Kshitij Purwar, Founder and CTO, Gurgaon
I remember when the pandemic struck us out of nowhere and when the sudden lockdown happened, there were losses that we had never imagined we would incur, especially the emotional ones. But the biggest loss was that of the office space itself, the common space which was the origin of all the innovation. This was where it all started, where we hung around, caught up, worked, chilled and brewed coffee, tea, and ideas. It was home.
I never wanted to go remote. Even before the pandemic, Abhilasha, my co-founder, and the CEO wanted me to build a team in Bangalore, but I was apprehensive about the prospects of building a remote team. The pandemic changed it all. Eventually, we had no choice but to bear the brunt of it — we had to go remote.
It wasn’t easy at first. The first signs of the problem were a lack of good internet connection, and lack of work equipment like tables, chairs, and workstations at home. It’s very tough to maintain a professional setting at home. Also, there was the case of the devices. Not everyone had the required configuration on their devices and we couldn’t just ship it to people because of the various cities everyone moved to. There were costs and logistics, and there was the lockdown. Everyone had to have a laptop and internet, of that we were sure. Gradually, we conceptualized a way to make that happen and Blue Sky’s Own Your Device policy came into being. Things were beginning to take shape.
The next problem was maintaining seamless interactions. The need to replicate the physical spontaneous collaboration that happens in an office setting. How can I be connected with everyone, and have everyone connected with me? In an office, it’s convenient to just walk up to someone with your work, doubts, questions, or anything else, as long as you know where they are sitting. But that’s not the case when you are in Gurgaon and someone else is in Bangalore, Punjab, or a totally different part of the world. Slack and Notion helped us bridge this gap!
While we had streamlined most of the collaboration gaps, approachability still remained an issue until the accidental discovery of Tandem. I was struck by their cool website and the way they used Notion to make web pages. We tried it and loved it. It almost felt like stimulating the feeling of a real office, virtually, where a wave 👋 on tandem replicated the impression of a tap on a colleague's shoulder. Browsing through the chat list to check who is online and keeping a tab on what everybody is doing became a fun exercise and the virtual equivalent of looking across the cubicle.
It lowered the friction in communication drastically. It also cut our hassle of using Zoom and telephone calls for every minor issue.
Our remote working setup, which took about 6-8 months, was hence, complete. Then, when everything was done and dusted to our preference, we turned to a task that had been lingering in the backs of our minds for a long — donating our remaining office furniture. Giving the furniture to someone who needed it more than us was the best possible alternative, and we had been wanting to do the same for a while. Thanks to a friend, we got in touch with a few NGOs and donated our furniture.
Talent, not Pin-code
It wasn't before long that I started seeing the benefits of remote working, especially with the team expansion. There is boundless talent in the world, only limited by the borders and the distances. All of this talent was available to tap now that the borders were erased. Everyone was just one click away, and it allowed us to tap more than just tier-1 talent.
Trust, not time
At Blue Sky, we believe that we shouldn't put a set of terms and conditions on ideas. We feel that quality work is delivered in the absence of micro-management and in a setup where people feel empowered and in control. Therefore, we made it a policy to not track working hours, as a symbol of faith and trust in our teammates. We put complete confidence in the team, and trust them to be self-managed and responsible. It’s a complete trust-based system.
Work delivered is always greater than time tracked.
Responsible spending, not splurging!
Remote work also helped us reduce the exorbitant costs of maintaining an office space. Allowing us to contribute to more deserving causes. We saved a ton on everything, be it food, rent, or commute. With savings, an investment culture is also coming up, with IPOs now being discussed in banter sessions.
At Blue Sky, we also strive to propagate a culture that is centered on personal growth and experiences. The time and money saved allow for much more all-around development of the team with them taking up activities that they are passionate about like swimming and bartending that they never could have before!
One of the biggest advantages of this remote culture was that eventually, everyone turned to their long-ignored bucket lists and started doing what they loved for once. Everyone took solo trips, and visited the places they loved, and getting to work from the desired environment is productive. And with getting to stay at home, everyone started adulting better, we were not lost generation anymore. And the best part? Zero commute time, which means more time for productive work. Also, playing Drawasaurus with the team was definitely a perk!
One of the major upsides of remote work was that we could go back to our homes, stay with our families, and rekindle old relationships. It has helped us to actualize the far-fetched goal of maintaining a work-life balance.
Has remote working caused some pain? If you ask me that question, I’d say yes. Three months into remote working, the cracks began to show. Fatigue, burnout, lack of natural interactions. Lack of human company is a great loss to deal with.
Just on the verge of a breakdown, we did the October retreat in Dadhikar. We all finally met and interacted, and this breathed a new life and vigor in everyone.
I have a love-hate relationship with remote work, like everyone else I guess. It can be pretty fun, but self-management also takes a toll on achieving that work-life balance. Asynchronized work can create bottlenecks spanning time-zones. But when I see people from all over India and the world online, at the same time, working to save the planet a day at a time, I feel better. When satellites see the world from above, they see no borders or boundaries, or time zones. It’s a giant landmass floating in the water, where everyone is one and united. There are no borders. I feel this is the same with Blue Sky. I have no competition, no enmity with my team, except on CS:GO.
I’ll take your leave, there is a match waiting to happen.