bummer because I was so excited to finally have my team and start to work on things. And yeah, the plan has been hijacked because of situation with Coronavirus happened.

Sophie Vo 27:26
And I wanted to share here about what was the situation as well for me, because of course, I had plans I had ideas of what I wanted to do when the team would join. And that was a short list of what I had in mind. So spending the march april onboarding the team. We are a new studio so we had to explore a new direction for the studio, where we would be capable of doing as a team and do some errands as well to explore create On top of that, of course, as a new studio, we have goals as well. And one of them which I felt was realistic at that time, knowing that he would join in March to start to test games out on the market. So end of March. And yeah, I had also great ideas, plans of doing Super offsites going on a road trip in the Baltic Sea and all these exciting things. And when the Korean happened, that’s what I had to make as a plan. So adjust around that and let go a lot of things that I wanted to have in organized and go back to the basics. So my priority were really onboarding the team. And at the same time trying to see an expanded direction for the studio. So what can we do, what should we do? What do we want to do? And on top of that, I had an overt priority. That was my main in the end was keeping the team together when you team together. So why was I focusing mostly on that? That’s a visual I wanted to share about what is my view about teams and game development. It’s a, it’s a very long game as you roll, it’s an infinite game. And I don’t want to look in short term about what we can do in the next month, six months or a year. But game development is hard, long and unpredictable sometimes. And my goal is to keep the team throughout the whole journey, but can be very long. And yeah, when that doesn’t happen, unfortunately, there’s no team and when there’s no game development, so that was my priority to keep the team together. So with these goals of onboarding and forming the team, exploring the direction for the studio and Atlassian If we can test the game on the market that was the order of priority, and the way I thought about it was and it’s also a principle I have for my own life. Even in rural hardest situation of course COVID is really difficult times for everybody working from home is difficult plus the logistics and so on. So I didn’t want to make it even more serious and heavy as it was already and one solutions I have always from a situation is to play. How can I turn that situation we have the goals we have as a situation of playing and what we did as a team, then we are nine. We thought okay, how can we learn about each other and at the same time, exploring new games and at the same time, try to meet the goal of testing a game on the market. So we approach will exercise in a very playful way. We’ve not so much pressure of okay we have to deliver but really being open about it and giving it a try given the circumstances. So we divided into three squares and we explored very different direction as well. And each of his teams when we developed ideas and we tested things, and I was very fun and we did our best without yeah putting so much pressure on the result that really learning and I wanted to share the result of that experiment. That was also one I would say during the Coronavirus and remote work. We managed to push two games to market test so that was a more of an actually I I expected because I was already accepting that we would not test any. So that was really good for for real Santee boys. But more importantly, we learned about our great capacity capabilities as a studio. So we learn more when we were capable of doing and developing the potential so of different people in the team. But we also learn about our limits. So learning pretty fast. But what we couldn’t do

