The Mark of True Collaboration
Collaborating with someone, in these times often remotely, is a fine-tuned process of acclimatization.
How we bridged the gap between remote work and physical office spaces.
At Interlink, we have been working remotely for some time, some of us for over 6 years. We often talked about how we rid ourselves from the archaic collaboration settings of the office building.
We outright rejected the notion of being all packed together into the same place, like a continuation of high school, where time spent in the official place for official activities was correlated to following the rules and meeting the acceptable performance standards.
Where interruptions were multiplied by phone calls, chatty coworkers, and the conversations all geared for anecdotical accounts of events. Maximizing time spent (or wasted?) instead of actions taken.
We argued, remote work is analytical, and requires privacy and quietness to maximize focus. It deals with data, and in our case, software design and programming. Creativity requires flexibility, not the old-school structure of the "place of work". And while all this is still true, over time we felt like there were little things from the shared physical space that we were missing.
One thing we noticed, at one point during a difficult sprint, was that we were late to notice when someone was struggling or stuck with a critical task. This was delaying our output and had to be dealt with.
Our response was to try different tools that have different use cases: We went through things like Discord and There , which are great for trying to simulate that proximity and casualness that feels like you are working next to that person who is, let's say, 10,000 miles away from you.
While these tools are great at what they do, they did not solve our problem. We enjoyed using Discord but it still felt like an audio call: Hop into a given channel for a particular type of discussion.
This means the content of the communications is planned or at least explicit in the minds of its participants. But for this type of exchange, we already had Slack and videocalls. What we wanted was something that could help us with spontaneity, the things we do not plan for, and that without some exploration and free-form experience, we would not have been able to discuss.
We involved some creative activities in our agile planning and retrospective meetings, and this helped unlock some dialogue. But we needed more.
Our emphasis on human connection has always pushed us to explore new ways to create bonds with people, to get outside of the "business-as-usual" narrative and enable people to make their mark, or leave their imprint on what they do.
We started experimenting with different providers to license the tools and services required for a 3D environment where we could simulate the spaces of the physical office, not to replace our working dynamic, but to encourage the "hanging out" and "walking around" aspect that creates deeper connections in the physical world.
We call it Wayports, and it is a virtual environment for work. Inside this virtual world, companies can access shared spaces like conference halls, auditoriums, classrooms, boardrooms, and more!
Every person is an avatar, every moment an opportunity. Using directional audio, you can move around if you hear a conversation and just say hi to join in.
All of the spoken communication is secure and ephemeral, not stored anywhere. On top of that, we have designated private areas where the audio is only for participants inside of it, and public areas where the audio is shared in a bigger space with other visitors.
This has allowed us to involve members of the company in discussions that they would not have had access by design. In one month of usage, we have seen great changes to our culture and productivity.
We learned that when we organize our efforts, we tend to invite people who are key to getting a task done. We often fail to include others who might not have anything to add, but can benefit greatly from listening and join those efforts later on.
By using Wayports, we increase the opportunities to be approached by other peers, and we make meetings with external company visitors a lot more special.
For instance, on our way to a boardroom with a client, we can walk by one of our developers and make a brief introduction. This would have never happened without Wayports.
Being remotely together, in sync, outside of every person's individual task cycle. This is the key feature that is advancing our projects right now.
Moreover, being able to add organize virtual events with thousands of participants, each with their own interactive experience, is something that videoconferencing software simply cannot provide.
Video calls or video webinars are good for up to 200 participants. But even then, everyone watching gets the same global experience. It is very one-directional. Even if you encourage people to participate, they have to be preoccupied with how they look, what is on their background, and if they have the bandwidth required for a good video experience.
It turns out, it is profoundly different to promote your work in a collaborative space with your own team and focus on voice, instead of appearances. Never hide behind marketing terms, brochures and websites. Connect people and let them engage according to their preference or desires. This is a new way to do business.
We have more and more companies doing tours and joining our campus, as we want to build a vibrant community full of events and activities, so we can all work more efficiently. The aim is to generate new business opportunities from just talking to each other and discovering what other peers are up to.
Markets are conversations, and this is our biggest conversation yet.
You can try it for free and help us improve what we do: https://wayports.app