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The Scalac Factor

Every company has its own culture. So do we. We really love to work together as a team. Scalac started as a remote-friendly company without managers, and we continue with those values in mind. Remote work is only growing inside the company, and even though the flat structure isn’t that flat anymore you can still call our CEO by name, and we’ve got more roles rather than complicated structures. Startup atmosphere – as they call it – but we prefer to call it the Scalac’s atmosphere because we believe that the fact that we work hard, have fun, and do the right thing is something unique and great about our company. 

Growing company

Why things changed at all? Because now we have exactly 124 people in our team while only 3 years ago there were only 70. So obviously, we had to reorganize how things are done. 

We have a core team, whose members are responsible for different business areas. Of course, at the top of our team, we have a CEO, but we also have technical leaders for different teams: Development –  Backend (mostly Scala), Frontend, QA, UX/UI designers, Business Development, Project Management, Human Resources, Finance, and Marketing. 

As I’ve mentioned before, we are far away from a corporate structure, which we want to avoid as long as possible. This is crucial, but the most valuable thing about  Scalac is the people –  working as one big team of functional, passionate people to keep our quality bar very high. 

5 things to join Scalac

Are you wondering how it is to be a Scalacer or thought about applying to Scalac? Here’s a quick guide to prepare you for joining our crew and to briefly show you what the core values we cultivate are.

1. Be sure that your code is functional

If so – that’s the first strong sign that we want you in our team! 

Be ready to learn

If your code is not functional… yet – this section could be for you. Our candidates are often strong and experienced Java, PHP, Python, etc. developers, willing to switch to Scala. Their code in the technical task is well-structured, has all the goodies of OOP. However, the code isn’t very functional or reactive. In this scenario, we could call it “Java/PHP/Python in Scala”. Too many variables, as well as a lack of the proper usage of techniques available in Scala, such as Tail Recursion.

Don’t get us wrong. This doesn’t mean that we will reject great guys like this at the beginning. We encourage them to work hard and change the way they code by providing solid feedback and learning sources. 

How to learn?

We are always happy to send them Scala Tips, which were prepared by our developers, and a list of good sources to study to help start properly with Scala. We also try to share our developers’ thoughts and opinions about a candidate’s code, so if you want to consult them during the recruitment process about anything – don’t hesitate to let us know – we will be happy to help. 

A good and proven method that works best for learning functional code is to read the famous red book “Functional Programming in Scala” or complete the Martin Odersky Course. They have several exercises that force you and your brain to switch to a functional way. It might be a bit painful at first, but when you manage to break through the wall of pain, you will be enlightened and delighted. And in our experience, you probably won’t want to go back and return to nonfunctional code. But let’s see – we await your opinion! d

2. Be sure that you are close to our values

Scalac at its core is a flat organization. We love to cooperate. We have three strong values at the center of our culture:

  • Work hard
  • Have fun
  • Do the right thing

Work hard

We work hard on our projects and put our whole hearts into making them real and work properly. 

Have fun

But after all this hard work, we like to spend some time together during our online informal meetings, talking about random stuff. Or during our integration trips when we can be together, doing new activities like off-roading, paintball, kitesurfing, and do even more talking, dancing, and signing up to the morning hours ;) 

Do the right thing

Doing the right thing is just as important as the previous two. We want to believe that everything we do – we do with good intentions and for a good purpose. Often we get involved in charity campaigns to help those in need. We choose good and responsible sources for our gifts or swag if you prefer. For our employees, the most important areas for ‘doing the right thing’ are the environment, children, and animals – so we try to help them whenever we can. 

If you’re one of us – we trust you

It may sound like a cliche but when you think about it, you realize that the answer to most of your questions is you. You know what is “the right thing”. So just do it. If it doesn’t work – you can make mistakes, we all make them. That’s the way we learn. The main reason is that we strongly believe in another of our values: “People at Scalac are very smart and responsible”. When you are smart and responsible, you are able to make decisions about your own tasks, take ownership, and face up to the consequences. You do it because you know it’s needed. This goes back to our core value “Do the right thing”.

Everything around coding has to be done by someone and in most cases, you are the one who decides what to focus on.  

3. Be ready to be an integral part of Scalac

The Handbook

We use the Scalac Handbook to show new employees how we work, who is who, how all the processes work. We want to be transparent and open to discussion at all times. In our Handbook, we have an unwritten chapter, where everyone can add something his or herself to improve our way of working. 

Scalac Times and Meetings

In our internal communications, we try to be as transparent as possible. We have our Scalac Times newspaper, which comes out cyclically every month and contains the most important information about what has been happening in our projects, teams, events, etc during the last month. In this newspaper, every team has its own space and can give any information it wants. We have also set up cyclical meetings between the whole team and our CEO, at which we can ask about anything connected to our company.  

Knowledge-sharing

A really important part of the way we function is knowledge sharing. We love to share our knowledge everywhere, all around the world in fact. We want to be an integral part of the Scala community and develop it together at different conferences, in our branches, or via taking part in open source contributions. Scalac organizes its own events such as Functional Tricity meetups, Scala Wave conferences, Scalac Summer Camps, and Pizza meetings, where we can also share our expert knowledge with each other. 

4. Be open to working remotely

Scalac is a remote-friendly company. This means that apart from the values we have already outlined, remote work is another core aspect of our company. How do we work remotely? 

