How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

Like most companies, 2020 has brought us unexpected challenges that we have had to deal with as best as we can. Considering all the changes and struggles we have all been facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our thoughts are with those who are struggling both physically and mentally throughout this crisis. Few would have predicted the situation was going to blow up to these proportions, and it has been a test of resilience, adaptability, and flexibility.Fortunately for Altagram, the project-based nature of our work has always entailed a certain degree of adaptability. From one localization, testing, or audio project to the next, the resources required vary. As such, planification for these projects is always a matter of finding appropriate and available resources that we can assign to the project, managing individual schedules, and dealing with our clients’ deadlines accordingly.

As such, setting up home office during the 3 months of lockdown for the entire group has been an endeavor that was not easy, but—thanks to our IT team—was ultimately manageable.

On the other hand, it is when we consider the human aspects and relationships that many benefit from coming to their workplace that things have been more challenging. How can we replicate the social interactions of our workplace and the sense of wellbeing they bring when everyone has to stay home and practice social distancing? How do we support the most fragile among us, and how do we make sure that everyone is feeling well?

This question has been one of our management team’s main focuses over these past 6 months. In the article below, we present some of the measures we have taken and how we decided to move forward with an alternative attendance model since the end of the state-imposed isolation.

How did we keep morale up among Altamates?

Before the pandemic started, we already had some weekly rituals in place that all Altamates—as we call ourselves—could join in on, and relax and have fun while getting to know each other better. From Monday breakfasts and midday console breaks, to free after-work beers on Fridays, we have always done our best to foster good relationships at work.

While we haven’t been able to uphold all of these rituals while working from home, we have kept the ones that can be maintained remotely, while trying to bring some new ones to the table.

This whole process has been facilitated by the fact that most of our internal communications are done through multiple platforms such as Teams, Slack, and Skype, as well as by email. We have offered all Altamates the possibility to join support chat groups, and have designated multiple managers as points of contact (POC) in case these groups do not provide enough anonymity.

In addition to those support groups, we have renewed our commitment to company-wide group chats that are not directly related to our daily work, with channels covering a range of topics from art and board games fans, to sci-fi and K-pop.

We have been pushing the continuation of social interactions over online channels, and trying to maintain some of the rituals mentioned above such as Friday beers. While we have replaced the traditional physical toast with a virtual one during this time, the joy of sharing a beer and chatting with everyone was ever-present.

Our famous Beer Fridays

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

We have also launched a few additional initiatives, dedicating days to themes such as Classy Fridays, where everyone is invited to dress as they would when attending an official meeting.

Let’s keep it classy!

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

All in all, we are glad to have been able to perpetuate some of the core values of our company culture, including care, fairness, and transparency.

How have we been monitoring the situation of all our employees, and how have we been able to solve individual problems?

Making sure that everyone at Altagram Group is able to work properly from their home was one of our main concerns. Our IT team worked hard to ensure that our Cloud infrastructure was operational on all types of computers. While not forcing anyone to stay connected to the remote desktop at all times, access to our server was essential for the proper continuation of our daily work.

The expertise of our IT team allowed us to resolve most problems over the first week of home office during lockdown.

In addition to keeping everyone entertained, it was also essential for us to keep all Altamates informed about the current situation both regarding the company and the latest COVID-related news worldwide.

To do so, we opted to send weekly email updates coupled with the results of our weekly check-in surveys. With this feedback, we have been providing information on the state of the governmental measures regarding COVID-19 for each of our offices’ locations.

In addition, we have shared the results of our weekly surveys regarding home office setups and various individual inquiries that could benefit the teams. These weekly surveys have also allowed us to gather feedback about the working conditions and wellbeing of all Altamates.

An example of our weekly feedback to our teams

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

We have also strongly encouraged everyone to contact their referent manager for one-on-one meetings if needed, be it for personal or work concerns.

How has it been preparing for the return to the office?

Each our offices have had different return dates based on the relevant governmental recommendations. Since July, we have put into place an alternative attendance model that, while keeping an essential flexibility for each and everyone to decide what’s best for them, also encourages the return to each of our offices’ premises.

The return to our Berlin office, the one we will focus on, has been considered over the course of the lockdown.

As there is currently no vaccine validated by the WHO to prevent COVID-19, we have been preparing the return to our offices by closely following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of any respiratory diseases.

Among the concerns that were essential to address were hygiene measures and proper communication about said measures. To fulfil these requirements, we have set up hygiene measures in every room as well as written guidelines to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Some of the hygiene measures we ask our employees & actors to follow while in the office

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

We have also prepared each Altamate for their return to the office by sending emails and PowerPoint guidelines to follow when arriving and interacting with their colleagues at our offices. We have also guaranteed that dedicated POCs are available for questions and inquiries.

In addition, we have as well improved the onboarding process of new employees and created additional documentations and handbooks which are more than valuable in these times.

“Back to the office” PowerPoint

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

Our alternative attendance model

Ensuring that anyone coming back to the office felt safe was essential. As such, we decided to divide our offices’ teams into two groups to reduce the number of employees present at any given time.

These groups have been rotating in and out of the office every two weeks, but also based on their capacity, wants, and needs. Indeed, we are not forcing anyone to come back if they feel uncomfortable, and we are also offering everyone the possibility to choose between coming in 1 to 5 days every two weeks.

To date, all our workforce has been in the office, and we have around 30% of our team present on-site daily. This seemed to be the right way of making sure that the usual organization of our desks would not infringe on the required distancing indicated by the CDC, even at 50% capacity.

Email updates about our alternative model

How have we been dealing with COVID-19 at Altagram?

How is this going to impact our company’s future?

In many ways, we’ve discovered that remote work can have its benefits. As such, we have decided to consider modifying our yearly remote work schedule to include more home office days. Indeed, some employees have noticed an increase in productivity thanks to working from home, and it has allowed many parents to be able to spend more time with their children.

The benefits do not stop there; this increase in schedule flexibility allows us to think forward about the worldwide situation and be proactive in regards to measures we would have to take in case of another enforced lockdown. We are fully prepared for this situation and have learned along the way how to put essential measures into place to ensure the continuation of our work while keeping the safety and wellbeing of all Altamates at the forefront of our minds.

At Altagram, we use our years of experience in the games industry to help game developers and localization managers get the results they want as efficiently as possible.

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