Blog header James and Agnelo

Flexible working: at home, visiting friends, working holiday, and the office!

James Williams walking
James out and about enjoying a walk

What was flexible working like before the pandemic?

[James] Flexible working has always been a part of the companies I’d worked for, but I always felt it was more for those who really needed it – to accommodate the school run, or take care of family. When I did use it, it was when the plumber came to fix the boiler, or when some sort of house-related work needed doing and I had to be there. I always felt awkward asking to work from home for a day or two and had a real sense of guilt that I was taking advantage of the option. That was because I’d see people’s reaction to my request – they’d glance up while I was asking permission, or would notice when I took my laptop home with me instead of locking it away in a locker. I’d frequently be met with “working from home eh?” and a wink.

When our world changed and lockdown meant working from home was the norm, I even remember a comment along the lines of “you may feel like you’re on holiday for a bit”. I didn’t feel trusted to get on with my work wherever I was based.

What’s flexible working like at Immersive Labs?

[James] When I joined Immersive Labs we were already mid-pandemic and flexible working was well in place. But how did this company do it? I’d been recruited via Zoom interviews, I’d joined the company stand-up online and got a feel for what it was like to work at Immersive Labs before I’d even met anyone in real life.

Since joining, I’ve noticed how non-judgmental flexible working can be. Here, flexible working makes my job more appealing and gives me true flexibility to work however it suits me.

[Agnelo] Flexible working allows the best of both worlds. I can come into the office and socialize, or have a quieter day from the comfort of my own home. I find that working both from home and in the office reduces my stress levels and promotes a healthy work-life balance. Each environment has its pros and cons, but doing both cancels out the negative aspects.

[James] When the lockdown rules eased, I wanted to go and visit a friend in London who I hadn’t seen for two years. I went into the office on Thursday and traveled up to London that evening. I worked from his house in London on Friday, which meant we were able to have the whole weekend to catch up, rather than try to travel on Friday night – and lose that precious extra night at the pub! After how well this worked, the idea of working remotely from anywhere really hit home. It’s easy to do and Immersive makes that truly possible.

What’s the best thing about working from home?

QA team meeting
The QA team weekly zoom catch up

[Agnelo] Working from home can have great benefits, like missing out on the infamous Bristol traffic and catching those extra 45 minutes in bed! If I have a moment to spare in the day, I like to run errands, which is difficult when you’re in the office five days a week. If I’m stressed out, I can take a breather and go for a run, which is something I never did when I worked full time at the office.

In terms of getting work done, I find my productivity at home is the same as when I’m in the office. The biggest issue is probably the social interaction, which I personally missed the most during the pandemic. But ever since the office has re-opened I’ve taken full advantage of it.

[James] I soon found that I actually enjoy working from home – if I need a break from my desk, I can head out for a run, a swim, a cycle, whatever I need to clear my mind and return ready to get going again. While all companies were certainly pushed into making it work, Immersive Labs really embraced remote and flexible working. It’s here to stay, and it’s a wonderful thing.

What’s the best thing about working in the office?

[Agnelo] Working at the office means I can walk down to St Nick’s market for lunch with a few of my colleagues to enjoy the smell and taste of the wonderful food. If it’s sunny, we often walk down to Castle Park for lunch or wander around the harbourside. Fridays are even better when we grab a drink at the end of a hard week, chill out, and indulge in the most British pastime of heading down to the pub.

Going to work now means taking advantage of the new office – whether it’s with a yoga class to help to relax your mind, body, and soul in the wellness suite, or just zooming around the office on the electric scooters. For the film enthusiasts, we’ve also just launched a new cinema club, which means enjoying a movie on a huge screen, sitting on a bean bag, and munching on bags of popcorn. And did I mention the snack cupboard and the drinks fridge?

Agenlo magic
Agnelo up to his tricks!

For team days, or if I want to work with someone in real life, the office has plenty of collaboration spaces of all sizes, meaning we can work one on one or in a group of 40. And having some members of the team based in or near Bristol means we take full advantage of this.

[James] Now the new office is open, I love going in! Not just because it’s super swanky with electric scooters to get from one end to the other, not just because the auditorium has stacks of sweets to munch on while chilling with music and a drink, not just because of the cool break out areas, games room, and wellness suite (for some epic yoga sessions!). I love going into the office because I miss people in real life, the buzz of the office, and chatting with people I don’t know. I miss how easy it is to just turn to someone and ask a question rather than send a message on Slack and wonder if you explained it clearly. In person, you pick up on different conversations and often learn something you wouldn’t have otherwise. My team is mostly based in Bristol, so we often have days where we all come in to run through our sprint plans. And of course, we have a social in the evening to get our team bonding!

But I also like that I don’t have to go into the office. I can attend all my meetings and do all my work-related tasks from anywhere. I have a chance to recover from a heavy training session without an early cycle commute that would tire me out more. I can even be totally flexible and take a working holiday.

Flexible working is here to stay. There’s no more judgment for staying at home on a particular day. No more excuses are needed – it’s amazing!