How to work remotely

Our employees have already written great articles on this subject, you can find them here: 

In these texts, our Scalacers list several challenges of remote working and share tips on how to handle them from different perspectives. Please read them and think for a moment if it’s really for you. Maybe you would prefer to mix remote working with working from the office in Gdańsk or in coworking spaces. This type of work is challenging and requires a lot of self-organization and perseverance. But if it suits you – it can be a great, valuable experience! 

Despite the remote character of our work, as we mentioned before, we love to spend time together. We pay a lot of attention to our relationships and nurturing them. After work, we can talk on our #cafe or #wine channels or meet during company retreats. 

Watch this video to have a little sneak peek on how it looks like.

These days, after the coronavirus lockdown, the world and ways of working are changing and market research shows that remote work has become more popular than even just one year ago. And we’re quite lucky to have 6 years of experience in this matter. 

According to the ‘Remote Managers 2020 Report’, 87% of remote managers believe that remote work really is the future. 

5. Be ready to choose your own direction

It’s important to know where you are heading. Of course, your plans may change a year from now but we like to work with people who know what they want to invest their time in. We know that it’s hard to be good in every field. 

There are cases when somebody is a full-stack developer but being good at both ends of the software requires a tremendous amount of hard work. We really appreciate it and support it as much as we can. 

Scala hAkkers 

We are experts in the field of Scala functional programming and we want to work with the best Scala hAkkers in the world. 

It’s important to know where you want to be in the future and we as a company can help you develop your career path in various directions: 

  • Consultant – focused on cooperation between technology and business, explaining technical issues to the clients, proposing solutions, and ways to implement projects.
  • Team player or mentor supporter – focused on teamwork, always willing to help, share your knowledge, caring for the development of both yourself and the team.
  • Typical hacker – focused on the hard, complicated programming tasks to bring projects to an end with good quality. 
  • Any other path which you have a vision for, or maybe you have an idea you want to develop, something you’re able to show us and convince us it’s a great idea.   If so, yes! Let’s do it together! 

We like to work with people who are well aware of their choices and are fully committed to achieving their goals. We help them to do this by sponsoring their trips to the best conferences around the world, providing books, holding both internal and external training.

Join Scalac

On our Careers page you might like to take a look at us, our teams, how we work, what is important to us, which positions are open, and a lot more information which we hope will convince you to join us. 

As I mentioned before we do not have only Scala team, but it is our core – especially in the context of functional programming, so it was only to highlight where we’re coming from. We’re constantly changing and building new teams. 

So, are you ready to join Scalac? Do you agree with our core values? Is there anything you would do differently? If so, we’re happy and open to talk to you about it! 

Originally written in 01.2016 by Maciej Greń, updated in 09.2020 by Katarzyna Królikowska

As long as I’ve been working at Scalac, remote work has been a part of our everyday routine. But everything changed a few months ago, due to the COVID-19. We always focused a lot of our attention on integration and included people who work remotely in most of our activities.  But even though we had the experience and tools to work from home, we had to change some things around just like every other company. This mostly refers to the people who could work remotely but preferred working in the office. As wells as the people who took care of the company integration meetings and events. This included – among others – me. 

We wanted to continue all of our previous activities. Still, we had to be smart about transitioning them from offline to online.

These are some examples of those activities. 

Functional Tricity

this was the local meetup that we organized for developers in Tricity (Gdańsk, Sopot, Gdynia) in Poland. We couldn’t do it in the usual form, so we decided to take it a step further.  Now we’ve got the Functional World Meetup – a fully remote event for people all around the whole world, not only from the Tricity, using live stream on Twitch. BTW, we are going to continue both of the meetups (Tricity when a pandemic will be gone), so stay tuned!

Workshops 

Have changed to … fully remote workshops using zoom.us and brought our A-game with tools like Mural and our creativity in making sure everyone is listening and the workshops are engaging. 

Small talk 

Chatting in the kitchen for those who worked at the office has moved to remote café meetings, where every single Scalacer can talk on a special Slack channel called #cafe. 

The company retreat

Before the lockdown, we usually meet twice a year in one place – all the 124 people from Poland, Italy, Bolivia, and more! By a lake or the seaside – doing some sports, workshops, playing board games, etc. This time we took the challenge of doing it remotely – and it turned out to be more than possible. For example, instead of paintball, we played Counter-Strike; instead of the usual board games, we used http://boardgamearena.com/, and we changed our evening meetings over tea or beer into a long night conversation on zoom.us

If you are curious how we did all of this, take a look below on our 12 Lesson Learned:

1. The day does make a difference.

So obvious, but worth realizing why it is so important, especially for online events. No one wants to sit for yet more long hours looking at a computer screen after a whole week of doing so. Remember that employees also have families and hobbies. They want to spend more time with them during their days off to keep up a work-life balance, and you should let them have it.

2. Less is more.

Remember about keeping the right balance when it comes to the frequency of your events/integrations. It is much better to have events less often but with better quality so you can be sure that more people will be engaged, then organize them more often but with the same activities repeatedly.

3. Remember about time zones.

Keep in mind that people who join an online event may be in different countries. So it’s essential to find the best time for everyone, especially when it comes to internal online events where everyone is equally important. Of course, scheduling a good time for a meeting that suits everyone isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible either. But if for some reason, some can’t be there at the given time –  you can always engage in other ways. They can prepare something for their colleagues before the event. You can also record activities such as presentations to share them later. 

