Interview with Samuel Frey from Something Creative Agency

Two months ago, Samuel Frey, Founder and Managing Partner of Something Creative Agency, stated on Linkedin “I don’t think the Remote Work & Home Office hype is that cool”.

Many companies have switched to remote work, and now more and more are announcing that they will maintain such a policy even without the influence of the Covid; so why is the remote policy isn’t so great?

We interviewed Samuel to understand better his point of view and see how his agency is adapting to the remote work world.

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About Something Creative Agency

Based in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin, Something Creative Agency is a Product Design Agency, focusing on building digital experiences for all kinds of industries. In the very beginning, it was just an idea on a warm summer night in Berlin.

An idea that made the three founders sitting down on the balcony, launch a simple website and register a business online. but they soon realised: “We love what we do and we are actually very good at it - so we decided to become serious about it.”

The story went from this little balcony to a co-working space and eventually to their very first office and a team of now eleven amazing people.

What do you do, where is your office based, how many employees do you have and what is the average age?

We are a Product Design Agency, focusing on building digital experiences for all kinds of industries. Our office is based in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany. We are currently eleven people and the average age is around 25 years.

What was the working situation like in your company before COVID?

The default before COVID was to work on site, but team members had a lot of flexibility in terms of working remotely every once in a while.

Why did you decide to keep the team fully remote post social isolation?

Our team isn’t actually fully remote, but team members started using the option to work remotely more frequently after isolation. Some now work more from home than from the office.

What did you have to implement to make it happen?

There wasn’t much that changed - I believe that it helps a company a lot to build a strong remote culture even if it's not technically remote, like focusing on real time collaboration tools, choosing asynchronous communication over synchronous ways and documenting a lot of information and data in a transparent way. We also have some "hybrid events" such as our daily stand ups or retros where some people sit together in our office and some join through video calls.

What challenges did you face in having all employees working remotely and how did you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge in a mixed remote/on-site set up is to keep a great team spirit alive. While we used to have team events with all team members present in one place, we now have to find ways to include those who work from somewhere else, especially to make sure that we don’t develop two different kinds of team members based on their on-site presence. For example, we introduced a remote team event where we would meet for coffee & cake in a video call. Furthermore, we ensured that team members working from home get our amazing office coffee delivered to their homes.

How do you keep your team aligned, productive, motivated and continue to grow a positive company culture with the remote team?

We have our daily stand ups and retros where everybody takes part, no matter their working location or time zone. Furthermore, our designers collaborate closely in their remote pair design sessions where they work together on the same project at the same time using the design tool Figma. Another example is a discord room where team members can jump in and have a chat or just share some thoughts with those who happen to be there. Sometimes, people just come there and listen to the same music together while working.

What are your favourite tools/softwares helping the company to work remotely?

We’ve been using Figma, Slack, Notion, Miro, Discord and Google Drive to stay connected and work effectively remotely.

Are you inspired by other companies having only remote employees?

Yes, we’re inspired by the work that Basecamp and Gitlab is doing.

According to you, what are the success factors for remote work?

I think it's important for every process to be designed in a way that works for people working remotely as well as for people working on-site. At the same time, it's crucial to not only create workflows in a remote way, but also maintain the social interactions between team members so that they feel part of a whole even though they rarely meet each other in person.

How do you see the future of remote work?

Remote work is on an enormous rise. While it gets harder and harder to attract talent, companies are looking for new ways to support employees on their way to personal fulfilment. I believe remote work will become an equally common option next to on-site work while companies without so much as an optional remote policy will become a rarity in a few decades.

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