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The benefits of working remotely | GI Sprint

Bossa Studios' Henrique Olifiers and FuturLab's Toby Adam-Smith discuss remote working, and how to maintain efficiency and teamwork

During the pandemic, studios quickly adapted to working remotely. This way of operating seems to have stuck, with many studios opting to stay fully remote rather than returning to the office.

Two developers that have adopted this way of work are Bossa Studios and FuturLab, both based in the UK with employees working remotely worldwide.

Speaking to for GI Sprint, Bossa co-founder and CEO Henrique Olifiers and FuturLab head of production Toby Adam-Smith discuss the benefits of working remotely, and how teams can still maintain a creative and collaborative environment online rather than in an office.

Adapting from office to remote working

Adam-Smith notes that in an office setting, producers and managers would be able to notice small things during production such as "spotting something on a person's screen, or overhearing a conversation and being able to jump in [to] help or provide feedback."

"So long as employees are empowered and understand shared visions and goals, they find the best way to work to achieve them"

Toby Adam-Smith

"In this way, progress and issues would often be shared and raised organically regardless of your project or discipline," he says.

FuturLab has tried to find similar ways of implementing this sort of collaborative nature in remote work, and found that embracing an open environment online was the solution.

Adam-Smith suggested using communication channels such as Slack, and more recently Gather, to enable teams to share thoughts and ideas as they would've done in an office environment.

"Trust is so important with remote working, and we trust that our team shares our vision and goals, and make it everyone's responsibility to deliver on them," Adam-Smith explains.

"So long as employees are empowered and understand shared visions and goals, they find the best way to work to achieve them."

Maintaining vision alignment

Not being in one place to work as a team can affect vision alignment during development, which is something Olifiers has recognised since going fully remote. (Vision alignment is a challenge in itself that we tackled in a previous GI Sprint session with Graham McAllister).

"If you're not careful, misalignment results in people working in silos and focusing on things that either aren't a priority, or not at the quality needed for release," he says, adding that it was easier to spot these issues in an office rather than a remote setting.

However, Olifiers says that Bossa has utilised a variety of different methods to combat this.

This includes workshopping ideas and features at the beginning of development which are revisited throughout, and asking player-centric questions such as, 'What is the feeling you want while playing this feature?' and 'What sense of accomplishment should the player have?'.

Bossa also breaks teams down into groups with differing skill sets, which it had in the office and has been transferred to Slack channels.

"It's improved communication, as the track record means things aren't missed if you've gone to make a coffee – It's more asynchronous and flexible," Olifiers explains.

"Work is actively encouraged to be shared in these channels. People can give feedback, calls can be started so several people can share screens and collaborate. Playtests take place in Discord with ease, which is simpler than gathering people in a meeting room and running the game."

Overall, workshopping and breaking teams down "reduces the chance of misalignment between people," Olifiers notes.

"This in turn reduces the likelihood of revisiting features, improves bug fixing time and ensures everyone rows in the same direction."

Efficiency of remote working

Working efficiently as a remote studio comes down to using the right tools. Olifiers highlights that workshops around a Miro board (or a similar virtual workspace app), play sessions via Discord, and using a project tracking app like Jira all helps streamline workload and keeps teams on top of what they're working on.

"It all collaborates to create a fairly seamless setup which unlocks efficiency if well managed and culturally aligned," he explains.

Olifiers says there are "natural advantages" to working remotely when it comes to productivity, such as being able to focus without distractions from an office environment. But that all depends on a "good set up at home, with separation from domestic life."

"[Using the right tools can] create a fairly seamless setup which unlocks efficiency if well managed and culturally aligned"

Henrique Olifiers

It's also worth acknowledging that it can be down to personal preferences, with some people finding remote working more difficult for their mental health, for instance.

Working remotely can also add benefits to life outside of work. Olifiers notes the removal of commute time, for instance.

"Family life improves, so does happiness and job satisfaction," he says. "All these contribute to a better balance, translating in more focus and efficiency."

For Olifiers, the key to unlocking this productivity is making communication the highest priority.

"When people understand the decisions that are made, and are pulling the right way, you build on a strong foundation," he explains. "Things unravel very quickly otherwise, and it's easier to happen when working remotely."

Adam-Smith agrees, adding that it's important to have collaborative meetings to maintain this efficiency. He uses art and design as an example, where people can draw over each other's work during meetings.

However, he does note that the focus that can come from working alone can lead to issues with the length of work days.

"It can be very isolating working alone and some people may not be able to stop themselves from working longer hours than they should be," he says. "Give people the benefit of the doubt, and if something goes wrong, try to stop yourself from thinking, 'This wouldn't have happened if we were all on-site."

Importance of communicating clearly online

For both studios, communication tools such as Slack, Discord, and Google Meet have become essential in conducting meetings online that are catered to the situation at hand.

Olifiers recommends keeping meetings short with clear agendas, with only relevant people in attendance. He advises that studio-wide meetings should involve the entire team to keep them up to date with what's going on during development.

Adam-Smith notes that it's essential for everyone to feel as though they have an opportunity to contribute.

"In larger meetings – virtual or otherwise – leads and senior leadership may spend more time in the spotlight, so try to keep the door open and encourage others to present work they're proud of or raise concerns," he says.

"While this is good practice for any studio, it's even more important when it's so easy for team members to go unnoticed outside of their immediate team."

Adam-Smith advises to ensure the team is working in an environment that "has the infrastructure and freedom for employees to talk to one another as often as they would like, then create as many opportunities to check in with one another as is reasonably appropriate."

Being open to new approaches and recommendations in communication from the team is equally as important, and FuturLab does this by running surveys.

"Try to keep the door open [during larger meetings] and encourage others to present work they're proud of or raise concerns"

Toby Adam-Smith

The studio also has a dedicated welfare manager to "drive social and wellbeing-focused communication" among the teams, and to help "break down barriers and connect members who historically may have only interacted while waiting for the kettle to boil."

Both Olifiers and Adam-Smith advocate for regular in-person meet-ups. Bossa has entire team meet-ups four to five times a year, alongside leadership meetings every six weeks, and individual teams getting together between bigger company meetings.

For Olifiers, in-person meetings are "key for strategic discussions, creative direction and overall creating bonds with people."

However, Adam-Smith says to be careful about making meet-ups mandatory, and to take travel time into account.

"If getting together is deemed essential, cover the costs of longer-distance travellers and enable them to commute during work hours," he says. "If you are getting together, the social element is as important as any meeting or discussion, so try to time it to have something to celebrate."

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Sophie McEvoy avatar
Sophie McEvoy: Sophie McEvoy is a Staff Writer at She is based in Hampshire and has been a gaming & entertainment journalist since 2018.
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