4. Same rules for everyone

Avoid the situation when some attendees are remote, and some of them are not, with both groups at the same online conference. It might work if it is a daily meeting or during a presentation with only one person talking. A situation when half of the participants are online, and the other half is not is harder for online attendees. It’s harder to be noticed and raise your opinion when you’re just a talking head on the TV screen. So play fair and keep it all remote.

Note: Some exceptions worth mentioning are, for example, our “Pizza days” where we share our knowledge internally. It works because some people watch it online, some at the office on a couch, but the people presenting their work are also sometimes online, sometimes in the HQ, and everyone can order themselves a pizza – no matter if they’re at the office or not. Pizza for all! – the real sign of equality. 

5. Better make it short and exciting rather than long and boring

Having to focus on a computer screen after a whole day or week of work is challenging. If you have discussed your plan with the potential attendees, you can organize the activities so that they won’t take up a whole day. Better make it short and interesting rather than long and tedious. And if people will be willing to keep up the topic or games – always give them the freedom to do so. When it comes to long online conferences, remember not to forget about short breaks and a longer one for lunch.

6. Talk with the CEO to find some free time for integration meetings during working hours.

This one, of course, is only when it comes to your internal events. This is crucial if you want to encourage employees to take part in your remote activities, mostly because of what we have mentioned before – that not a lot of people can stand sitting in front of their computer for so long. It will show everyone that the decision-makers know how important integration is. Of course, this depends on company policy but will make attendance much more likely. 

7. The early bird gets the worm and most participants.

Inform everyone about the event well in advance. Let people have time to think,  so they can coordinate those plans with their private lives and make joining the event as easy as possible.  Information should include everything that a person would need to answer the question, “Do I want to join this event or not?” but remember not to overwhelm them with too much information. During internal meetings, use your everyday communicators such as Slack or email. When it comes to external events, choose the most influential channels that you have – perhaps Twitter, maybe email – you make this decision. In our experience – short info from time to time is better than a longer message all at once

8. Give your team the steering wheel

If you like playing Counter-Strike, it does not mean everyone does. We always invite our employees to discuss what kind of activities are interesting for them, but we also do individual research simultaneously. Sometimes it’s better to give people ready ideas to vote on, and sometimes you can take the ideas straight from the people. No matter which one you choose, it’s always good to check the final agenda with the whole team – especially if you want to engage people more – they always appreciate things they were a part of from the very beginning much more. You can leave one or two things a surprise if you’re feeling freaky. 

9. All information in one place 

There should be one place with all the necessary info, including the agenda, descriptions, topics, activities, etc. Everything should be available and visible to everyone. We often use Google Docs or a dedicated Slack Channel – easy and very accessible. This is very important because some people simply don’t know the tools and how to use them properly – that’s why explaining everything step by step before the event is necessary.

10. Show them the goods

Try to encourage people instead of just telling them to come or informing them about the meeting. How can you do that? The main point is to present the purpose and benefits of the event – how amazing it would be and what can be learned from the activities. It’s good to talk about your previous experience (if you have any) and show that they will be satisfied if they take part.

11. Technical preparation

Whatever type of online meetings you want to arrange, it is crucial to first think about technical issues. There is nothing more disruptive and irritating than a bad internet connection with crushing video and sound. That is why you should put all the technical aspects you can think of on your checklist. If you do not have any experience in that – here you have a list of 22 things to check before your next virtual meeting

12. Use tools that are simple, accessible, and fun 

  • Slack – this tool is viral in IT businesses, although it may not be that conspicuous in other fields. It is a very intuitive chat tool, prepared specially for companies, for smaller or bigger groups. It is dedicated to communicating in groups and for individual conversations. You can manage your channels, connect with external tools like calendar, prepare video calls, and do many more things. The video calls are handy – you can use Google Hangouts Meet, Zoom.us, and dedicated Slack video conferencing tools to set up a call with your workmates on channels dedicated to your events. 
  • Google Hangout Meet – a typical tool for organizing your online meetings. You can invite your friends to participate in an online discussion by sending them a link directly or sending them an invitation to Google Calendar. There is also the possibility of sharing your screen, writing online chat with others during the call. Interestingly, you can also switch on the subtitles(now available only in English). This can help you understand others better and make meetings more comfortable for hard-hearing people. 
  • Zoom.us – Similar to the previous, but more advanced and with the better video quality.  There are several functions that can make your event, workshop, or meeting simply more manageable and more creative. There are basics like sharing a screen, recording the meeting, chatting, and managing people on the call. And also, higher things such as sharing people to different rooms (instrumental during workshops), writing on a whiteboard, or setting your unique background by using the built-in green screen.
  • Twitch – a straightforward platform to do you live stream presentations. Compared to Google Hangouts and Zoom.us, there’s no possibility of having video contact with the audience; the only contact is via written chat. Of course, you can also record your presentation, download, or save on your  Twitch channel.  All you need to do is register on the platform, download one on the available tool, and install it on your computer. Then just have fun!
  • Kahoot is a funny and colorful program that you can use to organize online challenges for your event attendees. Create questions with a maximum of 4 answers, send the link to the long term or fast challenge, and reward the winners!
  • Mural and Miro – online boards to make your workshop, brainstorm, design thinking, or planning session. Just more creative and easier to visualize. You can draw shapes, use sticky notes, or use ready templates for your work. Others can do the same, on the same board at the same time! After finishing the work, you can save your board as an image or PDF file!
  • Gather Town – this tool looks like a mix of an online game and a video call. Everyone has their avatar, which moves in a virtual space such as a bar, park, or anything you’d like. You can walk around and join groups of other avatars by merely standing next to them. Just like in a real life. You can listen to each other or participate in the conversation. If the conversation doesn’t interest you, you can just walk away, join another group of people. Or just drink your virtual coffee.