Sophie Vo 32:20
and what was helping for the studio, and for me for vision in general, it helped me to crystallize the vision of the studio to know more about the people we have in the team, where are the drives, and where are the capabilities. And, very importantly, as well, we had to define a process and workflow to work better, especially with the remote so that helped us in a very short time to define a process and to work through and I’ll share some example of how we did that. And last, but it was my main goal, we became a team so we work together and things we develop games with tested, we made mistakes. And that is the best way to form a team. In my opinion, that was the best training. And what we used to revert time. So we used a lot of we worked on a weekly cycle. So we had to check in moment at the beginning of the week. So planning for your week and check out moments. And the way we were checking out for the week is we we have a demo session where everybody present showcase what we’ve been doing what we are proud of during the week, and we have a ritual that we do digitally. And so what is the one example of ritual we have had, and it’s called the fun ritual. That’s the software we’re using and super playful, you can vote about actionable, so it’s anonymous, so very playful and digital. And that’s what we did consistently every week for two months to improve our process and workflow and It went very smoothly for us. Another thing we did is weekly pulse survey. And that’s something that we do actually organize to grow wide level. And that was very nice. So myself as a lead, I could check the pulse of the team every week and see, we moved in general. So behind these questions were questions like, how, what is the level of stress you feel, I do feel obliged to work and so on. So to see how people felt and he was under nervous, and I was keeping his results. Also, as an observation on my entry, just see if some people in the team or maybe not feeling that well, or pressure and so on, and in some cases, very few individuals. But we’re feeling more pressure in a week or not being able to organize the weekend, but I could investigate more in one on one to help individuals in the team and last, something that was very hard For the end, because we it’s very tempting during remote time to want to control and see what, who’s doing what, and what happens when there’s a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities. So we did a pretty long session of rusty. So to define responsibility, accountability, consultancy or inform inform level of each individuals in the team and for different topics. So we went through all the things that have to be looked into development. I don’t know like our direction, player testing, QA or architecture decision and distributes and organized for roles and responsibility. And since then, we don’t have much to sync all the time during the week because we have that documents and tool to know who’s doing what And who should be informed or consulted on which decisions so it becomes much more flat and lean inside the team. And I’m happy to share all the practices we have had in the q&a. But what were the main ones, but I thought it would be valuable to share. And the reason now we are in May, and this is our second month in lockdown, to see if there won’t be more. That’s our situation. So after all this test, we decided to commit your own one single project. But it was a result of the test we ran. And that’s the one we found not only the most excited about but the one that we felt we were capable of delivering and executing in in the next month. So that was an important thing as well. But now we are working together as a team and it’s it’s been really nice after vets independent work in squads over the past month. However, even if we’re happy with the results, we

Sophie Vo 37:07
we are emotionally impacted by the lockdown. And it’s something to acknowledge and nothing can fix it. I mean, we can have good work, we can have good results. We are humans at the end of the day and we’ve our own challenges. And that’s something that we’re discussing with the team but that’s also the reality for some of us. And situation in Berlin, so it’s lifting so other restriction will be in Berlin since this week, it was this week. So some of us are returning sorry to the office, of course keeping certain distance and respecting the regulations. But that is a bit of a relief for some of us but needed to see friendly faces in a work place. And that’s also what we are looking at at the moment how Are we returning to work and how we will return to work when it’s not an obligation or a safety measure to stay at home? And but I’m happy to share so in the q&a, but that’s it more for my port talking. And usually what I do at the end of short presentation, I share the books or audiobooks I’m reading or listening. And so I wanted to share the ones that have inspired me during these days. So if some of other more inspiring for YouTube, and we can move to the q&a then Thank you.

Joakim Achren 39:02
Cool. Hey, thanks so much. I think like I can I can look up the questions here in the chat and in the q&a. So here’s the first question here. You’re can Could you tell us a bit more about remote comm? Do you have any experience? No, I haven’t actually. I’ve only browsed their website and look them up as I was researching for the future of remote work so you can do your own research. Software Sofia, what is what is the best advice to keep the team in a good mode working remotely during the development of a game?

Sophie Vo 39:50
So I would say there are two angles here. Oh one note a. The first is about the work itself. I mean, we are lucky, we work in games, and it’s a very creative and playful industry. So I would always think of how you can turn work into play. So that that is what creates energy and mood. So when we plan we play by, by planning when we did the rest of the exercise. There were some guests and role playing games, we play all the things we do. And it’s been even emphasized during the remote work, because not much going on at home these days. I mean, it’s a very predictable environment. So I would think if and if you have several people in the team that are very creative and want to play and organize things, to play, always. And the second thing is more what is not related to work? We did. We have a lot of ownership in the team. And people just throw ideas of what we could do. So one thing we did was an idea of designer We do MTV Cribs, we had to show her home. And it was like, some people could join. And I was really funny. So it was a way to know which are like showing the home. Or we had a five minutes of fame because we realized, Oh, we don’t know about each other what we did before we just started to get into work. So we did a session about that. So just throwing ideas, you know, of what else you can do and making everything as a game. That would be my advice. in general. Yeah.

