Gaming and the new hybrid office: One company’s take on designing a collaborative workplace
Presented by Jam City
Going to the office has never been just about work. In our pre-pandemic world, the office was where you went to complete your work, collaborate with teams, and meet face-to-face with coworkers.
The post-pandemic world has shifted this traditional workplace model to embrace flexibility and the broader employee pool’s needs. What does this future look like across entertainment industries — in our case mobile gaming — where the need for collaboration is so high?
Enter the new hybrid office, which enables employees to move between the home work space and a traditional office space or “culture space,” providing a social connection, enabling learning, encouraging and fostering innovative collaboration.
Jam City’s Vice President of People, Lindsay Nadler, shares her thoughts on the new hybrid office and talks about best practices for making it accessible to everyone.
With the ever-changing conditions of COVID, how do you create both a physical and virtual working environment that encourages collaboration for both remote and in-house teams?
Our team put a lot of careful thought and consideration into this effort, and it’s still a work in progress. We recently announced that in some locations, Jam City would be remote first, while other offices will have a hybrid model that allows employees to determine what is best for them and their working needs. To make this effectively work for our teams, we made a concerted effort to invest in technologies that help employees stay connected in a virtual environment, specifically Donut and Bonusly. We also created new Slack channels to allow cross-functional teams to collaborate.
With an eye toward improving collaboration and socialization and de-emphasizing traditional office heads-down work, we are progressively re-thinking our office spaces as “culture-spaces.” Think more couches, less cubes, and more opportunities to collaborate! It will be critical moving forward that we support an environment where regardless of how or where people work, that everyone feels connected to the team, has access to tools they need to do their work and is supported to succeed.
How are you adapting to the needs of the employees during the pandemic, such as implementing specific programs that nurture creativity, encourage meet-ups, or collaborations?
We’ve rolled out two major internal initiatives to engage our teams and support our team leads. First, the Think Big program, which encourages employees to think outside the box and bring innovative ideas to our existing games as well as submit proposals for new game concepts. If the concepts pass the rigorous vetting by our creative team panelists, they may be greenlit and move forward.
Our second initiative was the launch of a comprehensive global leadership development program for new and emerging leaders within the company. We found that remote work made it challenging for future leaders to develop — which is essential to a healthy work culture — so the objective is to provide leaders with the skill sets needed to effectively lead and manage teams located remotely in these new times. To date, over 80 leaders have participated, allowing them to help develop their teams, provide feedback, act as coaches and mentors, and create more engaged and productive teams. When development is a priority for an organization, it aids in attracting and retaining great talent.
How do you keep employees located across the globe and in different time zones motivated and connected?
As a global company, this is an ongoing focus for Jam City. We take what we have dubbed internally as a “GLOCAL” approach, where we thoughtfully introduce global initiatives from a local perspective. What does this look like? To keep people connected through sharing learning experiences that promote our values, including a focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) and well-being initiatives, we doubled down on globally-implemented People programs.
For example, we rolled out a series of lunch-and-learn programs to reinforce our D&I initiatives and established an active schedule of speaker sessions to engage our remote workforce. And because time zones can be challenging to navigate, we’ve implemented recording and sharing protocols, while leveraging internal communications tools such as the company intranet to allow companies to view internal presentations at their leisure.
What are some of the steps you’re taking to implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace in a hybrid office?
Diversity and inclusion programs are a cornerstone of a positive work culture at Jam City. We want to make sure we are focused on how we think about inclusion in our daily work routines including in meetings, events, and ongoing company communications. That responsibility lies with everyone, from the most junior staff and up through the ranks. We’ve taken steps to upgrade our benefit packages to be more inclusive, ensuring we are looking at our broader employee pool’s needs, including working parents and care-givers. We’ve also created a peer mentorship program so people from across the world can share best practices and help each other develop in their careers.
With more people working remotely, how are you addressing employees’ growing mental and emotional health needs?
This year we increased our investment in mental health and support for our employees’ emotional needs. We subsidized behavioral health, expanded our EAP, provided mediation classes, implemented mental health days on Fridays (to allow employees to recharge). We are also investing in mental health support in the language where each of the studios are located.
How has the pandemic affected hiring/recruiting broadly speaking?
Remote first has really broadened our scope of recruiting and hiring, as proximity to the office and commute times are no longer roadblocks. We’re able to court more candidates that are the right fit for the company, regardless of their physical location. We’re finding that candidates are very receptive to the support and benefits we’re offering to our remote employees, such as helping them optimize their home workspaces or offering flexibility to parents and caregivers. There are also folks who do not have the most ideal work-from-home set-ups or prefer to be in an office, so we are creating physical spaces in the office conducive to collaboration and stocked with everything they need to do their best work remotely.
What kind of practices best reflect Jam City’s distinguished work culture?
We actively listen to our diverse workforce spread across the globe, each studio with its own unique specific expertises and various feedback threads, and strive to improve based on the input we hear. We encourage everyone at Jam City to present ideas, make suggestions on how we can do things better, and ask questions. From interns to executives, everyone has a voice and can come up with the next hit game. We formalize this mantra with the Think Big program, and encourage everyone to submit ideas for new games.
Cross-functional meetings are another Jam City staple, where game teams across all disciplines come together regularly to collaborate, provide updates and ask questions. This structure encourages teams to work outside their bubble, but also consider how their work can positively impact others, and vice versa. It wouldn’t be just game developers, artists, and programmers having their own meeting, then marketing, publishing, and public relations having another, but bringing all these groups together.
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