To sum things up

These have been only a few tips about what things should be remembered when organizing online events. We have had excellent conditions to try out the different methods since most of our employees work remotely since we started the company. 

I hope you find what we’ve learned useful and will keep following us on our blog and social media to see how we continuously improve our events game. 

What are your ideas for online events? Have you had any experience with organizing them? Share your thoughts with us! We would love to follow you on your journey as well!

Cloud computing, remote work, digital transformation, and startups. These are precisely the things I’m going to be talking about in this article. No bolt of lightning struck me with this idea, just a talk I had the pleasure to listen to one beautiful Monday while drinking my morning coffee. You can find it here. Mat Gren, Head of Business at Scalac, in a comprehensive conversation with Pawel Gieniec, CEO at Cloud Admin (Scalac’s client for almost three years) on the technological shift that has accelerated enormously from February 2020, when COVID-19 turned the world upside down. 

So let me fill you in with the context of their discussion and take the conversation a few steps further. Let’s dive in!

What you need to know about cloud computing

Before we start, let’s first cover the basics. 

On-premise vs. Cloud

The difference between Cloud computing and on-premises software is quite significant. A company can either host everything in-house in an on-premise environment, or in a cloud environment, with a third-party provider hosting everything for you. However, you can also rent a colocation service in a company and still be on-premise. In the cloud you do not need to manage physical machines, the provider gives you the ability to operate on them (e.g. by setting up a virtual machine). After all, the important thing with Cloud is scalability on demand. You just say “I want X more machines”  and they give you X more machines. You don’t have to worry about the availability of resources.

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud 

Nowadays, most enterprises adopt cloud computing to store their data and run applications without building and maintaining any further on-premise IT infrastructure. Enterprises have different options for implementing cloud computing. The cloud computing implementation models can be divided into two broad categories — public cloud and private cloud (actually there are two more types: hybrid and community cloud, but in this article, I will be focusing on the first two). An enterprise can opt for a private cloud to utilize computing resources exclusively through dedicated hardware, software, and network. Private cloud is primarily a solution for regulated sectors like finances, where all possibilities of access by unauthorized users must be eliminated

On the other hand, the enterprise will have to share computing resources with other subscribers if it opts for the public cloud. The public cloud service provider will make hardware, software, and support infrastructure available to the business. But the company will have to share it with others. That’s why it’s crucial that enterprises well understand the differences between a private cloud and a public cloud.

Case Study: Building a Successful Business on the Public Cloud

Pawel Gieniec used to work at Zynga as a Principal Software engineer and the CTO of Draw Something Franchise. Zynga was the first and the fastest company to prove that you could build a successful business on top of a public cloud. They were 80% of AWS back in 2010-2011, to the point that Amazon refused to sell them any more servers because it tapped Amazon out.

Zynga is a great example that you can build a successful company on top of a cloud. “I think it was CityVille where we launched and within one month went from a few thousand people playing into a hundred million people. So that is what I mean by rocket ship”. So how does the cloud work in cases like this one? The cloud might not always be the only solution, but it gives a lot of flexibility. You can scale it right away and go from a few thousand users playing a game to 100 million in 30 days. In Zynga’s case, it was all on AWS, consistently ranked first among cloud infrastructure services. 

What do cloud computing, remote work, and digital transformation have in common? 

Digital Transformation – relying on cloud infrastructures – is the new normal

According to Pawel, at the beginning of the COVID-19, the public cloud represented three percent of the IT industry. Ninety-seven percent were either on-premises data centers or private clouds. In December 2019, Andy Jesse, the CEO of AWS, announced officially that AWS was getting into the data center market with AWS outputs. There are sometimes reasons why companies can’t leverage the public cloud, so now Amazon can ship you servers to install into your data centers for you to leverage AWS services. 

However, when COVID-19 shook the world, the internet was hitting a record level of traffic. This accelerated people’s adoption of either moving out into companies dedicated to managing data centers or into the public cloud.  But at the same time, people realized that relying on on-premise data centers had a problem; they couldn’t buy masks. Why? Because the servers were not ready to handle this amount of traffic and scalability, especially quick one is definitely not the strongest point of on-premise services. There were problems with buying the right chemicals to disinfect data centers if somebody got sick.

In general, the data centers weren’t designed to handle a global pandemic. When companies built them, they thought only about natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes. To avoid those dangers, they spread their servers across the country or countries. However, a global pandemic was something they hadn’t anticipated. In this situation, it turned out to be the very opposite of a cost-effective way to manage your data.  