Joakim Achren 41:29
Do you do you always have video on what’s the kind of etiquette for you guys?

Sophie Vo 41:36
Yes, we do always have videos, but the requirements, I mean, like implicitly requirement, I think I mentioned it first time, and since then, everybody keeps your videos. And yeah.

Joakim Achren 41:50
So here’s another question. Do you have a plan to return to the office? I’d guess this is more like fully returning and we’ll do it Instantly, or will there be a? Or do you already have a plan of transitioning?

Sophie Vo 42:05
So for a transition, I can comment about that it’s already happening. So because we can go to the office, and it’s on a voluntary basis, so I’m testing so the transition with that time where it’s a bit blurry like okay, should we or should we not go to the office, and I can see who needs to go there. So we are creating the case by going for example, this week, was the first week where we it was lifted. Product people like with the product manager and designer, we agreed, let’s meet at the office to brainstorm about, I don’t know product. And we agreed on the day to be there. And some, like developers were really happy to stay home and that’s fine. If we need to meet them they will meet. But for example, artists needed to brainstorm environments. So that’s a good transition point where it’s on other basis. What do we need to discuss and when we go

Unknown Speaker 43:00
And going forward.

Sophie Vo 43:03
I To be honest, I never work remotely like that. So if I was a bit of a shock when that happened and anxiety when in March, it was locked down. But I see actually a lot of benefits of that. When in non COVID situation where I asked myself if the way we work is a legacy of work, you know, and it makes me question a lot of revisit a lot of things we think were necessary and are not. And I would like to actually brainstorm with the team when it’s not an obligation to stay home. How do we want to work and I’m very flexible and open about it. Just to give an example before I was considering remote work one day per week, and now I’m leaning more towards free days or even more based on what we need. So having check in and check out point are important and I think it’s important you have to sync moments, but do they have to be over time? Maybe not? actually excited about that, because it’s better also in for the lifestyle. I mean, we know that reality we always have to do with parents that are very annoying to do on the time that everybody does it. So I would like to sit you have flexibility of work that is more adapted to the lifestyle of people. I hope that also other companies would be open about that, because I think it’s a reality more than, you know, a luxury option. And the more we accept it, and I think the more opportunities new opportunities will happen. I like the idea of a virtual coffee By the way, check that. I think there’s a lot of things, new businesses, maybe that can, you know, grow from that. Hmm.

Joakim Achren 44:45
There’s a question. Will you be sharing this materials after the webinar? Yes, I will. I will try to put this into YouTube into elite game developers site and transcripts and also the person Questions and the links that were in the presentation. So yes, we’ll hopefully get everything up and live still this evening. Then another question, what would be your advice for a new manager joining the game team remotely?

Sophie Vo 45:18
that’s a that’s a tricky one. Usually, it’s like you’re, you’re the first person in the team already, and over join. But how I would approach it, because I would say as a principal, always the challenge I would say, when you are a new manager, joining a team existing is already a challenge by itself. So I would have the same advice but remote or not, in that case, where it’s building the trust. So I would start by spending time individually with each of the people in the team, checking the situation, eavesdropping, the trust, and you can do it actually quite well. remotely. Having these columns that are work related or non work related where spend time to know each other and have a bit of an audit of the situation and by that you have more clarity of what is needed and and be able to take your next course of actions

Joakim Achren 46:19
then another question here from Yon I’m really curious about your personal rituals in home for productivity and then the team rituals that you were talking about. Could you talk about more of that for me home is so full of distractions and I’d love to keep it peaceful, a place of fun and relaxation I find rituals effective for this duality. Yeah, for like I can answer also that I think like going on walks is so good. If you just remember to do it, so try to just add that into the day maybe like go buy some food in the middle of the Days also like from a grocery store or something just to break break the monotony of waking up working and not really like having any kind of like you know, what commute usually added was a space where you’re not at home and not at work but when that is lacking it’s a it’s a bit tricky. I don’t know what you think Sophie?

