Categories: distributed work

Helping each other at Mozilla

The Coronavirus has the world redoing how it works and meets. Conferences have been cancelled, many organizations are ceasing travel, entire countries are on lockdown, and schools are going into month-long closures. Work won’t be the same for a while.

For about half of the people working at Mozilla, this may not feel dramatically different than usual, except for the need to now share the space with the whole family (kids included). That’s because Mozilla has been geographically distributed since we started out as an open source project. Today, nearly half of our staff work outside of an office (we call them “remotees”) and we continue to collaborate with others globally.

For the rest of us, this is a completely new set up with new routines taking shape. As the world is figuring out how to handle the current situation, remote-first Mozillians are helping out their newly “non-officed” colleagues with some tips.

Things started off with a co-worker posting this in a company-wide Slack channel:

“For those working from home that aren’t used to it, there’s no easy technology to replace the random in random kitchen conversations — and those conversations are what I miss most about offices as a remote worker. I’ve put a lot of thought into an experimental social idea that I haven’t prototyped with anyone yet, but with the recent circumstances forcing a lot of surprise WFH on folks who prefer otherwise, I’m offering it up untested in case it helps make things more bearable.”

Given the times we are in, we paused at the “experimental social idea.” Drawing off her many years of working remotely, she elaborated: “Consider scheduling random kitchen conversations — with your team, with people you’ve talked to in the kitchen before, with remoties you only see at All Hands, whoever you like. Be clear in the invite that it’s a social-time invite and it’s okay if they bring food, step away to make coffee, don’t respond or no-show. Tend towards a smaller group, to keep the kitchen casual conversation flow intact. Keep expectations low: sometimes the kitchen is empty.”

Another colleague chimed in: “Even just scheduling a thirty minute lunch chat can help a lot in my experience! My normal lunch crew is just Zooming every day.”  And another: “We’ve had a weekly ‘social time’ every Friday set up for a while and it’s great! 30 minutes of no work talk and it’s so nice just to chat considering the majority of the team are remote, and only two of us are in the same office!”  25 more suggestions for how to optimize our Zoom-and-Slack-centric existence emerged (including this chatroulette one for spontaneous platonic meetings that we thought was worthy of a call-out).

Photo of Mozilla remote staff in Berlin from JanuaryMozilla remotees IRL in Berlin this January

Clearly, different things work for different people all that to say YMMV. But we’re seeing how the experiences of many of us over the years are helping others of us here out, and we think they may be helpful for others who are newer to the remote working thing, too.

For example, the way we’re allocating our time is changing. Kids are home, and homework and real work is getting done in new physical and chronological ways. And that’s leading to all kinds of hacks and resourceful accommodations. One parent was clear:

“Provide stability and predictability for your family and colleagues. Start by creating a schedule for the kids that mimic their school day/regular routines. Using the kids’ schedule, work with your partner to find large blocks of time for each person to focus on work. Spreadsheets are your friend. Share your schedule with your colleagues.”

She wasn’t kidding about “spreadsheets as friends,” either (real sample):

Spreadsheet of home and child tasks

This screenshot only goes to eleven

Some of us are using this as a time to share how we’ve done some of this already. And of course, it’s a great opportunity to share not only what’s on our minds but on our plates. We’re really digging the #lunch-pics channel any time of the day. From Berlin: “My lunch for today, tomorrow and probably Saturday too” (we’re hungry now):

Photo of a dish of lasagna

Finally, we also won’t underestimate the power of GIFs (and letting off a little steam) in our new social architecture. “Sent this to my friend who complained about feeling disconnected from work while doing wfh.”

GIF of Bruce Willis, "Welcome to the party, pal."

Of course, this stuff is evolving every day and we imagine our moods and advice will too. Don’t hesitate to tweet us about how you are coping at @MozillaCareers.