The remote honeymoon is over — we’re getting a temporary office

Three months ago, I wrote an article titled “Remote as default, office as an option. Our remote work approach”. On it, we’ve tried to share our vision on the future of work.

Prior to the pandemic, at Pixelmatters everybody had the option to work remotely up to 2 days per week. The 2/3 days format worked quite well.

Historically, our company culture has always lived a ton out of human relationships. An example of it is our yearly retreat Teamatters, which consist of nothing more than getting all the team together in one place for a weekend, simply to have fun together. Here’s the 2019 edition. 🍻 In addition, our own company mission is to "empower businesses to achieve their full potential by creating top-quality digital products, while fostering great relationships along the way".

Nonetheless, since mid-March, like almost everybody else, we’ve been forced to go fully remote - something Pixelmatters was already evolving into -, but surely not as fast. Considering this new scenario, we ended up even deciding to close our (now) old office.

For the first 3–4 months, roughly March to July, the overall feeling and feedback were quite positive, despite the fact Portugal was in lockdown for part of this period.

Since mid-July or so, however, different feedback started to arise.

In addition to several remote-ready tools & processes that were already in place, we’ve implemented several initiatives to try to mitigate isolation. Still, part of the team started to share that, apart from the anxiety/stress related to the pandemic, working fully remotely was starting to have an impact on their physical and mental well-being. Feelings related to loneliness and disconnection with colleagues were shared. I personally felt some of these feelings myself.

For many people within the team, not only Pixelmatters as an organization, this was their first fully remote working experience. After these 4–6 months, many shared they don’t imagine themselves working fully remotely for a long period of time. There were two things mentioned in particular:

  1. Missing a human connection with colleagues;
  2. Missing a daily routine that makes you leave the house.

I think the lesson here is that you only get to truly know if you enjoy something or not when you try it for a relatively extended period of time.

At this point, despite all the undeniable great things working remotely brings and our initiatives to continuously improve our remote culture, we knew our "remote honeymoon" was over. We needed to do something to bring people closer together (safely).

That’s where the temporary office comes into play. After thinking about some options, we ended up deciding to use a place that belongs to our future landlord — our new “real” office is under construction and will be ready somewhere between Q1 and Q2 2021. More on that over the next few months — and is originally built to be an auditorium.

It will be a small place, intentionally not big enough for our team of ~40, both for public health reasons but also due to the dynamics that our flexible remote policy will create. It will be a great beta test of a Hub concept, fully aligned with our vision.

Our simple seat reservation system using a Slack bot

Considering the capacity of ~12 people, we quickly created a bot on Slack with a daily seat reservation system. Going to the office is, of course, optional.

Here’s a photo of the place on its original state:

Pixelmatters temporary office space (before)
Here’s a photo of the place on its Pixelmatters state:

Pixelmatters temporary office space (now)

To conclude, let’s be clear that improving a remote culture is not returning to the office. We are and will continue improving and expanding our remote culture as part of our DNA. We feel, however, that having the option to choose where you work is the sweet spot, hence this decision and our vision on the future of work.

We’re excited about opening up this new working-place possibility. We’ll try to continue keeping you all up to speed on our journey!

Don’t forget to follow Pixelmatters on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram and if you enjoyed this post, please share it! 🧡

André Oliveira
Founder & CEO