Episode #10 - Could CookiesHQ every become a fully remote operation?

Behind the Screens #4: How we manage a remote team

This week Nic and Nathalie sit down to talk about the challenges and benefits of working and managing a team remotely. Since starting CookiesHQ from a home office a decade ago, they’ve always embraced flexible remote working finding it crucial to have a separation between work and home – especially when there’s a newborn around!


Nic had imagined that CookiesHQ would at some point become a fully remote organisation, with the idea that this would allow you to hire the best people you can afford regardless of their location. But, having been forced into this scenario by Covid-19, he’s found himself re-evaluating that vision.


They talk about the importance of trusting your employees to get the work done, even if it’s not necessarily done within 9-5 hours. Nic and Nathalie have worked hard to foster an open, honest and genuinely caring culture at Cookies so, despite Nic being a self confessed “recovering micro-manager”, you won’t find any monitoring software on our machines. They highlight the value in making an effort to communicate with employees on a personal level, keeping an eye out for signs of loneliness or burnout and injecting some fun into the working week with mini challenges and group coffee breaks.


Nic and Nathalie are both missing the office – there’s nothing that beats being in the same room with your employees, and it’s especially helpful when on-boarding new team members. But it’s not all about the employees. As an agency that places huge value on our relationships with clients, we see our office as the home of Cookies – a home that we welcome clients into for discovery sessions, meetings or even just a coffee, in the hope that they feel as though they are part of our team.


Ultimately, while Nic’s accepted that a fully remote operation isn’t going to work for CookiesHQ, they agree that flexibility around where and how we work is key for businesses and happy employees – during the Covid pandemic and beyond.


This is the fourth in a series of Behind the Screens episodes in which Nic and Nathalie will reflect on everything going on at CookiesHQ and look ahead to what’s on the horizon.


Join the conversation on the CookiesHQ Twitter. Head over to LinkedIn to find out more on Nic and Nat.



Read the transcript

Nic:
Hello, and welcome to the Tough Cookies podcast. This is our special series Behind the Screens where Nat and I talk about what’s going on in the Cookies world. I’m tonight again with Nat. How are you?

Nathalie:
Hello. I’m okay, thank you.

Nic:
Yeah. It’s our fourth episode.

Nathalie:
Yeah.

Nic:
How was your week?

Nathalie:
It was good. What happened this week? Well, we had the launch event of the UWE Summer Scholarship Program, where we’re both mentors actually.

Nic:
Yeah.

Nathalie:
So, only I attended the event because of the situation where one of us has to look after the children when the other one works. So yeah, on Wednesday they had their launch event. The Summer Scholarship Program is the university program where a bunch of students, I think probably about 40 or 50 this time, it’s quite a big one this year, are accepted into this program to be mentored by a bunch of people like us on their startup project. So, it’s quite exciting to have all of these students getting to-

Nic:
And that was one of those remote events again, isn’t it?

Nathalie:
It was a remote event. It was quite funny because they had, I don’t know, about a hundred people all connected at the same time on the online platform. It was quite interesting, but actually it went really smoothly to be honest, so kudos to them to making it work.

Nic:
Good job UWE.

Nathalie:
Yes, absolutely. So, now we’re waiting to be matched to the students and then, I think it’s eight weeks where they’ll be working on their startups and we were going to be catching up with them on a regular basis to see what’s happening and hopefully get them going and help them on their way, which is always exciting.

Nic:
Cool. I can’t wait to see what people are going to be coming through with. My week this week, I was somehow very productive, managed to send the discovery session technical document that we were talking about for one of our clients. They’re working on the second one and I talked to quite a few new startups, Bristol-based startups, that are looking to launch quite innovative apps, which is quite interesting.

Nic:
So, you can feel that it’s bubbling again, and people are ready to move on, which is interesting. And I guess that brings us as a sideway to what we want to talk about tonight, which is the after COVID situation and especially what does it mean for the office.

Nathalie:
Yeah. Quite a lot of people have talked about, “Should we or should we not go back to an office? What happened there?” Because obviously, everyone has had to adapt to this situation, take everything online. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but there’s quite a lot of conversations around it.