Cloud computing and the future of remote work

Implementing cloud computing within an IT infrastructure makes it easier to enjoy the benefits of remote work. On-premise systems often require complicated security profiles for data to be accessed by a third party. With cloud-based data hosted externally, it is easier to give access to a third party user. This makes remote work, and any kind of outsourcing easier. 

Some cloud services that you’re definitely familiar with are Google Drive or Dropbox. These are examples of cloud storage spaces for data synchronization – files that are stored in these systems are available to the account owner from any device connected to the Internet. And you can easily share them with others. 

Employees can access documents and data that they need by using dedicated credentials (to maintain security) while still giving them the flexibility of working from wherever they want. This can be especially useful when you have multiple office locations. But what’s most relevant is that cloud computing is great for scalability and growing your businesses. You can quickly scale up or down without losing the money you otherwise would have invested in hardware or software. This is also ideal when you have a restricted physical office space. We believe that the size of your office should not determine the size of your projects.

CD vs Spotify – The future is now

The thing with cloud computing could be compared to keeping media locally on hardware such as CDs. Most of us do not listen to music on them that often anymore or do not use CDs at all. We turn on platforms such as Spotify where the resources – songs – are in the cloud, without any influence on our local, limited memory in smartphones. We also watch Netflix – without the need to carry flash drives with movies or buying additional equipment other than the computer we use for all the other things.

Finally, there’s software. No more Microsoft Office or Adobe installed locally for most of the private users. Also, very popular and trending in the small and mid-sized companies. The software subscription payment model is the most popular one these days as it lowers the cost of the software and enables frequent updates without the need to buy and install new versions. 

Remote work – from Blockchain to COVID-19

Around the world, more people than ever are working remotely. While the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive migration away from the traditional workplace, the evolution of remote work began way before it. All the way from the world’s first offices to the social and technological shifts that have spawned a remote revolution. 

A short history of remote working :

  • The first personal computers hit the scene in 1975.
  • In 1979 IBM allowed five of its employees to work from home as an experiment. 
  • By 1983, roughly 2,000 IBM employees worked remotely. 
  • Also, in 1983, the internet was born. According to Flexjobs, between 2014 and 2018, the number of fully-remote US companies jumped from 26 to 170. 

Blockchain

In the meantime, in 2009, Nakamoto implemented Blockchain technology as a core component of bitcoin, the first-ever cryptocurrency. According to Pawel Gieniec, this might have had a significant impact on remote work, or rather on the media image of remote work.

I think that one of the things that have probably made a significant impact is blockchain. With teams that are building any kind of technology on top of a blockchain, they’re just naturally distributed, and I think that mentality of ‘hey you need to have you know an office or like multiple offices right where people can come in and talk’ – it’s no longer there.

Pawel Gieniec, Cloud Admin

COVID-19

What Blockchain started in the remote work department, COVID-19 has taken to the next level. But as you can see, it has only sped up a process that was already happening. Nevertheless, some people are still skeptical about remote work, especially when working with a remote team extension. In reality, these are more myths than real fears that business leaders have. For example, the myth of startups that are afraid their company culture will suffer. 

I think the startup mindset there’s a lot of you know people that hire friends of friends to help them out with one task or help them build some MVP, so I don’t think that’s any different you know whether you utilize an external company or some friend network.

Pawel Gieniec, Cloud Admin

Does every cloud have a silver lining?

While Cloud computing is not the answer to every problem, it still has a lot to offer. Sometimes people get the wrong idea of its capabilities, whereas the main obstacle often lies in strategy rather than in the cloud itself. 

According to Gartner, most leaders, when asked about their cloud strategy, admit that they don’t have any formal cloud strategy or that their plans are mostly focused on adoption/migration and implementation.

A cloud strategy is critical for every organization, regardless of where it is in its cloud journey. Moving to the cloud without a cloud strategy results in ad hoc adoption patterns, higher costs, disjointed management, security vulnerabilities, and overall dissatisfaction with cloud outcomes. Whereas a solid cloud strategy can reveal what unfulfilled potential may lie on the horizon for an organization, on top of all the technical benefits.

So if you’re thinking about investing in Cloud Solutions, get in touch with Scalac today. We can help you decide whether it’s the right solution for you. One that can match your needs and help you develop a comprehensive strategy that will cover your short-term and long-term goals. 

Stay competitive thanks to the digital transformation. 

Sources

It is inevitable that COVID-19 will disturb not only health but also the economy.

Companies need to lock their businesses down and big decisions are being put aside while waiting for better times to come. However, putting the brakes on some projects may not be the way to go, since no one knows when the dust will settle down. 

The coronavirus outbreak is just a recent example, but any crisis is a potential threat to a project if the concerned parties are not prepared for persevering.

The crisis doesn’t have to fully disturb work, though. While we can’t forget about what’s happening all around us, we’re still able to accomplish tasks and take on new projects with the help of a few adjustments.

One of them is remote work. 

Today, we’ll talk a bit more about remote working and why it might save your business during these turbulent times, even if you assume otherwise.

What are some issues with running a business in challenging times?

KPMG have identified a few common contractual issues for businesses in troubling times, which you can see below. 

Source: KPMG

While all of the aforementioned issues could have created problems a few years ago, they can be easily solved via online, remote management of the projects today.

How does remote working deal with these issues?

Well, it can probably solve them all. For many businesses, a lack of work on site definitely leads to problems with contracts, but it does not apply to technology.

