Since March 16th, 2020, Slingshot has been operating almost 100% remote (Well, we do have one of our 3 Chris’s still holding down the fort. How’s the office, Chris?).

At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future: how long would we be remote? When would things go back to ‘normal’? 

Over a year later, we’ve asked our team their thoughts on work before the pandemic, what challenges they faced in the early days, and what their thoughts are for the future. Strap in: there’s graphs ahead! 

Who did we ask?

Slingshot has a wide variety of big kids and daredevils, and we wanted to hear from all of them. All corners of the virtually office responded: designers, developers, and office staff. Answers came from ‘newbies’ to decade-long Slingshot veterans. Some are a few years out of college, and some have grown families. All of them are a work family!

Work in the ‘Before Times’

Remember early 2020? When we could do things in public safety? Back then, Slingshot was already offering a work from home option: you could either come into the office, or skip the commute and work from home.

Prior to the pandemic, how frequently did you work from home?

Why did you like/dislike working from home before the pandemic?

I prefer to work in the company office for several reasons. Some of the top ones: 1) home office is in the basement with no windows, 2) my office chair is not as comfortable to sit in for long periods, 3) I use both a PC and a Mac to do my work, and lugging the Mac back and forth between home and office is not convenient, and 4) I can use 3 monitors at work, but only 2 at home.

I find that having a dedicated “studio space” helps me get into my workflow; living in an apartment, I don’t have a separate home office—so it’s harder for me to compartmentalize between work & home when they’re blended together like that. The “studio space” can be a classroom, a co-working space, a coffee shop, or the Slingshot office. Just not the place where I chill 🙂

The Company Culture- I liked being able to engage while in the office and be productive while out of the office.

I liked coming into the office. It made it easier to communicate and helped separate work from regular life

At home productivity: Commuting to the office is not insignificant, and I feel I can be more productive with that time.

While I had the option, I always just felt I could get more done in the office

Because I can’t stand to commute.

In the Beginning: Early Pandemic Thoughts

What were some of your initial thoughts when Slingshot moved to completely remote?

EXCITED! I love working in my environment since it allows me to better listen to and embody my natural, creative cadence. I was beginning to feel burnt out & unbalanced due to how much time I was spending in the office vs. at home, so the shift was a much welcomed reprieve. Also, I missed being with my pups. I had some concern regarding how the design team would collaborate, and knew it would take trial and error to establish properly, but I was certain we’d figure it out. I was also fortunate to have worked from home for 6-years prior, so I was able to reinstate that groove instead of trying to figure out how to navigate WFH from the ground-up (there’s definitely an art to it!)

Like most people, I assumed that we would be back to ‘normal’ by May. Once we got past that point and knew it was still going to be a while before we were back in the office, I really ‘hunkered down’ and finally got a home office area.

Really it wasn’t much of an impact for me. The biggest concern I had (and still have) is a bit of culture loss due to less interpersonal interactions.

I always just assumed it would be temporary/short lived. By the time I realized it was going to be a while I was already so used to it that I liked it

Worry—about productivity and collaboration because I’ve never worked fully remote before, but also lots of general pandemic-related worry.

I was excited to have the whole office to myself! 😉 We tried to keep it anonymous, Chris

Finally!

What have been some challenges you've faced while working from home?

When I first switched to work from home, I assumed it was very short term and didn’t do anything to improve my space or setup. A chaotic space and working just on my laptop screen/trackpad made it hard to focus and work efficiently. After joining slingshot I invested in creating a workspace that sparked joy and promoted productivity. Now my 2 external monitors and convertible standing desk are my best friends and keep me comfortable and happy while working! It was also challenging to join a company as a remote employee when most of the existing employees were used to working in person and knew each other well.

Productivity and collaboration have definitely had their hiccups, but weren’t nearly worth worrying about as much as I did at the beginning. It is a lot easier to get distracted at home (that’s where all my stuff is!) and collaboration is a bit more difficult since it’s entirely virtual—but it’s not so bad with some adjustments to my work space and remembering that a lot of people are having the same exact struggles.

Learning how to collaborate with the team. Written communication took a much higher priority, as did learning when / how to engage with others; we were so accustomed to sitting next to one another, so our collaborative cues needed tweaking. Another challenge was how draining I found back-to-back video conferencing to be.

Setting proper boundaries. I’ve had to ensure that other family members respect the fact that I am ACTUALLY working. Additionally I’ve had to work on “shutting it down” during off hours – with the “office” in such close proximity it’s a little too easy to respond to EVERYTHING as it comes in regardless of hour.

I live in an apartment with my wife and we share the same work area. She’s on the phone a lot and it gets distracting. Also have to go to the bedroom for some meetings if we have overlapping meetings

The transition was hard at first. I’m a big people person, so not interacting physically with coworkers was hard. Our weekly meetups via zoom have helped tremendously

Communication is hard. Specifically maintaining context of knowledge and conveying any sense of lack of emotion.

