Working remotely as a producer
How are you doing? This is a blog post that people have requested quite often, especially in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I wanted to cover the differences between working remotely and in-house as a producer, and what tools you can use to work effectively remotely.
Because of the pandemic, studios are choosing to open a lot more remote roles which I see as a plus, as it can benefit people who would have otherwise had to move to expensive cities, or people with disabilities and dependents. So I think it's opening up a whole new world for people and that's fab!
However, it's not without it's challenges so I'm gonna talk about the challenges specific to producers and also some general remote working challenges that I've overcome recently.
There are a few major differences between working remotely and in-house that have been noticeable and do present a few challenges;
You miss those random work conversations that occur on the fly and can help you solve problems & check the status of things casually
If someone is struggling or needs support, it's harder to notice that online and it can be tricky to have those personal conversations online (but that depends on the person, some people find it easier!)
You can't nag people as much because people can just choose not to reply haha
Getting to know people might take a bit longer since you don't have those tea break convos that are good ice breakers
All your tools need to be online and you can't use the usual scum boards etc.
It's easy to either get distracted by things (if you're working from home) or if you're like me, it's easy to forget to take breaks and separate work from home
However, all these challenges are IMO easily overcome with a few different strategies. I gotta hand it to No More Robots because a lot of this was already in place before I joined, but here are a few tips to make sure remote working is good for everyone!
A casual drop-in channel on Discord/Slack/etc.
Sometimes called the Spam Channel or the Water Cooler, it's a place where you can put off-topic conversation and it helps you get to know others. It's the same kinda conversation you'd see at the tea station, bonus points for spicy memes and cat pictures. :D I recommend setting this up if you don't have one already! I've also heard of people having this put in the form of a voice chat/webcam room which is totally cool as well but if you're in your PJ's all day like me, maybe not (more on that later.)
Find the right tools that replicate the real world
If you're the kind of Producer that has tried and tested in-house work processes but you've been flung into the remote world, you don't necessarily need to rethink your entire process when there are tons of great tools available now to enable you to work as you did, just online. One of my big recommendations at the moment is Miro - it's an online whiteboard software with tons of templates and functionality that can be shared with your team. It has scrum/kanban boards, mindmaps, places where you can all just put post-its and scribbles and has all sorts of ways to collaborate and work together. It can be super free form or more structured if you like. Give it a go! Oh yeah and for the most part it is free. That's a common theme for me because I'm a cheapskate.
I also really like another tool called Slite which is a online wiki-style tool that is super user-friendly and nice to look at (your pages can have EMOJIS like, hello) so if you're looking for a nice place to lay out design documentation then check that out. It's also FREE unless you go over 50 pages a month which I don't think you'd do unless you are working for a huge studio. I used this both in-house and remotely and it's been useful either way.
It goes without saying, in terms of technical tools, you need to move all of your build repositories and stuff online, which is good practice anyway so you have a safe back-up.
Regular 1:1's with your reports
This is good advice remote or not, but if you have direct reports, or if you are the kind of person that team members come to for advice, I recommend scheduling regular team 1:1's. Especially at the moment. When you're remote, you can't get the vibes in the office - you can't tell if your team mate looks sick, or tired, or looks upset about something, so you have to rely on them telling you. And typing out those words out of the blue can be tricky for people. Of course, your door should always be open for people to do that, but having a regular, dedicated space for a chat is especially important for remote working because it provides a space where people can tell you if they are struggling, that they know will be there for them at a set time if they find it difficult to initiate tricky conversations. I will probably have future blog posts about 1:1's and what they should contain because honestly they are such an important and valuable tool, but make sure you do them, and do them consistently.
A daily call
I always found the daily stand-ups in-house to be super valuable (when done correctly) and so this should be replicated online too. I always think a daily call in the morning is a good idea, it sets the tone for the day, everyone has an opportunity to ask questions. I really advise this is done via voice chat and not text chat (unless there is an unavoidable reason not to) - you need one space in the day to verbally touch base. I think it's also okay for these to last a bit longer than the daily scrum would normally be because it's your main opportunity in the day to actually talk to people - Monday calls especially when you're chatting about random things you did at the weekend. Or discussing the latest game industry tea which is the gift that keeps on giving lol.
Work/Home Life Separation
There are already 12 bajillion blog posts about this so I won't cover this too extensively, and I'm also gonna give you some advice that I still absolutely struggle to follow myself so soz I'm a huge hypocrit, but BASICALLY. Make sure there is a tangible divide between home and work, both in your physical space if possible, and mentally. If like me you had your PC on your shitty half-broken ironing board over lockdown and you only have one room to work in, at the end of the day FOLD IT AWAY. Just do something, however small, to say to yourself 'work is done now.' Also turn off your work email notifications. PRODUCERS. I know you suck at this, I see you. We can't do everything all the time 24/7, please try to have a life haha.
Some blogs tell you to get dressed and not work in your PJ's but the jury's out for me, not having to do my eyeliner every morning was nice for a while. Not that I HAVE to do it but I kinda do otherwise I don't feel right if I'm off outside. You know what I mean!
That's pretty much all I have for now - as I said, the differences aren't major biggies and any problems can be overcome. There are down sides to working in-house too, so it's swings and roundabouts really in terms of which is better or not, it'd be a very individual thing.
Hope that was helpful, and if you are a remote worker and have any tips to share then do leave a comment!