Nic:
Yeah. I spoke to a few people, especially the ones in our building and some are not reopening the office until August, I think. Some are even talking about September, October, and I’ve heard for some, which are not reopening for the whole of this year apparently. I mean, we’ve obviously closed the office during the locked down and I think right now there’s like one or two people going to the office on Pollock street.

Nathalie:
Yeah. So, Denis moved house last week or the week before, I don’t know.

Nic:
The week before, yeah.

Nathalie:
And he obviously didn’t have internet when he moved in. So, he had to go to the office to work from somewhere and he was on his own there, but then the office is quite big and Simon, yeah, quietly would have his large monitor and things to work with and sort of a bit of a change of scenery is all, after three months working from his flat. So, I think at the moment it’s mostly the two of them working there.

Nic:
It’s mostly the two of them and I go like once or twice a week just for the morning, just because I crave seeing other humans around.

Nathalie:
It’s big enough. And yeah, I brought a bunch of soap and hand gel and all of that stuff. So yeah, I guess I don’t think we would go back now to a normal and fully functioning office with everyone. But I guess for this time being, having a few people in doesn’t really.

Nic:
So what’s your take on the whole, we had to embrace fully, like a full remote team for the past three months> What was your take on that?

Nathalie:
Well, it’s funny because it never really worried me because we had everything already. We’ve had remote people in the past, so we knew kind of what was happening, and we had everything in place, all the communication tools, everything we knew we could do remotely, but I think it’s shown the downsides of being remote, I guess, and having to work from home, because it’s not all nice and rosy. It can be hard and it can be tough. So yeah, I guess for me it’s crucial in my opinion that we do need an office.

Nic:
It’s funny because for a couple of years, I’ve been thinking about, “What if Cookies was becoming one of these like fully remote agency and then we would have …” I think we had like a multiple inclination in our head where we would have like small pockets of people. We would hire, I don’t know, a team in Newcastle, a team in London, a team in Bristol or whatever, or what would it take for Cookies to be completely fully a remote operation without even an office in Bristol.

Nic:
And I always thought, “Hey, we can do it. That could be quite nice.” The commute is not the thing because we commute what, half an hour? So, the commute was not my main driver. I think the main driver for me was more, you can access the best people that you can afford from wherever they are. And also you offer the people the flexibility of choosing where they live.

Nic:
Unfortunately having spent three months in full remote, I can say now that this is not what I want. I think it was like the kind of like idealisation of it or I was dreaming that it would be a fantastic operation and actually I can’t do it for a long period of time. I crave the interaction, I crave the seeing other people.

Nathalie:
Yeah, it’s funny ’cause we’ve always had an office actually if you think about it, even when it was just the two of us, because we can’t really work together in the same office, physically all the time. So, from very, very early on, one of us would stay home and the other one would go to the coffee shop or to another office or somewhere.

Nathalie:
And then after a few months, well, about a year after we started Cookies, we had Timmy. And when he was a newborn, so obviously I was on maternity leave for a while, but there was no way for you to stay at home and work from home. It’s just not possible when you’ve got a newborn at home. This is just not … yeah, it’s not a good situation. So you’d always go out and work from somewhere from another office, I guess.

Nic:
It was not the office, coffee shops. I think the Watershed was my base at some point.

Nathalie:
Yeah. And then when I came back from maternity leave, we had to get an office because we had to have that separation between home and work a bit more. I mean, it’s hard enough being new parents when you work together on top of it. Yeah, you do need that separation. So, that’s why we got the office at the tobacco factory in the first place. And that’s why … So we’ve always had an office. We’ve never really worked remotely or from home. You did when you were freelancing.

Nic:
But even then at the same time, yes, we had an office, but because it was still the two of us and we’re splitting some strength, not on the relationship but more like, you don’t want to spend 24 hours, 24/7 with the same person. So even then, we were working also remotely a bit and then we started to put into place, it was Hipchat at the time, like Slack didn’t exist.