While there is still plenty of uncertainty going forward, the work must go on and work still needs to be done. Even those businesses that are on complete lockdown need to handle the situation somehow. The environment is challenging, but companies must do their best to run their business as usual. The same should apply to internal and external collaborations. 

Being prepared to cater for this new environment is not a choice any longer, especially when nobody knows when the turbulent times will end and business will return to normal. 

If work progresses as usual, except for being managed and reported remotely, then there’s no reason to worry about signing, terminating or breaching contracts. 

Today shows why this is, but should not be, a challenge for many. 

Those who had already adapted to remote working don’t necessarily win today, but more importantly they don’t lose. 

Work can’t stop

It’s understandable that the crisis may dampen the mood for launching, investing or spending resources. Of course, some businesses that are under financial pressure might face problems when it comes to upholding contracts and continuing work. However, if nothing except for the method of working and the economical lockdown changes, then putting technological projects on hold is very often not necessary. Actually, in certain cases, doing so could even be considered irresponsible

Any projects that were launched before the outbreak are likely to be continued now, so those that were scheduled to launch and are ready to go shouldn’t be put on hold either. 

What’s more, and what might be a tad controversial: this may be a really good time to work on certain projects while the World is slowing down a bit, especially if nothing really changes except for the type of work. This is where the following question arises:  how to make it work?

Finding the right partner to run a project is crucial. Nearly everyone is working remotely nowadays, but not many software houses know how to properly sort out their remote workflows. 

Change your approach

Facing the crisis isn’t a perfect situation for either side of a project and the atmosphere can be tense, it’s true. What’s most important is to stay safe, but also to be proactive, productive and keen to find workaround ways to deliver. 

Many businesses facing an external crisis need to quickly adjust to remote working.

Regardless of whether or not they have previously been remote working evangelists, they’re often now being thrown headfirst into a brand new situation that they need to handle.

There’s a hurtful opinion that remote working means a lack of productivity and missing deadlines. The problem doesn’t lie with remote working itself, but rather with business partners who don’t live up to expectations and put more groups off the idea as a result.

It’s a test for collaboration

While external collaboration (with software houses or agencies) is important, the crisis situation also puts internal collaboration to the test. This is another reason why it’s better to persevere on projects with those for whom remote working is their bread and butter. They may share their best practices and help you survive the transition to remote working, while maintaining the project stays up and running. 

It won’t happen overnight. First of all, it takes a lot of work and understanding.

Long story short: being surrounded by business partners who know the nature of remote working can save a whole project.

Keep growing, regardless

In turbulent times, you need to find a way of running your projects and also evaluating any potential risks. Of course you may be concerned about how the whole situation could affect your business, but to survive and be successful you need to grow and, eventually, scale.

If your team is not ready for this, your first thought might be to hire more people to accomplish some tasks. But how can you safely hire someone and conduct appropriate onboarding now, when you have been thrown in at the deep end in terms of working remotely and trying to sort out project management?

Well, you should think about contracting a software development company that is able to complete the project for you. That way, it can be done without you hiring extra people, or spending time on the searching, screening and onboarding process that go with it. Not to mention the additional never-ending costs that you would eventually have to cover.

With contractors, you don’t have such strings attached: if all goes well, you can scale the collaboration. If not, it’s fine to  part ways. What’s more, contracting can be much cheaper than hiring someone full-time, since you will hand a whole project over instead of providing benefits and business expenses for a particular employee. 

Contractors can therefore help you grow and adjust your activities to any current situation,despite reducing costs. So why not jump on a call and talk about it?

To wrap-up

The outbreak may stop some business for a while, and it will probably have an impact on operations. Does this mean that you need to stop too? Not if you don’t have a valid reason to do so, no. Running a business as usual may be one step too far, but if your team has the capabilities to work remotely then make the most of it. If not, provide them with the necessary tools to make remote working easier. In terms of external collaboration, choose those companies that know how to organize their work remotely and have already been doing so for quite a while. 

There are a lot of things to worry about right now, but remote working shouldn’t be one of them. Not with us, anyway.

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Mr. Right 

I want to tell you about working remotely. But before we break down the concept of remote work into smaller chunks, I’ll first lay out why I’m the right person to do this.

I’ve been working remotely for Scalac – a Scala development company – for two and a half years. This has given me enough time to experience all the pros and cons of working from home. This includes figuring out how to behave when a problem is escalating on the other side of the screen, how to manage formal and informal communication and keep my work-life balance healthy. After this time, I can tell you with certainty that it’s possible to connect with and efficiently motivate remote coworkers enough to keep a project up and running. However, for some, breaking free from strict corporate rules and meme-communication might be a challenge.

In my case, remote work was the natural result of my personal development process. I started to experiment with my work environment long before I was fetching project repos on my home network. For me, remote work has been an opportunity to discover the perfect workplace in the sense described below.

What working remotely really means

So, what exactly is remote work? Your first guess is probably  you’d take laptop and stuff from the office and, instead of traveling through a city to your “9–5 building”, move through your living space to the area you’ve assigned to be your “home office.” I know that’s how working remotely might seem from the outside, but this point of view is totally wrong. It’s not just about changing your place of work. It also involves changing your mindset on both your personal and professional life. Communicating screen to screen is different; self-organization in the era of distractions is different; even your working hours and work-life balance might look different at home. As I mentioned before, I’d like to break it all down for you, step by step, and show you how working from home changes your perspective when it comes to:

  • work ergonomics
  • work-life balance
  • self-organization
  • communication

I would also like to emphasize that this guide is based on my own personal experience and discussions with coworkers. Working from home is a journey on which I have discovered what suits me best. What follows shouldn’t be treated as a set of rules, but rather as advice.

