2 May 2023

Work From Home & Physical Connection

At Frontier, we do everything “our way”. 

Work From Home (WFH) our way has been about establishing a positive environment fueled 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. 

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. Today we share how opportunities to connect in person are critical to our WFH culture. We share how social events and our physical studio gives our team that extra connection.

We have a physical studio space….WHAAT? 

You might be reading this and thinking that if we have a physical studio this must mean we have plans to one day get everyone back into the office. Well, we beat you to the punch line. We often joke internally that the inclusion of a physical space is a secret ploy to get the team back into the office. 
If we haven’t said it enough times already… our business model is 100% WFH, not hybrid, not occasional studio requirements, just WFH.  

So why have the space then?

The short answer: To empower employees through choice and flexibility.

The long answer…

  1. Having your personal space and your workspace constantly colliding can be overwhelming for some. There are days where we all need a mental restart, a change in routine or change of space. It’s part of being human and there is nothing wrong with that! In recognition of this, we decided to offer our team a space where they could change up their routine if and when they want to.
  1. Being a remote first company also means being prepared! Some days the power goes out, other days the WiFi router isn’t cooperating… whatever the case we need to ensure we are providing our team with resources to support them when this happens. The space acts as a backup hub so our team don’t have to worry. 
  1. Finally, being a WFH model first doesn’t mean we don’t see the value of in-person meet ups. Having the space available for collaboration or even just to share a lunch / coffee break was something we wanted to provide. 

The inclusion of the space came from recognizing the needs that come with WFH environments and in turn, offering our team support. 

The rules of the game

We are remote first, this means the physical studio is a complimentary benefit. For us, it was extremely important to set and communicate the boundaries around studio work to avoid any created pressure to go in physically or feelings of being left out if someone chooses to never set foot in the studio.  

Here are some guidelines we shared with the team:

  • The studio is open twice a week and those wanting to go in can make a booking to do so.
  • No supervisor, lead or other employee can ask or require that someone goes into the studio. Our workflows and processes have been made for remote work and therefore there should be no need to go in physically other than out of choice. 
  • Those working in the studio must ensure our WFH workflows are maintained with all relevant meetings and collaborative work being inclusive to those working virtually.

More about the Physical Studio:
The Studio is located at the heart of downtown Montreal. The building has a connected exit/ entry to the metro and is two minutes away from buses, bixi stations, malls, food joints, parks and more!

The space is open concept and it wouldn’t be ours without being adorned by bright colours and our punchy neon logo. There are lots of plants to keep the space lively and positive. The space is also equipped with a coffee machine, sweet treats, kitchen and lounging area. Virtually, we spam each other with pictures of our furry friends on the daily. In person, the team are welcome to (or in other words highly encouraged… maybe nearing force) to bring their dogs to work. 

We have divided up the studio to fit different needs.  

  1. Common Zone: This area has been designed for those wanting to chat, collaborate and have a little bit of buzz around them while they work. 
  2. Focus Zone: This area has been designed for quiet work and can be made quite dark for people wanting to focus..  
  3. Meeting rooms: Given we are WFH first and foremost, there are probably a few virtual meetings that may need attending. The meeting rooms allow for personal and private calls to be had.
  4. Lounge and Relax Zone: For those wanting to socialize in a more relaxed setting, they can head to the living room area and hang out on the couches. 

Zoran Dimanovski, Compositing Artist, says: “I love having an optional way to meet and spend time with my colleagues. It’s nice knowing I have the choice to change up my work environment.”

Aude Cabanne, Compositing Artist adds: “While I love the comfort of working from home, I also enjoy having the option to go into the studio. Working alongside my colleagues, and having the opportunity to see them in person is a big plus in my opinion. Also  I get to confirm  that Spencer’s ( Spencer Read is our Production Coordinator and Chef extraordinaire)  pastries taste just as good in real life as they look in the pictures on Slack! “

Alex Maldoff, Production Manager shares: “Personally I live alone and so working from the office has been a great way to break up the routine, and I appreciate that we are able to go in on our schedules. The location of the office in downtown Montreal is great and extremely convenient, and Frontier has done a great job providing a welcoming atmosphere for any employees who’d like to get out of the house once in a while”.

Social Events 

At Frontier we work hard, but we also love to have fun. Seeing each other in person to just hang out is an important way we foster connections among the team.

We organize various events throughout the year. Sometimes it’s to celebrate the end of a busy delivery season, other events are our anticipated annual parties like our summer and end of year celebrations. 

It isn’t a Frontier event without putting it in the books with a cheesy Funtier name, like Funtier in the Suntier for our summer party, Fron-Fear for our halloween themed 5 a 7, to name a few!

We have a social committee, where the team is invited to help suggest or organize company-wide events. It’s always great to have our team be part of building our culture. 

This year, members of our lighting team, Toru and Jonathan, started an initiative around sports and its role in team building and well-being. Frontier will have its first ever soccer team participating in the VFX soccer league. In being able to engage with different departments and build team spirit through sport, those participating have the opportunity to form new relationships. Those who are not playing, can cheer on the Frontier team!

In speaking about in-person meet ups, Tasnia Matin, HR Manager says:

“I always love seeing how, despite not seeing each other in person as often as in studio work allows, or sometimes members of the team meeting for the first time since joining the company, there is this instant connection and friendship among the team. 

For me, this organic relationship really attests to the fact our WFH model has been successful in creating a virtual work culture. Our team knows each other and forms positive relationships  ahead of these in-person meet ups so there is no discomfort or awkwardness of meeting for the first time so to speak – they are already doing that virtually, this is simply connecting in a different way.”

"I appreciate that we are able to go in on our schedules. The location of the office in downtown Montreal is great and extremely convenient, and Frontier has done a great job providing a welcoming atmosphere for any employees who’d like to get out of the house once in a while.”