“Hi there, I was just wondering why you haven’t been attending as many meetings?”
I frantically look at my calendar, have I missed a meeting?! I don’t think I’ve missed any, but I’m not one to think of myself as perfect, so I check. No, I’ve been to all of them.
“I don’t think I’ve missed any? Did I miss an invitation?”
“No, not your meetings, other people’s.”
This statement confused me for a second. How could I be missing other people’s meetings? Surely I shouldn’t be *in* other people’s meetings. Blankhans is a remote-first company that uses Discord as our primary method for voice and video calls, so I can see all the meetings happening. However, in every job I’ve ever had, physical and remote, I’ve never been asked to attend meetings I’m not a part of. Markus, my manager who sent the first message, explained.
“So, if you’re just working on a task or you just want to hang out for a little while, you’re encouraged to just drop in to meetings. Everyone does it. Just come in muted and don’t distract everyone and you’re good. If you do, you’ll learn a lot and meet more of the team.”
Well, I’m game. I’ll give it a go! At the first meeting I dropped into everyone said “Hello!”. “Don’t mind me!” I say, “just listening in!” and the discussion continues. This meeting discussed the design of some in-game items with a full video presentation. I learned a ton about elements of the game I didn’t even know about yet. Not only that but I was asked what my opinions were. I gave some and people were receptive, even leading to a small change in the way something was going to be named!
Now it all started to make sense. This is how you create collaboration and a close team in a completely remote workplace. It turns out this is exactly why we don’t use services like Zoom or Google Meet, those are closed. I’ve worked for companies where despite being there for years, I never met anyone outside of my immediate team. Now, this isn’t to say you can join any meeting at all. We have specific rooms that are set up for 1-on-1s (or larger groups) only. So you’re not going to drop into anything personal, any room you can join is designed to be joinable.
I carried on joining meetings with the same results, from game design to concept art to programming. I got to see so much more of what goes into making a game, but more importantly, I also got to know the people doing these things more.
One meeting I joined seemed to be a group of people from across departments, so I did my usual drop-in on mute. When people said hello, I said “Oh, don’t mind me, just listening in.” This time, however, I was told, “Oh, it’s cool. This isn’t a meeting, we’re just hanging out.” Three people were sharing their screens, which lets you watch exactly what they were working on. So I could watch someone doing concept art, someone else making 3D models, and someone else coding if I wanted to. Mostly though, people were just chatting, laughing and having fun while they were working.
If you were to ask me what is one of the best things about being a Hansie (what we Blankhans members call ourselves), I’d tell you it’s this. I couldn’t go back to having closed meetings because you miss out on so much. You don’t learn everything that’s going on as easily, you miss little decisions, and you miss a chance to leave your mark on the game we’re all working on together. I mentioned to Markus, “so, sometimes we’re just in there chatting while we work, is that cool?”.
“I would rather you’re all working and chatting, collaborating and laughing than fully focusing but not innovating and growing together.”
That’s what being a Hansie is all about. I can’t wait to see where everything goes for this team, who are sitting in Discord laughing, creating, and innovating together every day.