None. I continued working from the office. We get it Chris

Fewer lunches at Skyline.

In the Thick of It: What has long term WFH been like?

What are some of the pros of working from home?

What are some of the cons of working from home?

No traffic, commute time, or cost! More time for self. More time spent with my dogs. A much improved work/life balance. Feeling as though I can better align with my personal creative rhythm vs. forcing the muse to answer to a 9-5 situation. Zoom mullets (business on top, pajamas on bottom). Saving $$$ on eating out for lunch (ask me about the chickpea salad wraps I’ve been making).

Working from home is quieter. I can sleep in a little since I don’t have a commute. I can do laundry while I work.

Gaining two plus hours of time back in your day can not be overstated. Tend to eat out a lot less as well.

Less fuel cost, fewer miles on the car, more of my day spent working instead of driving.

Setting your own schedule, no commute, cuddle dogs on your lunch break.

10 second commute. Flexibility. Never forget to bring your lunch.

Spending time with my cats and not having to commute!

Productivity improvements. No distractions.

If you’ve not done it before, mentally / physically compartmentalizing your home into work space AND living space can be difficult. But my biggest work from home pet peeve: it’s harder to get quick feedback on things. At the office, you could lean over and ask your teammates to take a quick look at something. Remote work requires scheduling a meeting, or pinging and waiting for a response.

Full time from home leads to a loss of camaraderie with co workers. If not staffed on the same project, you may not talk to other employees for months at a time.

WFH requires more proactive communication which can be challenging depending on team personalities. Zoom fatigue is also very real!

Dealing with spouses. Less free lunches. Lack of separation of work and life.

Missing people, hitting burnout much faster, work/life balance

Lack of IRL face-to-face collaboration.

Fewer lunches at Skyline

It’s isolating.

How do you feel your productivity and work/life balance has changed?

What are your thoughts on productivity and work/life balance during the pandemic?

Until the pandemic, I wasn’t aware of how the lack of privacy in the office negatively affected my productivity. I’ve found I often need the ability to be in a space curated for my needs, alone, to produce creatively. Otherwise distractions abound and inspiration runs flat.

I tend to be far more productive at home and provided I actually respect the boundaries I have regarding responding to requests outside of hours, work/life balance has improved as well since I have more time in the day available.

I definitely feel I would be more productive in an office setting (whether that’s Slingshot or a Real Actual Home Office™️), but it’s definitely evened out more as I got used to working from home.

Sometimes the lack of physical location change makes it harder to stop thinking about work for the day.

Work/life balance has suffered – when you’re working from home, it’s hard to ‘turn off‘ your work brain.

What would you tell yourself if you could go back to before the pandemic?

Reach out to co-workers more often and provide written overviews of meetings, findings, etc. so not everything needs to be delivered (& forgotten) in virtual meetings. Work can feel like family 🙂

Get your keyboard from work in the beginning. Be careful with your laptop key. Don’t let your wife go into her office without a mask. Do you have your taste back, Nathan?

I’d say not to worry about things you can’t control, take more time for de-stress, and enjoy the zoom calls (even if there’s too many).

Get three things waaay sooner than you did: 1) your monitor from the office, 2) an actual nice desk chair, 3) nice wireless headphones.

Have a plan for how to keep in touch with folks as well as how to incorporate new employees into the fold and make them feel welcome.

Buy as much bitcoin as you can / borrow as much money as you can to buy all of the bitcoin you can, because in a year it’s going to 50k.

Buckle up, you’re in for a ride, but don’t stress and enjoy the “down” time in lockdown!

Get ready to buy a bunch of stock when the Market tanks in 2020. Especially Gamestop!

Buy toilet paper. Lots of it.

What are your thoughts for the future?

I’m concerned society will forget the lessons learned from this time and return to the work-machine we were before (lack of work/life balance, everyone commuting, people forced to be in-office when many jobs can be done remotely).

I’m hoping that companies will finally realize that when people are at home, they still get their work done. Hopefully more companies will begin offering remote work.

Hopeful! I’m definitely ready to be in the office and interact with humans IRL again, but I also feel more comfortable & prepared to work from home as well.

If you look forward enough into the future, there will be bright spots until the last photo decays; so I’d say I’m an optimist.

I am hopeful for the “end” of the pandemic and look forward to meeting my awesome coworkers in person soon!

I’m hopeful – most of the office is vaccinated now, and I see us coming back very soon.

I’m sincerely looking forward to getting in some face time with others.

Optimistic that life will return to pre-pandemic form in 2022.

Conclusion

While we were sometimes working from home before 2020’s craziness, it still was a hard transition to be completely remote. We may have adapted, but we still miss our work friends. No commute has led to lots of flexibility and higher productivity, but being home makes it hard to communicate and hurts our work/life balance. We’re hopeful for the future, and are excited for the day we can have a jenga tournament in-person again.