Romove Tech Debt with Scalac

Work ergonomics

This might not be the most obvious aspect of working from home. You might remember the “perfect” work position, described in terms of angles for your legs, arms, neck, chair, and monitor to ensure the “correct” posture in front of the computer. I certainly don’t, but I do remember the pain in my neck and lower back caused by uncomfortable chairs and small desks ( which remain too small even after six months processing corporate paperwork for a replacement desk).

At home, you can place your monitor on the wall, have it standing, or use a holding arm to find a position that is comfortable for your neck. You can buy any chair you find comfortable (in my case, a relatively cheap chair from the furniture store was much more convenient than an expensive gaming chair). At the office, your employer takes care of the equipment, but at home, it’s up to you – this can be one of the biggest cons of building your own home office. On the other hand, it can also be one of the biggest pros, because you aren’t limited by health and safety regulations. You can buy the furniture and hardware that suits you best and personalize it as you wish. You don’t have to use 2×17″ monitors; you can use a 34″ one instead. You don’t have to stay sitting all day.

You can split up your workday by:

  • sitting
  • standing
  • standing on a balance board
  • half-lying on a sunbed
  • lying down
  • sitting on a gym ball
  • or any other way you can think up
Ergonomics for Remote Workers
Change your positions during the day

Pose!

Bear in mind that standing might be healthier than sitting, but it’s also more exhausting—meaning that you can lose focus after some time. The same with a balance board—it requires some practice, but once you get used to standing on the board, you can work and work out at the same time (after a few hours, it feels like taking a long walk). Lying down can be refreshing, and it might boost your creativity (for example, I often work 2–3 hours a day in the park lying on a lazy bag or hammock in the summertime).

One of the enormous benefits of working at home is the friendly, informal, and peaceful environment. Researchers at Cornell University point out that Even low-level office noise can increase health risks and lower task motivation for workers. The home environment also makes it more convenient to maintain healthy behavior between work sessions; for example, by exercising during breaks. Which leads us to the next subject.

Work-life balance

By this I mean:

  1. Keeping a healthy balance between time spent at work and time spent on other activities.
  2. Actively avoiding work burnout.
  3. Relaxing your mind after work and releasing work-related stress.
  4. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your body.

While many people are too shy to do even quick workouts at the office, home is a much nicer environment where you can do some sit-ups, deadlifts, pull-ups or stretch. Our bodies play an important role in our lives and keeping them healthy will positively influence your frame of mind as well as improve productivity and focus throughout the workday.

Working remotely saves you approximately 250 hours a year on commuting

Commuting

Another advantage of remote work is avoiding all the disadvantages that relate to commuting. In the USA, the  Average Commute to Work time is around 1h (in Poland, where I live, it’s around 1.3h). That’s a lot of time that you can spend in better ways. It’s literally like leaving work an hour (or more) earlier. It’s an extra hour that you can use for your favorite activities or for spending time with your family. That’s 5 hours a week, about 21 hours a month and 250 hours a year! Not to mention your whole life.

The point is, you can manage your time better because if you don’t have to leave your home; you have more time as well as the space to be yourself.

I usually do 5-minute workouts during every break and meditate for 10 minutes every 4 hours. It helps me to stay fresh and focused during the whole day. It also boosts my ability to focus on problems rather than worry about expectations. Breaks are beneficial ( New Study Shows Correlation Between Employee Engagement And The Long-Lost Lunch Break) and it’s vital that you use them mindfully! 

Working 9 to 5? 

Working at home might be better, but it can also be a nightmare when it comes to your work-life scheduling. Does that sound confusing and scary? Let me explain! At home, you don’t have to stick to traditional 9–5 work hours. You can book calls with coworkers and clients at more convenient times and fit-in your responsibilities at the times that suit you best.

Furthermore, it means you can be more flexible when working with people in different timezones. However, it also means that if you’re not assertive, you can end up working at times that don’t suit you.

Consider trying out some different workday schedules:

  • Fitting most of your work into the first half of the day.
  • Fitting most of your work into the second half of the day (usually with some calls in the morning).
  • Breaking up your work throughout the day.

You should choose the schedule that fits your biorhythm and situation best. However, if you have a tendency to work too hard, it’s very likely that you’re going to try to use all three schedules at once—i.e. work the whole day. Because no one is watching you, there can be a considerable temptation to finish your work by doing overtime… Don’t. Tasks often take more than one day, and it’s easy to underestimate how long any given task will take. You should communicate that you need more time to finish the task to your manager or team leader. Doing overtime is a straightforward recipe for a quick burn-out and draining of your natural enthusiasm for work.

Advanced scheduling

While it’s quite easy to schedule your working hours for either the first or second half of the day, I’ll explain how to approach scheduling a fragmented workday. Imagine you have some free time in the morning you can spend on working, but then you have to take your children to school, then you visit the nearest coffee shop because you need to have a meeting, you also work there for some time before getting back home and finishing up your workday. You can cross over your work with daily tasks and still get everything done; you might discover that this can be extremely beneficial. That said, I would recommend a fragmented work schedule for more experienced remote workers who have excellent time organization skills, as it’s easy to work too much or too little if you fail to plan it carefully.