Nic:
And we started to put into place stuff like Hipchat and whatnot to actually help us communicate. So, we would work remotely even if we were in the same city or even if we were in the same building sometimes. Like I would go into the cafe downstairs, you would be upstairs and we could still communicate if needs be.

Nathalie:
Yeah, that’s true.

Nic:
So, we kind of like had this bubbling hybrid model where we could function remotely, but we also had a base.

Nathalie:
Yeah. And then we hired people, well in Bristol to start with, our first employee.

Nic:
Yeah.

Nathalie:
Jack was in Bristol.

Nic:
The first employment was in Bristol.

Nathalie:
And then after that, we hired really quickly. We had Rob, Julio and Gemma. The three of them were in Bristol and joined the office in the tobacco factory, but Julio was based in Spain. And I think when we hired him, it was more about the skills and having the right person rather than having just the right location. It didn’t really matter. So, that’s where your idea of being remote worked, because we had everything in place and we thought, “You know what? He’s a great developer. He’s exactly who we need at the moment, so his location shouldn’t matter.” So we hired him and actually he stayed with us, I don’t know, two or three years, quite a long time.

Nic:
A couple of years, yeah.

Nathalie:
And it kind of worked. It worked for a while, but I don’t think we did everything perfectly because I don’t think we really anticipated all of the issues that would come with it or the sort of little things that after a while you sort of, have a bigger weight than you think they would.

Nic:
I think it’s first off, fair to mention that for a long time, Julio was the only remote employee. So we had like a couple of people in Bristol, so I think four or five people in Bristol. And he was the only remote one online. And it must be difficult. I’ve never been in that situation, but it must be difficult from the other side to just be like … As much as you can try as owners of the company to try to create and foster that culture of like everybody is remote or everybody is online or whatever, it’s not the same to interact with each other, having a coffee and forcing yourself to open up the video, go on to Google Meet or now Zoom or whatever, and have a coffee over video kind of stuff. It’s not the same.

Nathalie:
No. We try to do a lot of things. Remember the app that would take a picture?

Nic:
Oh, Squiggle.

Nathalie:
Squiggle.

Nic:
Yeah, Squiggle.

Nathalie:
So we used that. I mean, we used a lot of tools and it did help. I think it worked to some extent. And we also flew Julio over a few times so we could actually spend time with him.

Nic:
At least once or twice a year, yeah. And he would spend every Christmas with us. Well, he would fly around Christmas with us.

Nathalie:
Yeah, just at least a week. So he could actually be with us and we’d get to know him and that was great. But yeah, it’s still not the same as having everyone in the same room. So yeah, I think there are lessons learn and I don’t think I would hire just one remote person anymore. I think he got really lonely towards the end. It’s quite odd.

Nic:
It was hard. And both sides tried to do our best, but it must be really difficult to be the only one. I think what we had at some point, which … So Rob then moved to Manchester and then he was … So he spent a couple of years with us, like two or three years before moving to Manchester. And then he was still working with us remotely from Manchester.

Nic:
And at the same time, we also had Harry who was in Yeovil, which is like an hour drive from Bristol kind of thing. And that kind of like hybrid model where we could still easily see each other. Like we could say, “You know what, let’s book a couple of train tickets and let’s spend two or three days together.” kind of stuff, and go for like a full event together and have an evening drinks or whatever. That worked really well. Also the fact that Rob has spent a lot of time with us in the office. So, that kind of like helped the relationship.

Nathalie:
Yeah, because we knew him already when he moved, quite well. So, you could somehow read him, because I think for me the main issue when you have remote people is the lack of interaction is one, but you can’t read people the same way on a chat that you can when you’re in person.

Nic:
No.

Nathalie:
You can’t see their emotions as well. I mean, even if you talk to them several times a day, it’s always by video and you don’t act the same and you don’t look the same and it’s not the same as just going for coffee or going for lunch and then you talk about anything and everything. So it’s this, I think, the human side events which is missing. It’s got nothing to do with the work and the task and all of that. It’s actually the human interaction.

