“Obviously, the pandemic forced us to begin with,” opens James Poulter, CEO of Vixen Labs. “But even before Covid, we had a hybrid team. In the very first days, it was just me, Jen and Hannah in the office in Broadgate. Soon we were working with Romina in Germany, Ashish in India, Scott and Susan over in the US – so we were probably set up better than most to cope with the transition.”
Remote working at Vixen Labs looks different for each team member. Our Head of Creative Claire, for example, often uses a coworking space. “When I work from home, I tend to open my laptop first thing, get absorbed in my work and forget to take proper breaks. Being in a coworking space means I can have a clear divide between work and home life. Those tricky problems I haven’t quite solved are left at my desk ready to tackle with a clear head the next day.”
It’s not just about boundaries, either. Some people work best around others. “The social aspect is key for me.” continues Claire. “Just having others nearby makes a big difference. I’m 52% introvert, so it’s a fine balance, but being able to have lunch with someone or talk through ideas is huge. I’m used to problem solving through collaboration.”
A TOUCH OF HYBRID WORKING
Amongst the public discourse about working from home versus working from an office, there’s one fact on which everyone seems to agree.
JP explains: “No matter how much time we spend working remotely, there are certain tasks that are better facilitated in-person. And also, for many of us, it’s better for our mental health to not be isolated at home all the time – so I think we need some hybrid working.”
“THERE ARE CERTAIN TASKS THAT ARE BETTER FACILITATED IN PERSON”
This shows up in several ways for the Vixen Labs team. While the default is working from home, we have regular in-person sessions. Sometimes it’s formal – designed team days in which everyone comes to London, staying over for a night or two if necessary. Other times it’s informal. Last week everyone was invited to a coworking session at Fora, and a few went out for drinks afterwards. We have celebratory events, too, such as our Christmas party.
It’s these harder-to-quantify benefits that the Vixen Team is focused on when it comes to in-person interaction.
“We are human beings that live in the physical world. And so spending our work time in relationships with people where there is no physical connection, just isn’t a natural way of being for most of us.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTER
It would be incorrect to equate remote working with a lack of connection in the team. Calls and activities throughout the week recreate some of the experiences of being together in an office.
Work Well Wednesday, for example, is a weekly knowledge-sharing session. It’s only fifteen minutes at the start of the day, which helps it feel doable for everyone. All Work Well Wednesdays are recorded in our knowledge hub in Notion. Dipping in there, you’ll find sessions on everything from Asana tips to bug reporting, and even a Deutsch 101 von Romina!
Chloe Prince, our Researcher, organises Work Well Wednesdays. “These sessions are hugely valuable not only for the helpful content that gets shared, but because they offer an open stage for everyone in the team to share knowledge that they otherwise may not get the time or space to share. Hosting a session is voluntary, but all Vixens are encouraged to give it a go because no matter how big or small, every insight is valued. It’s also a great way to practice the art of presenting to a remote audience!”
Shout Out Thursdays brings the team together for a similarly short session. Colleagues share their gratitude for each other, a project, or something in their personal lives. Fortnightly, everyone attends Newsday Tuesdays. Rich Merrett, Creative Strategist, curates the most noteworthy headlines from the voice technology sphere (and adjacent topics). Alongside a brief summary, he leads discussions on how these developments may impact Vixen Labs.
Plus, of course, we have our monthly team meetings. Company updates, client demos, and more are shared.
Summing all of these up, JP explains, “When you go remote, you have to spend extra time on creating moments that matter. So, you know, things like shoutout Thursday, the monthly team meeting, or when we come together in person as we did last week, those are the moments that really matter. Most people don’t need those every day, and they don’t need them every week, but we need versions of them regularly.”
‘Regularly’ is a subjective term depending on the person. JP highlights high levels of awareness of how other people work for keeping Vixen Labs remote working successful.
“YOU NEED HIGH DEGREES OF EMPATHY FOR PEOPLE WHO WORK AND OPERATE IN DIFFERENT WAYS THAN YOU”
“You need high degrees of empathy for people who work and operate in different ways than you. We give our people the option of how they show up, and fun activities like personality quizzes get everyone discussing their similarities and differences. But you have to create the moments that matter, because otherwise, you don’t have culture.”
Some companies operate on a clock-in, do your tasks, clock-out. But that’s not what remote working at Vixen Labs means.
“We can’t just live a 2D existence with one another,” explains JP. “Our happiest moments and most successful work often comes from a third dimension: of empathy, and friendship.”
It’s that third dimension that is most easily lost when a company goes remote. Treating people not just like a set of skills or an allocation of resources, but as human beings. Sometimes, that begins with artificially creating connection.
“When you do everything remotely, connection is reliant upon the calendar, because you can’t just physically bump into people by accident. As much as we’d like to be freewheeling, people don’t operate that way. We need governance, guidance, and structure.”
Another benefit of these moments is that it creates culture. “Everyone has an involvement in setting the culture together,” says JP. “If you choose not to contribute to that culture, then you’ll never feel a part of it. That’s true of schools, families, churches – anywhere.”
If our way of working sounds like it’d suit you, check out which roles we’re recruiting for. And if nothing grabs your eye – hey, drop us a line anyway.