Other techniques to help you draw a thicker dividing line between work and private life are:

  • Choosing a dedicated place in your home/room to work in. Somewhere you set the rules and won’t be interrupted.
  • Having a distinctive uniform just for work. It might be smart casual or some pajamas, but make sure it’s something you wear only while working. 
  • Turning off notifications. Some people are not bothered by notifications. Others require quality time without ‘work noise.’
Romove Tech Debt with Scalac

Self-organization

Let’s be honest,  the modern world has too many distractions. Workers must often really try hard to stay focused. Don’t blame people. It’s hard to keep a clear mind when you’re surrounded by media specifically engineered to grab your attention. It’s even harder at home because you don’t have coworkers who would give you dirty looks if they noticed you spending the whole day scrolling through news feeds.

How to deal with distractions? 

  • You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned this before: breaks! Adequate breaks are crucial for maintaining your mental capacity and staying focused. It might be a “tea break” every hour or quick breaks using the Pomodoro technique (which I use to refill my water tank and exercise). You should try out whatever you find works for you.
  • To-do lists. Knowing your plans makes them easier to follow. Remember to keep them simple and don’t waste too much time writing to-dos. I use a very minimalistic to-do app. You can do the same or use a more nuanced one, or don’t use an app at all – just describe your plan briefly in notepad.
  • Workflow apps. If you have a lot of responsibilities, it can be very beneficial to use apps for long term planning. You can use Gantt chart apps, agile apps, or even mind maps. Whatever suits you best.
  • Website blockers. There are a few apps that can block distracting websites and apps on a specified schedule. If you have a hard time restraining yourself from checking your favorite meme site every 5 minutes, maybe you should give one a try.
  • Time trackers. Plugins such as coding time trackers might give shocking results at first—in the programming world, not all of your time is spent coding (there are meetings, the creative aspects, the conceptual aspects, etc.). Time trackers will help you identify your productivity cycles and help to figure out how your work can fit in perfectly with your schedule. 
  • Well-implemented agile is a great tool for time and task organization for teams. An essential part of the agile process is to discuss tasks. This will help you organize time and help you build a representation of the task in your mind, generating ideas for solutions.
  • Focus on solutions, not tools. This can be a dead-end for a lot of young apprentices. Tools are meant to solve problems; if they’re becoming an obstacle they should be changed or improved or even thrown away. 
  • And, finally, to be well organized you should communicate with your teammates. Clear, polite and constructive communication is the key. 
We work remotely

Communication

This is an element of remote work – actually I would say any work – that needs a lot of your attention. Because interactions are not forced upon you by office conventions, they require a more proactive approach. You might find it surprising, but remote workers have to communicate! No, you can’t sit in your basement without talking to people for months. Sorry for spoiling that for you. With good leadership, good communication can result in better relationships, where interactions are more meaningful and involve an exchange of useful feedback. 


It’s easier when you work remotely

  • It is easier to schedule appointments working remotely.
  • When you’re not at the office you don’t waste time to find and book a conference room.
  • It is troublesome to interrupt someone speaking remotely.
  • It’s super convenient to use the messaging app and, because all messages are saved as text, sometimes this lets you skip overplanned meetings (and make no mistake, IT developers hate overplanned meetings).
  • It is also more convenient to pair program on other workstations, sharing your IDE session instead of a keyboard.

…but it’s not hassle-free

It all sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Of course! But there’s a dark side as well. Even though it’s mainly a stereotype, some IT workers, just like any other,  can be somewhat specific individuals, who don’t have a strong desire to communicate. Proactivity is crucial for keeping workers “alive” in a company network. No one will see your face or detect your mood. Remotely, your presence will be limited, so it’s super important to verbalize your needs and worries.

You might ask:

  • How will your team lead/manager know you’re struggling with a task?
  • How will anyone know that you’ve taken on too much work and need help?
  • How can you improve your project when you are frustrated with it but haven’t told anyone?
  • What should you do after finishing your current task?
  • What’s in your boss’s mind?

These are the kinds of questions that a remote worker must take into consideration and communicate. On a personal level, this requires practice, proactivity, and goodwill; on the company level, this involves strategy. At Scalac, we use different kinds of remote and in-person activities to engage employees. Mentoring programs to help newcomers with remote work, and special programs for exchanging feedback and to encourage coworkers to give constructive feedback.

Finally, I want you to remember that different people have different social sensitivities and needs. Some employees might be much more productive and communicative when doing all their communication remotely. Others require real-time interactions with varying frequencies to maintain their enthusiasm for the company’s mission. And both ways are okay. 

Summary

In my opinion, remote work is a great way to improve team spirit. It’s also a great life-choice when approached in the right way. Traditional office work hours fail to use employees’ productivity optimally and are often detrimental to their health and work-life balance. Remote work is an opportunity that can be beneficial for many people in different sectors. In my experience, it naturally boosts my excitement about the challenges posed by work. As Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life“. A work environment that you can shape to your needs is a powerful tool for maintaining this attitude throughout your entire life.

Are you Programming in Scala? Looking for new job opportunities? Wanting to work remotely?

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