Nic:
So I think we established the fact that we’re never going to be a full remote operation, but at the same time, we can’t shy from the fact that the world is going towards more people wanting to be remote. Not everybody wants to be full-time remote. I think that’s the important differentiation here to be having. Like we see all those big names, Facebook and Zoom and Slack and what’s not that, all saying everybody is going to be allowed to be remote full-time and all these like PR announcements things.

Nic:
But it doesn’t mean that everybody wants to be 100% remote all the time. I think there is a balance to strike in between, which is what we trained to do with the office. We’ve always tried to do that. Like at the same time that I don’t think the answer is 100% remote all the time. We never approached the office as, “You have to be present 100% of the time.” It was always left to discretion of people when they would come to the office whenever they want.

Nathalie:
Because we’ve always done it that. I mean, I think you go to the office almost all the time.

Nic:
Yeah.

Nathalie:
But I don’t, I think because I need more time on my own and it’s just a different personality. But if I have something that I really need to focus on, then I’d rather stay at home. Or, you know, if we’re you waiting for a delivery or anything. I mean, we’ve always done that by default. So, I don’t see why we should be doing something and then not allow our team to do the same. Whatever we do, they should be able to … allow them to do it as well. So that’s why by default, that’s the way we’ve worked it I think.

Nathalie:
Now, yeah, I read recently a study … a research or you know a study that said that I think the happiest employees were those who could work remote, but had at least one day in the office to actually be with people and be around people. So, it goes to show that it’s not being completely remote. And I think, I mean, it’s quite brave for these big companies to say they’re going to go fully remote. Maybe it will work for the type of employees that they have, but I’m really not convinced it’s going to work for everyone.

Nathalie:
I think if one thing has been shown during COVID and no one could have predicted that three months in and we’d still be working from home or most of us would be. Three months is quite a short time if you think about it, but it feels like such a long time to be working from home and to be stuck at home. So it’s definitely not for everyone and it’s not for all the companies. And yeah, I think I would be worried if a lot of them didn’t offer an office to go to because it just doesn’t suit every kind of personality.

Nic:
I’m wondering if at some point we’re going to see … So we live in Portishead now, which is like what? A half an hour drive from Bristol centre. And I’m wondering if now in suburbs cities or in the cities that are outside of the city centres where most of the offices are, I’m wondering if we’re going to see at some point the WeWork type kind of buildings, but specifically dedicated to people that are working remotely and like they may have their office in London, they may have their office in Bristol or whatever, but they don’t want to go to the office or they now can work remotely, but they still want to be around other humans, but not of their own company at most.

Nathalie:
A co-working space for remote workers.

Nic:
Yes, exactly. Co-working space for remote workers is like, I guess you need to have some elements of privacy somewhere, but at the same time you can share and exchange with like other people. I’m wondering if that’s going to become a thing or not.

Nathalie:
I mean, it could do, why not? I mean, the whole point for me is to be flexible rather than to impose something on other people. And I think if I need the flexibility, I don’t see why other people must need it as well. There’s also this thing with parents. I mean, it’s true that well, if you can work a couple more hours in the day because you had the flexibility to go pick up your children at school and then they are big enough to look after themselves.

Nathalie:
So a couple of hours, which means that you can finish your day, or if you can stay at home to do a couple of things or to wait for a delivery or whatever it is, why not offer it if you can? It shouldn’t make any difference. It doesn’t to us anyway because, I mean we do software developments, though let’s be honest, everything is on a laptop. As long as you’ve got your laptop, you can work from anywhere. So yeah, really for companies like ours where it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’ve got a good internet connection and your laptop with you, then why not offer it?

Nic:
I think what scares me the most, if a lot of people are going to work after the COVID, if a lot of people are going to work more remotely, let’s forget about this idea of like everybody is going full-time 100% remote, but they are working more remote. I’ve seen or I’ve read some examples of teams where I don’t know, owners of the companies or leaders … I don’t know if you can call them leaders at that level, in that case.

Nic:
But they’re installing like stuff to monitor people, to control their usage of their own internet or to control their own like, “What you’re doing?” You know these kind of things that take screenshots every couple of minutes of your screen, just to make sure that-

Nathalie:
Well, let’s be honest. If they do it, then they probably already do it in their own companies when you’re working from their office. And it’s so-

Nic:
Yeah, I think there is. There is.

