The Productive Way of Working

Filip Ivanko

Backend Engineer at Productive. Forever a technology student. Professional at starting anew.

March 1, 2023

Today more than ever, companies have a ton of options concerning workplace organization.

The trend of moving away from traditional, on-site work to various remote options was greatly accelerated in 2020. But we’re still (always) asking ourselves: what’s the best workplace model? What will yield the most productivity and the most employee satisfaction?

Several models have emerged. All of these models have their strengths and weaknesses, both in the productivity aspect and in the employee satisfaction aspect. Different employees have different needs for their work model. If meeting these needs means better productivity, why not let the employees choose?

At Productive we get to “pick our poison”: on-site work, remote work, work from home and hybrid work—along with a very flexible scheme for determining your work hours. In our teams we managed to solve this discrepancy using various technologies, organizational practices, and of course—our Productive app

For most employees, the ability to choose your own work models is a great thing. But guess what? You can’t choose your colleague’s work mode or schedule. Technology is what you need to bridge the gap. Good thing for us: we build the technology that bridges that gap

Instead of me telling you how great our company is or how great our product is, I’ll tell you a story of how I adapted to the Productive way of working.

Collaboration in Projects, Tasks and Docs

I prefer working on-site. The personal interaction and lack of distractions that you get from going to the office is something that works best for me. When I made the switch from my last job to Productive it was a profound change. The biggest difference was the asynchronous mode of communication, and work. I still go to the office every day, but I cannot rely on finding everyone there. Working at separate locations and at different times demands a different type of communication. 

We manage most things regarding daily tasks through Projects and Tasks in the Productive app. Tasks contain the work that needs to be done along with everybody’s input and discussions. So popping into to someone’s office and discussing a certain topic is replaced by discussions in the task comments of the app. Some of the social interaction may be lost, but the feedback is permanently there—so there’s no chance of forgetting something. 

Tasks are an integral part of every day work. If you need advice, tag someone in a comment on a task and they will be notified. If you need someone to do something minor on the task, assign them a todo on a task. If your part of the task is done, assign a task to the person that will take over. You “own” the task until your part is done and the work done is described in the comments. So a software bug task will typically change several owners, from the Customer support department to Development, and finally QA.

Collaboration is further enhanced by our own Productive Docs, the part of the Productive app for collaborating on documents. Docs enable us to have all the documentation and information readily available, reviewable and up to date. The process we use for writing Docs is in many ways similar to the process we use for writing code. Someone writes and someone reviews. The writing and reviewing is done elegantly with Docs in Productive, using tasks to facilitate the editing process.

Asynchronous Synchronisation

Doing things this way means working on certain things can be more intermittent. The Productive app has your back there as well: you can track the time you spent working on each task and tracking what part of a task was done on which day. It means that you are able to work on an assignment, stop and work on something else while you are waiting for feedback, and resume once you get it. This is rarely the case in traditional, on-site work. If you talk to five people about a something and try to work on that thing a week later, you will probably forget a lot of the details, but if the discussion is written down—nothing is lost. 

Vertical Product Teams

Our team organization follows a matrix structure so each developer belongs to a technology team and a product team. The technology teams are set up based on which technology a developer uses. In our case these teams encompass frontend technologies and backend technologies. 

Along with the classic frontend-backend division developers are also grouped into product teams. These are teams comprising of both frontend and backend developers along with designers that all work on a specific part of the product. 

Good synchronisation along these two axes is crucial and weekly meetings for each of them facilitate this. So a developer will typically attend two weekly meetings, in one meeting we sync with all the people working on the same product to coordinate our efforts, and in the other we discuss the technical challenges and improvements.

Integrations and Useful Tools

Of course, Slack provides an extra layer of details, since it’s a tool made for real-time communication. When you need to communicate about something to a larger number of people or to someone directly about something more urgent, Slack is the way to go. 

Another layer of communication for Productive developers are GitHub comments and reviews—primarily for code-related communication. So the communication imperative is: whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re thinking, write it down somewhere because you probably aren’t going to catch the people who need to know that thing you talked about by the water cooler or in the cafeteria at lunch. 

When I first came to Productive, I must say I found it challenging to replace all the information gained through informal, in-person interactions with written ones. It’s quite hard to use charm or humour to defuse situations involving professional disagreements or criticism when the medium of communication is the GitHub comments section. 

Social Interaction Is Still Important

Not all people express themselves in the same way, and they also won’t all interpret the same communication in the same manner. The better the employees know each other, the less chance there is for miscommunication. 

At Productive, this is solved by regular team social activities covered by the “Fun & games” budget. So chitchat by the water cooler is replaced by chit chat over hamburgers and beer. In my opinion, these gatherings are not only fun, in this type of workplace model they are absolutely necessary. 

So, what is it like to be an in-office worker in this kind of environment? For me, it’s like remote work, but from the office. You get most of the benefits of office work—like separated working and living space, plus interactions with coworkers that come to the office. The main difference is that most of the communication regarding work must be done online. 

Sometimes the colleagues you’re working with are going to be at the office, but all information must still be shared online, so that all the people who need or want to have information get it as they would if they were at the office. 

It’s Easier To Be Productive With Productive

With great power comes great responsibility, so if everyone wants the flexibility to work on their own terms, we all have make the effort to work together. If you’re looking for a tool that could help you and your coworkers manage time and tasks you should check out Productive, an end-to-end agency management tool.

Filip Ivanko

Backend Engineer at Productive. Forever a technology student. Professional at starting anew.
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