Covid has changed work forever.
It is undeniable that there has been a global shift in the way we work. Jobs that would never have been remote jobs have quickly adapted with a colorful range of success. From call center teams to bankers, to therapists, many of us now find ourselves in a remote offices living the dream.
The truth is that working remotely does not come naturally to everybody. What seems like the idyllic working conditions as you join Zoom calls in your underwear can soon become overwhelming. Eventually, maybe even something you just downright dread. Not because you are lazy, or because you don’t know how to do the work, but because nobody has ever trained you on how to work remotely.
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Working Remotely Today
Us elder-millennials were just accustomed to that not-so-gangster cubicle lifestyle where you get up for work and then go somewhere. We saw our parents do it, we saw our grandparent’s parents do it, and we just did not know any different. Remember the days when your career goals were all steps towards the illustrious corner office? Yeah, so do I.
This is not entirely your fault though. Managers who crafted their entire style of coaching and communication around that personal touch of face-to-face meetings, also started to struggle with learning to manage their remote team. Gone are the high-fives, handshakes, and other pleasantries, quickly replaced with “You’re on mute, Karen!”. So now, are you a bad manager if you struggle with remote team engagement or motivation?
Of course not!
The underlying truth here is that managing a remote team for the first time can be is incredibly hard. But help is out there! There is an abundance of remote team communication and management tools out there with the primary goal to make working remotely easier, and managing your remote teams more effective and engaging.
In this article, we want to share our experience, and introduce you to a tool we love which has solved many of the common issues experienced by remote teams.
Say hello to Cosmos Video.
DISCLAIMER: We are not affiliated with Cosmos Video in any way, they did not ask us to write this piece, we genuinely found it to be a game changer for the way we work. And NO, this post has zero affiliate links.
Does Divi Engine Work Remotely?
Working remotely is certainly not a new concept or practice, it has been enjoyed by designers and coders since the dawn of the internet. That kind of makes me sound like a dinosaur…cue the dialup modem sounds.
Ahhhh the nostalgia…
Back to the point. This is no different at Divi Engine, our team is 100% remote which is spread out over different time zones and continents. Now, there are definitely different types of remote teams and this has become more and more opaque as managers navigate this giant “traditional work” ship steered by that covid rudder to explore the new world of working remotely. I kinda feel like there is an animated Disney movie title in there somewhere…
Types of Remote Teams:
- The battle-hardened freelancers and teams that have been doing this since freelancer.com launched in 2009 which are usually coders or designers (100% Online).
- The tech startups inventing your next dopamine-riddled app that require in-office meetings once a week which are product managers in-house designers or coders (80% Online).
- The “traditional” flex-work office arrangement which is usually your accountants, analysts, etc (50% Online).
Divi Engine falls into that first category of remote teams. While we have only been around for 5 years, we have been 100% remote from day 1 and have tried and failed (to a degree) at remote team management. So if there was a mousetrap to step on, we did it already.
Currently, we are a team of 7 full-time employees from South Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, India, and Canada. With ½ of our team going to sleep when the other ½ started work, it made things complicated getting departments together as a team for meetings, or just hanging out for a bit. And with the company growing at the rate it is, we needed to find a solution to streamline not only our meetings, but we also had to solve keeping our remote team engaged as well as managing the team efficiently at scale.
Our Struggles with Working Remotely
We can talk about the common snags with remote teams, but there are 100 better-written articles on the topic, so we will focus on our personal experience working as a remote team here at Divi Engine. I mentioned mousetraps earlier and our skilled approach to stepping our foot in them. This is not a lie. We tried many solutions in solving the challenges of managing a remote team.
This involved the unique approach of Zoom calls in tow with the hive mind, but this involved emailing meeting links, some people not being available, seeing links late, and just a clunky-feeling experience to managing meetings. It was too laborious and probably very disengaging for the team. Do less of this, and do something else…
Next up was an app for remote teams called jitsi. Jitsi is much like Zoom, but this provided us with a single URL where we could check-in for a quick meeting if need be, or run our scheduled meetings with a little less friction because friction sucks. And this worked for a while, but it always felt lacking in some ways, like the personality of that Tinder date that ghosted you. When I joined the Divi Engine team a year into covid I found myself 6 months late still feeling like I barely knew any of the other team members, except for Peter, who I connected with pretty often.
We were now starting to diagnose these symptoms and coming to the reason why all of this felt so disconnected. Yes, ironic, as working on a remote team with people you’ve never shook hands with is by nature rather disconnected.
This had us adjust the search parameters from “remote team communication tools” and about 5 variants thereof, to a simpler more obvious one, “virtual office space”.
Eureka! We found Cosmos Video…
What is Cosmos Video?
So let’s back up a bit and tell you exactly what Cosmos Video is in our own words.
In the simplest sense, Cosmos Video is a virtual office building where your remote team can stroll in at the start of their workday and pick a comfy spot to work…on the internet. I know, it sounds crazy, but it will sound weirder in a second.
The virtual office space is a top-down pixel RPG experience that is reminiscent of the original Zelda games…with cyborg cats and dinosaurs as pets and as well as epic snowball fights.
