By Joanna N., Business Development Intern at Zero One Group (ZOG)
ZOG recently launched its Intern Blog Series, highlighting the experiences of summer interns in various divisions. In this series, interns discuss what they have learned and how ZOG is preparing them for the working world.
It once seemed like a distant dream to work while living or travelling abroad. However, with the advent of remote working, it is becoming an increasingly attainable opportunity. Given the current global situation due to COVID-19, remote working has become a necessity rather than a luxury, and with that, working remotely from a different country has become much more commonplace.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Joanna, and I interned at Zero One Group from over 10,000 kilometres away.
In this post I will be sharing some of my reflections on working remotely, and how it has changed my approach to work in general.
Working halfway across the world at Zero One Group
To provide some context, I am currently a university student in Italy and a Business Development Intern at ZOG. While I am no stranger to interning, this was my first experience interning at a smaller company, and in a work-from-home environment.
Being based in Italy while the rest of the team was based in Indonesia made it an even more peculiar work-from-home experience, as my day started 5 hours after everyone else’s. I was used to starting the day on the same page as my colleagues at the office, and the 5-hour time difference left me concerned that I would be a little lost and behind on things.
Luckily enough, I could not have chosen a better company to be working remotely at. ZOG embraces the concept of agile working, which is the exact mindset that is conducive to a successful remote working environment.
Now you might be wondering: What is agile working?
Agile working is best and succinctly defined by a Martini advert from the ’80s — “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere”.
Agile working takes on the belief that “work is an activity and not a place”. It is a working style that clearly defines the guidelines of a task but allows for freedom as to how to achieve it. Therefore, the rules and parameters of how you complete a task are not bound by silly things such as having a physical office, or yes, being in the same time zone.
The 3 pillars of successful remote working
Working remotely, even with an agile mindset, comes with its own unique set of challenges. My experience so far has led me to believe that there are three pillars of successful remote working: Communication, coordination, and motivation.
Pillar 1: Communication
Let us address the elephant in the room: How do you manage remote working with a massive time difference? Surely it must be difficult communicating information accurately and on time.
This is where the idea of asynchronous communication comes into play. Simply put, asynchronous communication is when you convey information without expecting an immediate response. This is in contrast with synchronous communication, which is when the recipient processes and responds to information in real-time.
Synchronous communication in the workplace usually breaks down due to an overkill of meetings, leading to shallow, poorly-thought-out discussions and less productive workdays. Asynchronous communication shifts the focus away from inefficient meetings towards clear, concise messages.
By banishing the need to hang around the computer all day, ZOG gives its team members more control over their workday, allowing for large blocks of uninterrupted time to do the work that adds the most value to the company.
ZOG’s emphasis on asynchronous communication allowed me to work across time zones with relative ease. I never once felt confused about what I had to do during the day or who to ask if I had any questions, despite working different hours from the rest of the team. ZOG showed me that it is possible to achieve a balance between both types of communication while working remotely, without sacrificing your work-life balance too.
Pillar 2: Coordination
Coordinating the tasks of an entire company onsite is already difficult enough, and doing so remotely seems to be a mission that is near impossible. How can dozens of people keep up with what everyone else is doing, while still keeping track of the larger goal at hand?
ZOG does an amazing job at not only communicating the goals, roles and responsibilities of each team but also documenting these for the larger Group to see. GitLab is simply the platform that ZOG uses to accomplish this.
By laying out all of the Group’s processes and projects on a single platform, teams are able to harmonize within and with each other on what needs to be done.
Having an offsite platform that is continuously updated on all the ongoing activities of a company is an important replacement for the informal, in-person planning that usually takes place in the office hallways or during lunch breaks.
I truly believe that all companies, not just the ones that have distributed teams, should jump on this method of coordination. I also think that the greater transparency that comes with a single planning platform also does wonders with helping each individual visualize the impact that they are making on the greater company, which I can confirm is incredibly motivating.
Pillar 3: Motivation
Speaking of motivation, sometimes it is hard to come by. Especially if you are working from home, away from an office environment. Especially if your bed is nearby and calling out your name for some extra sleep.
Finding your productivity groove can be hard, and it can take some trial and error to figure out what works for you.
Knowing myself, I know that I am most productive away from home, so getting out of the house was key in maintaining my individual motivation to work throughout the day. The flexibility that remote working provides brought about endless possibilities of where I could work, and as a fan of discovering new coffee shops, I used work as an excuse to try out new cafes in the neighbourhood.
One crucial factor in maintaining team motivation is having a work culture that encourages engagement and interaction despite team members being virtually distributed. Knowing that you have more than just a working relationship with the rest of the people in the company helps foster momentum and motivation because work seems less like, well, work if you are doing it with your friends.
Case in point: I had no idea that my first time playing Kahoot! would be during a virtual team outing with ZOG, but I am certainly glad things turned out that way.
Remote working: Final thoughts
Remote working may not be for everyone. Just like how commuting to work may not be for everyone. Regardless of your preference, we can all agree that remote working puts a much-needed spotlight on the need for flexibility and adaptability in the workplace.
What is important is to remain open-minded, as we are at the tipping point of a major, generational shift in the way we view work and life.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with an incredible team at ZOG that has made working from home a breeze. While I need some more time to judge whether I prefer remote working or commuting to work, I know that my time at ZOG has fundamentally changed the way I view the entire working experience.
I hope this post has given you some insight into what successful remote working is built on, and hopefully, you will be keen on giving it a shot too!