OUR SHARED WORKSPACE: THE VIRTUAL STUDIO
At Frontier, we do everything “our way”.
WFH our way has been about establishing a positive environment fuelled by collaboration, support, connectivity, learning and growth.
WFH our way helps cultivate an environment where our people can comfortably bring their authentic selves to work, be heard and feel their impact. This is what we call being “Remote Plus”.
We are confident we will deliver high quality VFX through the skill and creativity of our team, not by where we are seated.
In this mini series we share the different ways we make WFH more than just sitting in front of your computer while in your sweat pants (we mean…yes to still wearing your sweatpants). Today we share a tour of our Virtual Shared Workspace and dive into how it has played such an important factor in facilitating communication and creating a dynamic way in which our team connects and collaborates!
Welcome to our Shared Workspace
What the heck is a virtually shared workspace you may ask… Well, we are using a gamified video conferencing tool (Cosmos Video) to create a personalized virtual space/ studio. With an aim to build connection with our team, we have replicated all the great things that come from a physical studio into the metaverse.
Sounds confusing? Nah it’s easy, it’s just like playing a 90s video game.
Take a peek below and keep on scrolling.
How does it work?
Our floor plan was designed by our team! Within our funky digital space, every person has the option to add unique personalization and decoration to the studio space. Things can get quite creative and we love that the virtual studio represents our people. The whackier the better.
Each person also creates a unique avatar that represents them on the floor plan. This is a fun way to create your unique image and style there!
For us these features, specifically around personalization, are super important as we want to ensure everyone at Frontier feels like they can bring their authentic selves to the studio.
The Daily Flow:
Every morning, the team starts their day by logging onto the virtual studio and seating themselves wherever they want to.
From there, you can set different statuses:
- Focus Mode : This status lets people know to leave you alone if you have to focus up and get something done without distractions. Maybe you are on a call, working on a shot and in your element or maybe you need a moment to think – Focus mode lets us know that. Shhhhhh, I’m working here!
- Listening / Co-working Mode: Your camera and mic are off, but your audio is on. This status is perfect for collaborative work and training. If someone has a question or wants to chat, you’ll be able to say hello.
- Available: Reads pretty loud and clear for what this status means.
- Away : This is what you turn on when you want to take a break, lunch or are off for the day.
Why have a virtual shared workspace?
We chose Cosmos Video because we wanted to address the digital divide.
One of the challenges of remote work can be the lack of accessibility to other people. For instance, when you are in person you can tap the shoulder of the person next to you to ask them a question, or just simply yell across the room if that’s your style. We found initially, while working virtually, there was too much formalization to communication. The need to set up an invite, or request a call added layers that took away from collaboration and the ability to support one another. We are trying to make interactions as organic as possible on all levels at all times. Since adding this type of tool and workflow we have removed so many of these barriers.
Let’s take a studio tour and see what this looks like in practice:
1) Onboarding and Buddying Up: We know starting a new job is tough; it can be even harder to meet people in the team and get support virtually. As part of our onboarding process we buddy up new joiners with seasoned members of the team and have them seated together for the first weeks. This way, you can “tap” your buddy when you have a question. The new joiner will also be seated next to other artists of the same department. You’re always a “step” away from chatting to your team.
2) Training and Development: Sometimes we host a session in our common rooms, other times it is through one-on-one support from your supervisors or lead. Our 2D Supervisor Nicole Glen, for instance, will host open office hours, where people can drop in for help or just to say hello. The Listening or Available statuses let people know they can fly right in whenever.
3) Dailies Sessions: Dailies sessions play such an important role in VFX. Being put together in one room while getting our daily rundown is an ingrained practice! We use this tool for our dailies sessions, where you can join for general updates, client feedback, or join for shot notes related to your work specifically.
4) Water Cooler Talks: Who doesn’t miss the good old water cooler talks, where you get to catch up with a colleague while preparing a coffee and share about your weekend plans, the latest show/ movie watched etc.. We have multiple hang out and common areas on our floor-plan like our famous “The worlds End” pub and grill. Various members of the team stop by to have lunch together, a tea break and just connect.
5. Pets: We love pets, and even our virtual studio is pet friendly. We have our little robotic pets to keep us entertained!
Here are some thoughts from our VFX Supervisor, Luc Julien on how this type of tool has supported him in managing his team:
“I’ve been working from home for a while now, and I am a big advocate of remote work. Even I have to admit that there were moments I found myself missing the vibe of an office. I missed the spontaneous conversations, the jokes, the coffee machine chats, etc…I don’t feel those gaps anymore.
It’s like having a little virtual world where you can work and connect with your team in a more natural way. Personally, I love using Cosmos to stay connected with the team. It’s an easy way to pop into conversations, share a quick joke, or offer feedback without having to schedule a formal meeting. It’s like being in the same room with your team, even though you’re miles apart.
One of the things that impresses me the most about the platform is how it bridges the gap between the office and remote work. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to feel disconnected and isolated.
I have noticed that having this virtual studio has also helped to enhance communication and collaboration among artists. People share tables and stay in communication for as long as they want, listening to music, sharing tips and tricks, etc… Overall, it’s easier to stay on the same page and move forward.
That being said, while this type of tool is incredible at facilitating and enhancing our workflows/ communication, the true treasure lies in the wonderful people you come across in our team. You need to have the right people who make these types of tools work and we are truly privileged to work with such a talented bunch who want to collaborate!”