Sophie Vo 47:23
Yeah I it’s a it’s actually a good question because it’s very tempting in Vienna to stay stuck in front of a computer the whole day past is like dark suddenly. So rituals are actually very important. That’s for me from experience gave a lot of structure in the day and I can maybe command more on my personal ones and then also the team ones we have. So personal ones, I started to the day a bit before everybody has your own but then reading, doing some yoga workouts just something to wake up Google buddy because otherwise you stay crammed into that helps a lot, by the way. So in case some of you are not doing that I strongly advise because, you know, mind and body are so well connected. And by the way as the leader, the best thing you can give to the team is your energy. So a good mine, a good energy is really important. So other rituals that can keep your energy, lift your energy are really important. And for yourself reading, I’m reading about philosophy every morning. Just you know, I have a broader perspective of the current situation. And cooking is also a good chance taking the time for lunch break. So lunch break, I know this is also a problem actually, when you say to people take your lunch break, people don’t so right now what we did, we made a calendar meeting for lunch break so nothing can be planned. And that helped actually for people to take a break. Nobody has to Fair and we can do other things during that break two hours break. And as a team ritual. So what we do we have a play session every Friday from five to six. And it’s kind of an exciting time where we have a very special time. And it became organically also a bit of a drinking time where everybody it’s a ritual that happened, opens the first beer or maybe not a week, but at least have a day. And we cheer and we share our cocktails and so on. So it’s a ritual We look forward to by the end of the week. And let me think if we have overs in the meantime, not that I know. But I think it’s for the team also to own that and for ideas of how we switch to them based on the needs of people to create that.

Joakim Achren 49:56
It’s good. What were the eye opening lines About three more remote work for you. That changed your mind about like, one day of the week to three days a week for your team.

Sophie Vo 50:13
So I can talk about my fears here more. Why did I think of one day first? So one day I was I was already before Google remote situation I thought one day is already a gift for the team. So it’s above the average because the standard is like, even some companies don’t even allow remote work or are open for that. So I thought of being actually a bit advanced by giving one day I was like, okay, we know we do that we have but I thought not more because then we are not trained as a team to do that. We make the most of it, we will manage it. So my fear was more can we handle more? And do I want to test that as we are forming it In your team, but life happens situation happen and when in the most challenging situation, rise new opportunities. I discovered that actually we trained quite well as a team and I have a lot of confidence after these two months in lockdown, but the team is very capable, you know and professional how to handle the remote work. So for me, it opened my eyes of his fears, were more fears than actually reality. And I don’t see any reasons to enforce. Like being all the time at the office seeing how we are like doing you know, the work remotely because once again, it’s based on on trust my by giving trust to people but trusting them that we are professional, then we act professional, that’s the English thing. So it was more fear on my end, there was not really real reasons to not do more, to be honest, but it’s such Changing, shifting the mindset. And I hope over again, organization will have that realization is that nothing bad happened in the end? Why not?

Joakim Achren 52:10
Yeah, exactly. So a question here, how will you operate performance reviews? And at which times

Sophie Vo 52:23
Yeah, so for that one, I’m actually I have done you a performance review already. And remote. So I what times i i wonder Yeah,

Joakim Achren 52:36
I guess it’s more more about like, like, I don’t know.

Joakim Achren 52:46
Yeah, maybe you can just point out like your learnings from doing that remotely.