This is no Slack! (we love Slack too btw) What sets it apart from other services like that, Zoom, and the tools that we have tried, is that piece of pixelated real estate that is our virtual office. You can walk around and visit different working areas and use the proximity chat to communicate with your coworkers. Then, when need be, you can do a quick screen share to ask for opinions on a feature or design, or you can challenge somebody (or the entire team) to a game of battleship. Which can be pretty hilarious.
The Cosmos team is not far off when they market themselves as “The happy meetings tool designed for remote teams”. It shows.
It features integration with Slack, Google Calendar, and even Spotify so that my teammates can also bob their heads to some of my excellent taste in music. On top of that you can leave video messages for team members that are busy at the moment, collaborate on whiteboards, and so much more.
So, let’s talk about pricing.
Cosmos is free, ya, free, for teams of up to 5. Pricing goes to a per-user model after that which introduces extra features, capacity, and customization options. Even then, all subscriptions come with a 30-day free trial, so the risk factor is nada.
Check out the pricing options (as of April 15th, 2022):
How a Virtual Office Transformed our Remote Working Culture
Upon finding Cosmos we immediately fell in love with how amazingly simple and intuitive it is. These characteristics made it easy to introduce to the team and quickly became part of our daily routine. What really solidified Cosmos as part of our daily work life is the ability to just casually socialize with your fellow grafters, and actually get to know the person behind the support ticket processing beast or the code ninja. When working remotely it is so easy to forget the simplicity of walking up to someone you work with and getting to know who they are outside of work.
Then there are the games. It is already tradition here at Divi Engine that after we had a suuuuuuper serious meeting or fun celebration, we then head over to the games table to play some of the 15+ (wow!) games. An office favorite is poker of course, but recently the Telephone game gained some traction as it yielded some interesting but mostly hilarious results. Tons of laughs, check the result below of our last game a couple of weeks ago.
When the fun and games are over and we remember to get some work done before the bossman uses the intercom feature to focus the group, we use the integrated tools during meetings to collaborate on a new level. It is not the exception to do a quick screen share in a conversation to quickly point out a bug in a plugin, or get a design approved. It all just feels really seamless. Like you really are in the same space. And if you are meeting with Fernando, you are bound to get a couple of snowballs to the dome when the meeting is adjourned.
Personally, when we started rolling Cosmos into our daily workflow, I was somewhat apprehensive. My concern was that this might feel like an employee monitoring tool, but that could not be further from the truth. I was surprised by the fuzzies I felt each time a coworker in a different timezone “walked” into the office to start their day. It makes the space feel alive, it makes working remotely feel less solitary. Speaking of making the space feel alive, we even have a couple of pets running around.
Meet Frank and Drip.
Is it concerning that I really dig them being around, these digital pets that live on the internet, on those odd moments when I’m alone in the office? Nahhhh…right?…Guys?
No, Impossible, I know I’m not alone because perusing the feedback forums you quickly see feature requests for being able to summon the pets or feed and pet them, if I am crazy, I have found my people. But, you’ll notice another thing, you’ll see how involved and responsive the Cosmos Team is. They are actively commenting and considering all the feedback and requests. In our 5 or 6 months on the platform, we have watched it evolve and get better with each update. That is what you want in a platform you are using, especially in a professional capacity with something as critical as the people that make it all happen, your team.
From a management perspective, it has been incredible to see our team become closer, share more, and engage more. We can really feel it here. Not only that, due to this easy access to coworkers, you see the teams take initiative beyond an ignored slack message or decomposing email. Multiple incredible initiatives such as our recent Q&A session for our Easter Sale have been conceived and delivered due to the innovative thinking and creativity the platform inspires.
Now I could go on for a while on this, but you get what I am throwing down. Cosmos has introduced a cultural shift in our remote working team that has made our remote team more efficient, engaged, and just made those (rare) workdays that suck, less sucky.
Gold star for Cosmos from the Divi Engine Team over here.
5 Ways Cosmos Video makes Remote Working Better
It establishes a sense of community because you can “walk” up to a coworker for a chat or ask a quick question.
You get to socialize while getting to know your co-workers by playing games, pelting snowballs, or sharing our favorite beats through the Spotify integration.
Efficiency is at an all-time high as we are able to use one tool with very low friction instead of various tools that cause confusions and missed meetings.
The sense of isolation that comes with remote work is almost gone as you can see who else is working even if you don’t exchange a word, it feels better to feel part of a team.
The collective feature set increases engagement because know we get to have a meeting in one room, then peel off for soul crushing poker games.
Working remotely can…get…WEIRD
So, if it has not been extremely clear, Cosmos Video is a great tool to use for engaging remote teams. But not only that, Cosmos Video will make the workplace feel like a truly shared experience again. No matter the type of remote team you manage, or what remote communication tools you are currently using, you will add value with Cosmos Video.
And I should mention again, that the Cosmos Video Team did not solicit this article, we are just really frozen in that honeymoon phase with the “The happy meetings tool designed for remote teams”.
If you manage a remote team, you should totally take it for a spin, it’s free.