Nathalie:
It’s weird anyway.

Nic:
No, there is a thing where like, those people are losing touch and they’re clearly the companies that have never worked remote before. They have to embrace working remotely from like overnight almost, but they lost touch with, what is the idea of like trusting your team, trusting the people that work with you to say, “The work is going to be done.” It might not be done in a 9:00 to 5:00 as is in an office. Like some people will stop for an hour or two to play video games in the middle of the day.

Nic:
Or they may actually like me, I will stop in the afternoon to play a bit with the kids and then I will go back in afternoon … Oh, in the evening, a bit more to like finish whatever I was doing. So it doesn’t mean that the work is not done. It just means that it’s done differently. And I think that’s the important bit to recognise when you are embracing this remote culture ideas is, work is going to be done, but it’s going to be done in your team’s way. And you should let them do, as long as the outcome is okay.

Nathalie:
It’s team culture, it’s company culture. And again, it’s something we’ve tried really hard to put in place because I think, somehow we’ve always tried to build in Cookies, a place where we would want to work. I mean, you’ve worked in larger companies before and there were things that you didn’t particularly enjoy like a grey cubicle.

Nic:
Time sheets.

Nathalie:
And time sheets. Do you want to talk about time sheets because you love time sheets.

Nic:
I hope Suzie is listening to us, she would love that. I hate time sheets with passion and no, I’m refusing us to just have time sheets. But at the same time, I’ve recently had that conversation with Denis where he’s currently handling quite a few things. And it would be interesting to know sometime where the time is spent, but even with that need, I just can’t see myself asking someone to fill a time sheet. I just … No, I don’t want to.

Nathalie:
It’s company culture so yeah, it goes down to trust, to being focused on the outcome rather than the time actually spent. And if someone is really productive one day … because you’ve got those, when you’re a bit more productive and days when you’re a bit less productive and that’s very normal. It’s also understanding that you can’t work eight hours flats every day. It’s just not true.

Nathalie:
But if you’ve got a really productive day, well then go off an hour early. That’s fine, as long as your job is done for the day. And we’ve never asked anyone to say, “I’ve worked eight hours, nine hours, 10 hours, whatever.” It’s not about the time. It’s about what you do and how you do it. So, that’s what’s important. And then sometimes it does happen that you’re not too sure if someone is pulling their weight when they’re working remote.

Nathalie:
So we’ve had the case before where we had someone who … we were unsure what they were doing … Obviously, you don’t jump at it on the first day. You wait a few days, you monitor it a bit more closely and if the work is not getting done quite right, or if you think that … It’s not slacking, it’s just you’re questioning the effort put in, then it’s all about communicating and being honest and open about it and approaching this conversation. We’ve had these conversations before in the past a few times and actually most of the time it was something we had missed.

Nic:
Yeah.

Nathalie:
It wasn’t any fault on the part of the employee. You need to be comfortable to have these conversations with your team members and be like, “Look, something is not quite right here. I can’t understand. Why did this go too slow and what’s happening here?” And it’s not about passing any judgments. It’s quite the opposite actually.

Nathalie:
It’s trying to understand, if something has happened in their personal life or with the project that you’ve missed, that you haven’t seen, which has impacted the productivity or the work, and then finding a solution together to improve it. So yeah, it’s trust and communication and honesty and working together more than anything else I think.

Nic:
So as we, hopefully are going to be listened by people that are looking to re-emerge part of their work life. Do you have any tips for those people that are looking to get there, whether they are, I guess from both sides because we sit on both sides. Like we produce the work, but we also manage a remote team. So regardless, do you have any tips on your side?

Nathalie:
From the management of the remote workers, quite a few actually. I think one thing is to make an effort to communicate with them often and a bit more, and on a personal level and not just on the work level, because otherwise you’re at a risk of missing signs of loneliness or burnout, or people sometimes when they work from home or when they don’t have this separation between home and work, they tend to work too many hours. And they can’t sustain that for too long, so burnout I think is a big risk.