Sophie Vo 52:51
Yes. So I block at least a good amount of time. So one hour and no meeting before. I enjoy meeting after because it’s very important for me this is a very important time for the person because first reflects on the work they’ve been doing. And this is a good moment where to recognize the work of somebody so I take a lot of time preparing before and after and taking notes. And even if it wasn’t remote, I always have a folder where I have notes about people the things we discussed in one on one and I follow up with so I come quite prepared them and when I gave his reviews it I feel I see at least light in the face of people because maybe it’s something that they don’t get actually so much these days because it’s not accidental conversation. You have an office like a it was a great work you did. It’s amazing what you did. So now we have all in package for one hour and then I can see the list of energy. So that is the I would say the main difference of how it happens, but it doesn’t change much of how it’s done. I would have wished to spend more time physically and connecting. But if a trust is already established, it doesn’t make a big difference. I would say just this conversation are really important. So spending the proper time not being disturbed. Sorry for the noise of my think, and not being disturbed about that. being disturbed about before and after the review is really important, because it’s a full focus time. So no phones, no distraction. That would be my advice. Hmm.

Joakim Achren 54:41
And another question here, how do you evaluate the progress and whether to continue with an idea when there are multiple ambitious ambitions apart like starting other prototypes, you know, you have, you know, you’re going in one direction And then you need to make a decision.

Sophie Vo 55:04
Okay, yes. So let me read your question again.

Joakim Achren 55:11
Yeah. Cuz it’s, in a sense, like, I think what the question is about is like, how do you evaluate progress on a project? Now that you’re involved? Yes. Versus, you know, starting another prototype, or, you know, this kind of like decisions that you need to make in the projects.

Sophie Vo 55:32
Yeah. So that’s also what we did, actually by testing, three very wild ideas to also understand about the capabilities of the studio. And it’s important to set goals. Like that’s also what we decided with the game we made, and I made it very clear as well what is the goal or the outcome expected from these experiments. For example, Have a prototype. We, we didn’t know if we would be capable to test all of them. So we had to have some metrics or criteria to decide if we should continue or not. And for me, it comes down to three actually. One is how do we feel excited about working on that game? Because in the end, it’s a we can do a lot of games. But if there’s not energy drive passion into the game, it will be difficult actually, because it’s hard. And the second question is about capability. While we want to make that game, are we capable? Do we have the skills do we have the experience we have the knowledge to make that game and there were some games where you say you should not continue because for example, it required more technical art one of them we, we were not confident that we could do it, but we wanted to do it, when we say not do it. And the last is, is it one that is aligned with with vision of the studio. So revision, our studio is very audience focused. So we have a particular audience that we really believe that we want to serve. And if it’s not aligned with our audience, then it’s not one we should pursue either. So in a high level, and that’s how we evaluate. And of course, when now we do some test markets, very tangible metrics. So I give a goal of what we expect, but a range of it, we can still explore anytime to correct. So let’s say we don’t meet the target, but we are 10% 15% middle, we agreed that we will give a month to correct it. If we don’t manage it, then we should really consider seriously, is it worth of all time because in vn, the question is, what is worth of our time? Are we working on the things that will have the biggest impact, and if we’re spending six months to move a small needle, maybe it’s not the best use of our time. Same

Joakim Achren 58:01
excellent answer. So, regarding working hours, have you seen those change? Like, are people working more or less? Or is there like, you know, it first changed but then it came into kind of like a normal rhythm. What do you what do you think?

Sophie Vo 58:22
In reality, people worked more and I am myself as well fully. That’s because there’s no separation between you know, like no commute so so maybe on the team level, which is different, I remain about the official time of work, and nobody is expected shouldn’t be expected to answer so I tried to send a lot of materials to a team to remind them about how to systemize better slack to do you know, you can do a lot of system notifications off on at which time and also Yeah, create a better system for them to be reminded to not be disturbed when they shouldn’t be disturbed. But yeah, we happen to work more. And I think a healthy thing to do is to talk about it. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just first being aware of that. And people once we are aware, usually find a way to solve it. But I’m here also as a support for them to talk about it and acknowledge it and like, Yeah, okay. And that’s not what we want, and then throwing back a bit like the program to them to think about how they can solve it. Yeah,

Joakim Achren 59:35
that’s good. Another question here, which is a really interesting one. Do you think people can achieve the same level of creative results using online tools? Now that you’re remote?

