Hope you all are doing ok during this phase. Going back in time, India had 500 +ve cases for COVID-19 in March (2 months ago) when we took the decision to self quarantine / social distance ourselves. This was a week before the government announced an official countrywide lockdown.

It's been more than 8 weeks and we have been working from home since then. Sharing some thoughts on how we transitioned to remote work, how we set up simple communication protocols and shipped high quality stuff out into the world.

Baseline Setup

Since we decided to reach our safe places before the country lockdown - travel was not an issue. The basic need for us to continue work was a laptop and an internet connection. Most of the team members were traveling back to their hometown to be with family. So internet connectivity was the first thing that the team had to setup at their homes (if it didn't exist already). For immediate access, we shared internet dongles since getting fixed line connectivity would take anywhere between 2 days to a week.

Another challenge for us was 'test devices'. When we are at office, a variety of devices (phones, tablet, media dongles) are available for the teams to test applications. Across iOS, Android, Apple TV, FireStick, Roku, Chromecast etc. different projects required different access to these devices. The Development and QA teams spread the access to devices amongst themselves to keep things running without any hassles.

Work Process

At NFN Labs, the expectations are very simple. You will be accountable, communicate often and keep shipping things out. Communication was easy face-to-face when we were at office since we are a small team of 25. Everyone knew what the other person is working on - that was our 11am tea time catch up.

With remote work we setup simple processes so that everyone is in the loop always. Most team catch up, 1:1 discussions and brainstorming happens over video chats on Jamm. All written communication happens on Slack. Apart from the team based channels, these are some important channels we created:

  1. #daily-checkin - Daily accomplishments of the day. Roadblocks if any. You also have to summarise you day with an emoji or a gif
  2. #team-wins - Things going live, team members learning something new, team members creating new reusable components, great feedback from our clients or someone writing a great review for our products.Every tiny accomplishment is celebrated in this channel
  3. #interesting - Anything that the team finds interesting related to work. (We use Telegram otherwise for sending random gifs)
  4. #availability - Stepping out or not available for the day(s), you drop in a note here

And thats about it. Nothing fancy, no micro-management, no mandatory meetings. Focussed work happens from Monday to Thursday. Fridays are for reflecting on the past 4 days - things that went well, things that need to change and planning for upcoming 4 days next week. Friday is also an all hands catch up with everyone. In the last catchup session we talk about everything we did apart from work. It doesn't have to be crazy at work.

The tools the team uses everyday

Here is a full list of tools that we use to keep shipping things

Highlighting a few that I use everyday, a lot.

Figma (Of course) - This tool has changed the way we work. Single source of truth for product designs for the entire team and easy dev handoff.

Jamm - Video team catchups or 1:1, whiteboarding, async messages to team, issue resolution/support videos for our products. Also our tea time and evening coffee catchups now happen on Jamm. We even have a space called lovely-tea-room which everyone joins for casual conversations. That's our watercooler.

Spark Email (Shared Conversations) - Mostly for support, we discuss specific emails and threads with teammates. We use it to privately comment on an email to add context you need for a better response. Keeping internal and external communication together.

Google Sheets - Since we use Gsuite, this is our tool of choice for spreadsheets. Sharing broad project timelines, timesheets, engagement approaches. Easy to collaborate and share things out

Roam Research - Everything that pops up in my brain (ideas, todos, research) captured here. This goes into the daily-checkin at the end of the day.

Any challenges we faced? Of course - power outages, limited internet access sometimes (bandwidth fluctuations), laptop chargers conking off, team members finding it hard initially to work with family members around, time taken to find their groove, work-style and timings. But these things got ironed out over time. Each team member has now found their own style and time of working. Also almost everyone has turned into a great cook. Looking forward to how things unfold over time :)

Hope you enjoyed this quick read. If you like to read more such posts do subscribe. I write about bootstrapping businesses, design, cool products and service, side projects and everything that i find interesting related to startups and shipping things.