Our Experiences With Socially-distanced Socializing
March 1, 2021 | 9 minute read
Working from home may have its perks, but it has also presented us with a few challenges in maintaining our social life at the Kolibri Games HQ. While 2020 started with the big announcement that we joined Ubisoft and our 4th anniversary party – we soon found out that this would be the last time in 2020 all Kolibris would be working and celebrating together in one building.
After almost one year of working from home, the view from the 16th floor, catching up over coffee in the lobby, or getting together for lunch and chatting about non-work-related things, seem like distant memories. When you aren’t able to see and talk to your team eye-to-eye every day, it’s a little bit more difficult to feel connected to the people you are working with. That’s why we have been coming up with creative ways to socialize and connect on days where our real-life social interactions are limited to the Lieferando delivery person.
From our anniversary party…
…to an empty office space.
At Kolibri Games we have all kinds of living situations, from the developer living with his or her spouse and two children in Brandenburg to the couple who just relocated to Berlin before the lockdown, sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Kreuzberg.Not everyone had a desk and comfortable working chair at home – so we took care of that by introducing a virtual office bonus for purchasing supplies for everybody’s office setup at home. We don’t want to risk lifelong back problems from hunching over a laptop balanced on our knees! And if your neighbor plays German Schlager hits on full-blast all day – we’ll provide some noise-canceling headphones to solve that problem.
Read more on how our remote work task force transitioned our 100+ person company to Home Office here
The Challenges of Meaningful Connection
While we adapted to the whole virtual office situation and quickly resumed getting productive from home, we still had to face some challenges. To make everybody as comfortable as possible during an already stressful year, we tried to listen to every Kolibri’s needs and to come up with flexible solutions to work together as a team. Daily communications in our teams usually happen over Slack with the necessary Zoom meeting in-between. Not every Kolibri might be an extroverted Zoomer and might be very comfortable handling conversations in the quiet of a Slack channel. Whatever floats your boat – just get on the ship 😉
As important as getting the next project done is, getting to know the people you are working with and feeling connected to them is just as valuable. Our different Slack channels have proven quite innovative in this respect. People easily moved their social chatter online: We continue our book club remotely, show off (and sometimes complain about) our pets, share our love for anime, and challenge each other to a casual game of Among Us during lunch.
Connecting Through a Screen
Especially during a lockdown, having social connections and talking to people about other things than work is key for a healthy mindset. Our regular virtual events offer the chance to get to know each other better and make it possible to form a bond between Kolibris who cannot get together in person right now.
“Virtual events can form a real-life connection. I’m thinking of all the company inside jokes stemming from technical fails during meetings or sharing emotional moments – like when we all watched our Year in Review video together – that’s a bonding moment! For us, there was no question that we had to keep our Christmas party going during Lockdown – even if it’s just possible online. That’s what’s impacting our culture as a whole: That we’re spontaneous, ambitious, open for new ideas, fun to be around, and share and celebrate our successes. It shows how we personally but also as a company like to try new paths.”
Friederike was in charge of planning Kolibri’s first all-virtual Christmas party
Team Odyssey is also known to get quite artsy during their Scribble sessions
Even our keenest tabletop gamers still manage to gather around a (virtual) table almost every week winging their swords against dragons. “It’s the feeling of community I sometimes miss but it also offers up new ways to connect – we are all sitting in the same boat and that can also drive us together,” our Brand Artist Barry says, “I mean, most of us are nerds, we know how to use the tech and so it was easy to set up a Discord – sometimes we also all listen to the same music to give it some atmosphere – it’s definitely not the same but I’m looking forward to meeting the group every week.” This can act as a positive distraction, some relaxing timeout, or an energizing team-building activity.
Another team came up with the idea of regularly sharing a meal through their screens. “We each ordered the takeaway of our choice and dialed into Zoom to eat messily on camera and have our random social chats. Instead of passing our phone around a table, we still got to share Youtube links and screen share pictures,” says Lauren of hangouts with her Community Management team. Especially in a fast-growing company where we have new teams forming and new colleagues joining us completely remotely, it’s important to take the time to get to know each other outside of work meetings.
Recognizing these different ideas originating from our teams and sensing the need to connect more, we launched a company-wide Game Night and monthly Kolibri Lunch Breaks starting in February. This March we will follow-up with a crafting event to get our creative juices flowing.
“Of course, the experience is still different online. At the office we had a strong culture of getting together during lunch or after work – there was always something going on and we get the feedback that people truly miss this – it has a huge impact on how we work, how we motivate, and inspire each other. The socializing might not happen as organically as when everybody comes together in an office but it’s important to offer up opportunities to come together even if it takes a bit more effort to organize and schedule.”
Clara got the idea to bring the socializing events online
The Kolibri Games Design team enjoys cooking together
Overcoming Zoom Fatigue
Boris finds that his design team actually got closer through their virtual meetings. They introduced a team chat that’s specifically for private communication throughout the day and are regularly cooking together for lunch – but that’s not mandatory. The longer the lockdown, the faster the Zoom fatigue can set in. While hair grows longer, and beards grow wilder from meeting to meeting, people can get overwhelmed by their daily increasing screen time. That’s why we try to keep our team syncs short and effective for when we have to get some stuff done while also making time for socializing.
“For me, it’s important that all these activities remain voluntary. With Zoom you have to schedule every event and lots of spontaneous actions get lost that way. We got used pretty fast to our “new normal” way of communication and working from home. Take breaks, move around and go to the kitchen for coffee, have a chat here and there and give your eyes a rest. It’s going to be interesting when we implement the 4+1 system so that some people from a team will be in the office and some at home.”
Boris recommends countering Zoom fatigue by emulating your office work behavior even at home
Read all about why at Kolibri we plan to implement the 4+1 work model for working from wherever you feel most productive
Despite handling the switch to remote working while still keeping in touch with our colleagues relatively well, we are looking forward to joining forces again in the office soon. If this sounds like a work environment you’d thrive in, have a look at our open positions and apply!