Nathalie:
The same as it is for us. It’s slightly different because we’re the co-founders and therefore we tend to work constantly, but it’s the same principle where, if you never stop, that’s where you’ll burn out, and because at some point you’re just going to go mad. And loneliness is also quite hard to spot because if you’ve got someone in your team who is a bit more quiet during video calls or everything, I think you should make an effort to actually go out to them and chat to them and have this little bit more interaction which is very important, and just to see if everything is going all right, and just yeah, make sure you have this conversations regularly.

Nic:
I think what we’ve done during this lockdown, these kind of like little challenges or little … We had the retrospectives as well online and we had the team challenge like once or twice a week that allowed us to discover other facets of personalities that we would not have done in a normal office environment in the space there. But also those kind of like water cooler breaks and water cooler kind of video breaks where a small team or a small part, or the whole team joins for like an hour coffee break and we just talk about nonsense or we just talk about whatever is happening on tele or like whatever.

Nic:
That is quite useful to just enforce, especially as we … at least some were all remote, to like enforce these chats or casual chat, which is, it’s not just all about work. I think I’m a bit more concerned around the communication aspects. So, we all now live where we have Slack and we have Google team because I hate Zoom. We have Whereby and we have a lot of tools that allows us to communicate, but sometimes I think, especially like before we moved, there is communication overload. I think one thing I would like us to see doing better is to strike a balance between the reactive communication, which is what Slack is for.

Nic:
But Slack is also extremely disruptive when you’re working and like you see somebody “@-ing” you or whatever. And yes, you can set away, you can mute the notification even when they “@” you. Like, how is it called this … It’s not focus mode, but it has a mode where you can hide even when people “@” you or something like that.

Nic:
But it requires you to think about it, to put it on and then to remove it and these kind of things. I think this communication of Lords can be sort by using asynchronous tools like Basecamp or Asana or whatever, that people can check on their own time. But at the same time, you don’t want to cut the communication channels because you want people to continue to communicate and continue to have a team sense. So I don’t know how we can strike a better balance, but I think there is something to be done here.

Nathalie:
I think you need to adapt because not everyone will work the same way and not everyone will want to work in the same way. And that’s why you need to use a variety of tools. Some people will like asynchronous messages better, others need the answers on Slack immediately. And that’s fine as long as … And I think it’s more the role of managers, and in our team, project managers more than anyone else.

Nathalie:
We need to be able to answer the questions and the needs of all the developers in their team the way they want it done. But also being able to sort of manage the projects and the clients maybe in another way. So I don’t see for me using a variety of tools. If you don’t want to use Slack then just turn it off and that’s it. You don’t need it if you’re doing something else.

Nic:
That’s what I’ve reverted to doing at the moment. It’s like, I literally turn Slack off for an hour or two and then come back and check the messages.

Nathalie:
And that works for you and that’s fine, but it wouldn’t work for me.

Nic:
No. But it’s really difficult for me as well, because I am a recovering micromanager, let’s face it, and-

Nathalie:
Or you can always check Slack when you come back and I mean, to be honest, there’s not that much communication that you need. And if there’s really an emergency, then we know how to reach you. We always know how to reach people if there’s really something that needs looking at right now.

Nic:
But if I’m stopping Slack, is not because … because I’m quite good at … I mean, I only have two incubations when people “@” me, and I’m quite good obsessing myself away in Slack and these kind of things. If I’m stopping Slack, it’s to create another buyer to not distract other people. And I think that’s the important thing here, is that I know I can be distracting. I know I can like have a thought and I would just like say something, ask a question or whatever.

Nic:
And it’s something difficult for me to not do, so therefore stopping Slack and making sure that I have an extra … I even removed it from the docs. So it’s like it’s, I have to actively go and open Slack in order to ask a question is. It’s something that I do. But at the same time when discussions are flowing, I do find it difficult to not look in the channel to not be distracted by playing on this discussion here. Maybe my attention would be needed soon, so therefore I’m reading the whole threads and, yeah.