Sophie Vo 59:51
I don’t have a full clear answer about about one because I’m quite happy of what we have created, given the circumstances. So for me, we are quite exceptional isn’t because we were remote, or we would have done that anyway. And not being remote. I would say the limitation of working online and remote is that the brainstorm part is less accidental. So there’s less room for lucky accidents. However, you can be creative, but I think it doesn’t just give creative space for lucky events.

Joakim Achren 1:00:31
Yeah, there’s the naming is serendipity. And how do you create that when you’re remote? Yeah,

Sophie Vo 1:00:38
yeah, I don’t I don’t know. I thought about that. I thought about how to emulate that. But it’s still an open question for me because, I mean, you don’t stumble on randomly on the virtual, maybe we have a virtual coffee.

Joakim Achren 1:00:51
Or it could happen. Yeah, yeah. And just take notes and you know, put everything down somewhere. So It stays. Yeah. Another question, I think we’re gonna take the final one. What tools do you use for the one on ones? And how often do you do them now in remote?

Sophie Vo 1:01:15
So, how often I’ll answer that one first. I established it on a bi weekly basis for everybody, for now. So that was the way I approach it is more what people need and what I can give a good amount of my time and attention. So for me, it’s really important that when I’m there, I’m fully there. So if I do it too regularly, and when I’m healthy is not good. But if I don’t do enough, then people would actually need more than it’s not good. So it’s about finding the balance between the two. So now we are nine and I have like a direct reports. And I do with all of them because I want to develop a relationship with all of them and then bi weekly basis and I give it to 30 minutes. And if needed, we extend it 45 minutes one hour. So it’s quite modular because sometimes people feel anxious about filling in the timer. So I prefer to be flexible around that. And if people didn’t work, actually I do this survey often with a team, we feel the talk enough with me or not. And if I see it’s down, then I may increase. Yeah, other thing I can say about one on one is really important, but one person has an in divided attention for people. So right now, I have quite senior people who join me. And I’m considering of breaking it down where I might have maybe four people that I go really deep in one on one, but the senior people can have the one on one with others as well. So then everybody in the team deserves undivided attention. It doesn’t have to come necessarily from

Joakim Achren 1:02:55
Hmm, great. Well, one final question. I think this is very remote work related, any good final tips on brainstorming and prototyping new concepts in remote?

Sophie Vo 1:03:12
So what do we have used as a brainstorm tool, which was not designed for that, but we do his refund ritual board actually, because you can put like on a digital board things. And let me think of how we did for the rest. I think we just jumped in a call. And it’s very organic and improvised and unorganized. It’s so it’s it’s like living a lot of space for some time you get them two hours. So it’s not the most efficient meeting, but that’s fine. Because when we start your discussion and discuss so sharing first was a situation where the feeling, what is the problem? And then we start so maybe this inverts. So I haven’t found any tool that can do that. Like specifically for brainstorming. But brainstorm about the brainstorm Tools is a kind of bit like trying to bring some everywhere is your way. Hmm.

Joakim Achren 1:04:06
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a constant discovery process for sure. Hey, thanks a lot. Sophie. This was really good. Really fun.

Sophie Vo 1:04:15
Yeah. Thanks, Jackie. Man. Thanks, everyone for very good questions. I wish I could answer more. But uh, yeah, you can have share my contacts. You have my contact also meaning if you want, and I’d be happy to, you know, follow up with the questions.

Joakim Achren 1:04:30
What we could do is when I shared the recording on LinkedIn, I’ll tag you, Sophie, and then we can have more questions there in the comments. What do you say? Let’s do that. Okay. Have a great weekend, everybody. Talk to you soon again.

Sophie Vo 1:04:47
Bye. Bye. Bye. Take care everybody. Bye.