Rolling Out Emergency Work-From-Home at Ludia: What We Learned

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On March 13th, Ludia took the decision to transfer all it’s teams remotely starting the following Monday. In a week’s time,no less than 380 employees were equipped and fully operational. A real feat of strength for our IT team and all the people who volunteered to help them deliver. 

The Dream Team

A Unique Remote Work Situation

As with any emergency situation, what was put in place was very different from what would have been done in a different environment. If we would have decided to put in place remote work at Ludia, in a non-urgent context, which wasn’t the case, the logistics, equipment, decision-making, planning, and the entire implementation would have been entirely different. It would have been a real challenge of course, but with completely different problems and approaches. 

In our case, remote work is less than common, especially considering equipment. Few employees are equipped with laptops, therefore complete workstations had to be distributed, some were even improved as they went along: computer tower, monitors, plugs, webcam, microphone, headphones.These material, human, and logistical challenges were carried by our IT Team.

A Huge Challenge

When the situation started to become concerning, the board rapidly established provisional plans and list of priority workstations. These plans demanded numerous resource materials and deadlines. Orders were placed with the idea of providing a deployment within the span of a couple weeks. 

Then, everything accelerated very quickly. In lieu of the rapidly evolving situation, a decision was taken on Friday morning, March 13th based on the health and security of our Ludians. The entire studio would work-from-home starting Monday, March 16th. While the board of directors announced this decision personally to each team, the IT team, supported by the HR team and many other decisionnaries, searched for the best solutions to the following problem: how to rapidly equip 380 people with the necessary tools and equipment to work remotely? We were going into uncharted territory, with a big challenge to overcome.

Organisation: More Haste, Less Speed

As all employees were sent home, the IT team was still faced with the challenge of how to provide all employees with the necessary workstations to work-from-home. Knowing well that laptops were not a possible solution, the question remained: How to provide everyone everything necessary to work from home? Mirroring employees’ exact set-up (equipement, tools, and documents) was the most logical solution to ensuring that everyone was operational and productive. 

With that solution in mind, the deployment needed to be organized! Theoretic plans were now reality: employee priority lists, team meetings, retrieval of needs. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and went to work. With due diligence, we reflected and worked for the success of the deployment, rather than too quickly. Our CEO Alexandre Thabet, took the time to personally see all deployment teams to say: be organised and deliver this deployment, but do not burn yourselves out completing the task; remember to also take care of yourself. 

Knowing that we needed to move quickly but knowing that rest was as important, really helped the IT team surmount this feat. Having our CEO present everyday and in contact with every team was also a key factor. “Human” is one of our values here at Ludia, and that’s what remained at the heart of this operation. 

Well Defined Logistics

With a well-defined plan, it was now time to prepare logistics!

First things first, dispatch all employees by order of priority and business criticality. This meant, as a first step, we needed to ensure LiveOps support for our games, and then we could roll-out equipment for our games in-development. First step was to create a list of materials for each phase of deployment, fill out and make orders, and only then could the preparation of the boxes of equipment commence. The IT team worked all week-end long to prepare the material and begin the distribution process (either by in-studio pick-up or at-home delivery) to begin Monday, March 16th. The following week rolled-out one day at a time.

A typical deployment day:

The IT team, executives, HR, and our incredible volunteers met-up every morning to define the plan of action for the day:

  • What must be done
  • Who does what
  • What are the priorities and deadlines
  • What elements we are waiting for and how can we remediate the situation
  • What are today’s possible obstacles and how can we avoid them

Teams and volunteers turn to Jean-François, our IT Director. Have we ever told you about humility at Ludia? Whatever a person’s role, everyone involved listens to directions and recommendations given and starts working towards moving the deployment forward efficiently.

Following this morning meeting, we start working: assembling nominative equipment boxes, managing the employee pick-up process, gathering the lists of needs for the next phase, managing deliveries, and next steps. At lunchtime, we take the time to sit and share a meal. Then we meet another time and continue moving forward, anticipating blockages and finding solutions. We contact employees that have not yet responded concerning their equipment needs. By mid-afternoon, we can start to have a clear vision of next day’s equipment distribution. 

The most important part? Always ensuring that all elements have been prepared for the people in the current phase before starting the next. This avoids any mix-ups and potential errors that would take time to fix. Every employee box is prepared so that there is minimal installation and as little IT intervention as possible. That being said, a separate IT team forms to offer technical support to employees at a distance.

The same system is put in place everyday. If a new person volunteers their help, we take the time to explain what is to be done, how and why.

Within this context, one thing remains the same: we take our time. We take the time to explain, to analyse, to listen, to organise, to deliver properly. 

Of course, minor errors were committed: a forgotten keyboard here and a broken screen there, but nothing too significant compared to that fact the 380 employees were equipped after only 7 days! These minor errors were all dealt with appropriately: we took note and found a solution. There’s no time to reprimand, especially with a team that does such a great job the rest of the time.

On top of that, not only are our current teams now equipped, but also our new employees. Even more impressive: everything is ready to be delivered to new team members joining in the coming weeks!

But the work isn’t finished just yet. This is just the beginning of the biggest pilot project we’ve launched. It’s going to require a lot of adaptation, cooperation, and preparation for the coming weeks. But our teams are ready, close-knit, and motivated!

2 Factors for Success: Trust and Human-Centered Thinking

Organization, well-oiled logistics, responsiveness, and agility we’re at the forefront of this deployment. But after discussing with the teams, what really made a difference was trust and our human-focused  thinking. 

Working like machines, burning out our teams, forgetting to take the pulse of others and forgetting to listen can easily happen in situations like this. Yet at Ludia these elements were naturally a priority. A wonderful example of this is our CEO’s way of thinking during this situation. Physically present during the entire deployment, he asked us to do our best but to make sure to take care of ourselves. 

Our entire team upheld this spirit and state of mind. We worked hard, laughed together, and ensured that everyone took breaks. We learnt to better know and understand each other and bring out the best of everyone’s strength. We took the time to share, to listen, and that’s what enabled us to succeed and surmount this challenge; tired but not exhausted, proud and closer than ever.

Trust was primordial. No one was scared to express their thoughts, to stop the process if they had a doubt or an eventual error, and this combined, resulted in quality work. 

Our employees provided incredible support, care, and mutual assistance which facilitated the deployment. It also brought an immense amount of company-wide gratitude towards the team that made this all possible. 

With the help of our teams and volunteers, and the caring and comprehension of our Ludians, what seemed like a daunting logistical feat in uncharted territory, transformed itself into a beautiful success and an illustration of our values and corporate culture. 

A Golden Ally

We would also like to say a special thanks to our unsung hero who enabled all home deliveries, while also recuperating material in all four corners of Montreal. This permitted us to advance, saving us precious time. Thank you Marc, our Chronos courier.

We call Marc our hero internally – he inevitably is a vital part of our dream team. If our employees can work operationally from home today, and you and your kids can find some small comfort playing our games at home, it’s in part thanks to him!

It’s moments like these that make us realise how lucky we are to work with quality partners and collaborators. We couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and to count such incredible people as part of our crew.

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