Nathalie:
But it depends. Again, it depends on your job because I guess a developer probably needs a few hours of real productivity and being in the zone to actually produce what they should produce, which is code, whereas a project manager will do a lot of little task here. And yes, we do need moments where we are not distracted because we are right in the middle of planning something or testing whatever were are doing, but it’s not quite the same job. And that’s why I think you need a variety of tools so that it’s fine for everyone.

Nic:
So any benefits of having an office versus the remote? What would you consider as a benefit?

Nathalie:
There are quite a few for me. One is being in the same room as everyone. When you onboard new team members, for example, and get to know them, and there is nothing that will beat being in the same room and being able to go to lunch and … Remember quite a few years ago, we used to have all of our lunch breaks together because that was our break in the day where we would talk and just have a break from work.

Nic:
We had a dining room in the office. We would say to people like, so this is the work room, this is the meeting room, and this is the dining room, and it was great.

Nathalie:
So, it doesn’t quite work anymore because it’s too many of us now, so we tend to have … But I think it’s quite rare that someone goes on the lunch break on their own, unless they go out, but otherwise we always have lunches of two, three or four people together because it’s the social time.

Nathalie:
Also when you onboard junior team members, I think it’s quite important to see them to be able to show them things on the screen and to be with them in the same room. It’s easier to train a junior developer when you’re in the same room than when you’re remote.

Nic:
I tend to react on people’s like body language, people’s face expressions, and not being able to be in the same room as the other developers and especially the juniors. I can’t see when they’re frustrated, I can’t see where they might be blocked, and I can’t just have this kind of like nudge of like, “Hey, everything is okay, or hey, let’s go for coffee and let’s chat. Let’s talk about your problem differently.”

Nic:
And you have to wait for them to raise their hand and say, “I’m stuck.” But you don’t know how long they’ve been stuck for. And we had again the example this afternoon where someone got stuck for a couple of hours and it was one line missing kind of thing. But when you see their frustration building on, on somebody else’s desk, you can go there and like just ask casually, or just the fact that you’re passing by, not even asking. Just the fact that you’re passing by, they may actually stop and say, “Hey Nick, can you have a look over here?”

Nathalie:
Yeah.

Nic:
So, they’re missing that.

Nathalie:
And the final one is being with the clients in the same office. I mean, discovery sessions, meetings, there is nothing that will beat that. Again, that thing of being all together around one table, being able to discuss with multiple skills around the table, and I think for that reason … And again, you can always arrange to meet them in another office. And so it’s just not quite the same as having them … Your office feels like your home, like it’s your company home and you welcome your client at home.

Nathalie:
And that’s how I feel when they come through the door. And you want them to feel part of a team, and yeah. So, that I think is really important, and even though offices are really expensive in Bristol, I am not envisaging to just not have one at the moment. I think it would be the wrong move for us.

Nic:
So, we’re not going to move her for remote operation?

Nathalie:
No, but I think he knew that Nick.

Nic:
Yeah. But we are still going to be flexible. I think that’s the most important part.

Nathalie:
Yeah. I think flexibility is the most important part for a lot of reasons, for you parenting the team, for someone like Denis who spent a month in Kenya last year because he went to talk at a Ruby conference and then stayed for a whole month to visit the country. For anyone, I think it’s a luxury that we can afford because it actually doesn’t cost us much, but it makes our team members happier I think, I hope, to let them choose where they work from and to have that flexibility and so why not do it?

Nic:
Cool. Well, thank you. Any big element this week, big thing happening for you this week?

Nathalie:
So, we are recruiting a project manager, as we said last week in our last podcast. I’ve received a few candidates already, so I need to sort of set up interviews and go through that process, and again to get more CVs through.

Nic:
Cool. Well, and we’re also recruiting for back-end and front-end developers. So, if you hear that, send your CVS. So, I think it’s time for a wrap-up and then we’re going to go for dinner now.

Nathalie:
Yes.

Nic:
I’m very excited by dinner. Thank you very much for listening. If you want to leave us a review, we are on Apple and Spotify. Search for the Tough Cookies podcast. Thank you very much all for all your messages that we receive on LinkedIn and Twitter. I will see you next week again with Nat at the same time.

Nathalie:
Yep, bye.

Nic:
Bye.

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