For the last month and a half all teams at Ludia have been working from home. The current situation is complex and necessary, but brings with it its slew of challenges in the development of our projects, and also for the daily lives of all of our employees.
In this context we wanted to let you in on the day-to-day operations of the studio and some of our Ludians daily routines. This week, we start off with Coralie Munier, who has been a Producer here at Ludia for the last 8 years, and is a Mother to her 18-month old daughter.
The production of a game while working from home
Coralie is a producer on our game Dragons: Titan Uprising. Between strategic planning, defining objectives, distribution of tasks, collaborating with other departments and managing a team of 30 people, even in a “normal” context this is a demanding role, highly based on communication. This can be very challenging to manage, especially at a distance.
On the other hand, Coralie and her team were able to rapidly adapt and efficiently keep up with production. “What helps us, is having an extremely clear roadmap. When the vision is clear, they know where they’re going and what they need to do.” Certain situations need to be managed more regularly but globally, they’ve tried to keep and maintain the same routine and functioning in place as the one at the studio; the sprint meetings once every two weeks, and the recurring, habitual meetings. The only thing that changes is that they are now virtual.
It’s by being organized and keeping a weekly rhythm similar to that of what the team is used to, with a few exceptions of course, that allows for them to produce and maintain their same quality of work.
Managing a team at a distance
It takes a lot of organization to manage a 30 person team including, notably game designers, developers, testers, and artists, in a way that is as efficient and human as possible. There wasn’t a need to put in place new things, but rather to simply adapt all the previously physical actions into virtual. Naturally, specific attention was placed on reinforcing communication and a regularity of contact (whether by call, video, or chat). This regular contact is more than to just discuss tasks and projects, but to ensure that each team member is feeling good, that there are no specific issues or to simply allow them to talk about how they are feeling. The team is encouraged to be open and honest about their emotions in order to be accompanied in a way that is ideal for them during this worrisome time. In addition to regular stand-up meetings, every team lead is responsible for 2-5 people which he or she must speak with every day. Similarly, Coralie takes the time to discuss with each of her leads daily.
More generally speaking, for Ludians that have been with the studio for a longer period of time, it’s a bit easier, but for new employees, working from home can be a big challenge. The team therefore places special attention to the latest recruits. “One of our new arrivals started about 1 month before the deployment of remote work. He’s just freshly arrived in Montreal; he’s not in his country, doesn’t really have any friends here, nor family, and just moved into an apartment that doesn’t feel like home yet. We pay very special attention to him, his lead speaks to him everyday and creates social, informal moments. For example, they connect together at lunch time to play games together.” The most important aspect for Coralie is that not one person of her team feels isolated.
Another category of people that are naturally having more difficulty in this situation, but for different reasons are parents. The key message for them is: do your best. As herself, a Mother to a young child, Coralie reassures parents and reminds them of the flexibility offered by Ludia to work when they can (in respect to the deadline of deliverables). She even rallied her troops to create a wonderful team spirit that allows others to support and help lessen certain people’s workload if need be.
“I think that with the current situation we’re really seeing Ludia at it’s best, the support between Ludians, and it makes us realize that we are lucky to be working in these conditions and for this studio.”
Although if she allows parents a lot more flexibility, it’s often a lot more complex for her to benefit from the same flexibility.
In fact, when others can organize their schedules to work early in the morning, or late at night whilst the kids are asleep, it’s not always a conceivable solution when you’re managing thirty people daily. Coralie must be available to her team during regular hours, which has required a lot of adaptation.
Working from home with a young child
What she misses the most? “The ability to switch my brain and concentrate solely on my work. In the Ludia offices, I can devote my entire energy and concentration to my work. When you need to also take care of an 18-month old at the same time, it changes everything. We realize that there are so many things we take for granted, and we’ll appreciate them so much more once we’ll be back in the studio. I also have a lot more admiration for my child’s caretaker, haha.”
So how does one organize themselves to manage their work as a video game producer and also care for their young child?
Coralie and her partner Romain, adapt their time management by alternating their work moments and moments spent with their little one. They try, to the best of their ability, to schedule meetings in function of each other’s agendas in order not to be both working at the same time. Does it always work out? Well, no, sometimes one or the other has the little one on their lap during a videoconference, “but everyone is really considerate and understanding in these cases”. We adapt!
In a few words, here’s how a typical day works out for Coralie:
7 a.m.: The little one wakes up.
9:30 a.m.: Nap time. This is where Coralie and Romain plan out their most important calls: VP production, Human Resources, Team Meetings…
12 p.m.: The little one wakes up and lunches are prepared (it’s crazy the time we spend just preparing food! When at the studio, we simply just stepped out to get a salad or sandwich – it’s the little things that we take for granted!)
Afternoon: It’s at this point that both really start alternating taking care of the little one. Certain days she’ll do another nap, but we’re never sure. So, again, we need to re-arrange our agenda’s in consequence and organize ourselves the best we can to ensure we can get some work done while being reasonably available for our teams.
6 p.m.: Already a new meal to prepare.
7 p.m.: The little one goes to sleep and Coralie and her partner start up work again. Planning tasks, meetings, defining objectives, and everything else that doesn’t require other teammates.
9 p.m.: It’s time to eat and to relax!
“To be perfectly honest, it makes for long days, but we finally found a rhythm. Thankfully our daughter has really good nights, and generally stays asleep from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following day. In the beginning, we wanted so much to follow a specific routine, that would be the same daily, but that wouldn’t work. With a child, we need to go with the flow and take things as they come. If one morning I see that it really won’t be possible, I let my team know that I’m taking a day off. They all know what they must do, and there is less pressure on me. The following day I can return rested and more readily available to them. It’s also leading by example. I encourage the parents on my team to do the same, our mobile days are there for a reason. And in emergency situations, everyone adapts. Again, we’re all doing our best, there is more magic recipe.”
“My advice to parents: don’t try and be perfect, nor find the perfect routine! Take it day by day, be indulgent with yourselves and with your little ones. You are stronger than you think!”
“Also, my last piece of advice: take time off if you need it! Parent or not, don’t wait until you’ve reached your limit. Taking the day off from time to time to concentrate on yourself or your family without the pressures of work-from-home can make all the difference!”