On 18th March, the Malaysian government rolled out its nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO), a partial lockdown meant to curb and stop the spread of the coronavirus (CoVid-19) in Malaysia. Many non-essential businesses in public and private sectors were forced to either cease operations or rapidly adopt strategies to enable remote work.
At Streamline Games, most of our game developers were able to start working from home almost immediately with barely any time lost on projects, in particular our upcoming multiplayer, co-op game, Bake ‘n Switch!
The past few weeks have been quite crazy and challenging as the team has been trying to find a balance between work, personal time, and staying connected.
Today, we're checking in with some of our teammates: Ramesh (Lead Programmer), Mauro (Senior Concept Artist), and Ethel (Associate Producer) with Head of Production, Izzal, leading the questions.
Izzal: Hey guys, how have you adjusted to working from home (WFH) been since the MCO started eight weeks ago?
Ramesh: Well, for me, it was kind of difficult finding a routine to keep me sane in the first few days of the MCO. The days kept merging into one chunk.
Mauro: I had a smooth transition. I moved my desk from my bedroom into the living room. A seemingly small act, but it creates a distinction between a space to work and rest.
Ethel: I also had a smooth transition, but I didn't have to distinguish between where I spent my time working or sleeping. I'm quite comfortable doing everything in the same space.
Ramesh: Same, I didn't have to create two separate spaces. I was quite happy to do everything in my room. Personally, the most important thing was creating a routine that could help me get back into the swing of things.
Mauro: Oh, I couldn't do that. If I had to do both in the same place, my work mode would've blended too much with my personal life. I found it easier adapting to get things done.
I: Why is it so important to create routines for yourselves, and how long did it take to kick it off?
M: Just like creating a different space to work and rest, I find that it is important to keep certain small habits. It helps me distinguish between two modes - work and personal. For example, wearing trousers signals that I'm going to "work" even though I'm only moving from my bedroom to the living room.
R: It took me about a week to find my routine, especially one that could help me differentiate between weekdays and weekends, work time, and personal time. Mainly, creating a routine was for my own peace of mind.
E: Honestly, I hit the ground running. As I said earlier, the transition to work from home was smooth, and I agree with Ramesh and Mauro that having a routine helps keep track of each passing day. Two weeks ago, I found myself forgetting what day it was. But I think the routines between all of us would be quite different since our job scopes are also different.
I: That's a great segue into our next question! What does your day-to-day WFH routine look like?
M: When I work from home, I try to maintain the same routine I have when working at the office between 9:30 am - 6:30 pm. I section off my day to do different tasks depending on the project and its scope of work. I begin the day with more time-consuming tasks like 3D construction, block outs. Then, I spend the afternoon refining scenes before delivering my tasks to wrap up the day. I find creating small cyclical routines helps me fit into a larger routine. It's sort of like making an architectural construction of my day. After work, I'll go to my kitchen to prepare food for my housemates and myself so that we can have dinner by 8 pm. Then, I'll usually work on personal projects. But I haven't been doing much of that as I've been distracted by Final Fantasy VII remake!
R: Similarly to Mauro, I try to replicate the feeling of going to work at the office; like having a regular fitness session before work, timeboxing my work hours, and then move on to any planned activities in the evening. It ranges from watching videos analyzing game mechanics, reading, painting, or playing more video games.
E: In my case, I try to maintain a semblance of routine. Unlike both of you, where your work is steadier, mine fluctuates throughout the week. My day is blocked out by projects or management meetings that start from 10 am onwards. I usually get the bulk of my administrative tasks done before lunch. Then, I'll spend the rest of my day either relaying information via emails or in meetings and following up on tasks. Thinking about this, I can see some sort of pattern emerging. Sometimes, there'll be ad-hoc work that pops up in my workday. I'm sure you're familiar with this Ramesh since you're a Lead and do end up in some meetings that I'm in.
R: Yeah, my workday is usually all over the place. To put it simply, I start the day by checking-in on all the platforms for updates on a project task or bug reports, make sure daily builds get done, and everyone on my team is working on something.
I: Do you feel more productive working from home?
R: For programmers, it's easy to enter and get lost into the work mindset, so work productivity is about the same, except now I have plenty of time to do more things in the day. Personally, working at the office has less to do with productivity and more with external factors, like travel time between home and the office. If I work at the office, I'll usually stay back later despite coming in early to wait for the traffic jam to pass. By the time I get home, I'll only have the energy to have a quick dinner and then crash in bed as I'd be too tired to do anything else.
M: Yes, same here. Work productivity is no issue, but I do feel like I'm not respecting my lunch hour the same way as I did at the office. Maybe I shouldn't do that. On the other hand, it's affecting my work time. Before the MCO, I already had the habit of working on personal projects after coming home from the office, but working from home has made it difficult to adapt.
E: I also share the same sentiment with Mauro and Ramesh about work. It's much the same level of productivity, perhaps more since there are fewer distractions like talking to people or running around to find someone. Ramesh's sentiment about traveling, spending less time trapped in a box on wheels has made me productive in my downtime.
I: What are the benefits and challenges of WFH?
M: I've been getting more sleep. I've been trying to get back into working on personal projects. Personally, the idea of studying and continuing to work on your skills is very valuable. I'm regularly searching for tutorials to brush up on technical skills or learn a different approach to solve problems I've found through my experiments. The MCO has caused some stress and anxiety, which has made it hard for me to focus. The fact that our freedom to go outdoors has been removed or instead go out at your own risk has been the most challenging.
R: I'm a notoriously slow gamer, so the MCO has given me ample time to get through my backlog. I've also been spending my free time on art. Just like Mauro, I regularly look for tutorials. Right now, I'm learning about lighting in miniature painting. From a programming design side, I've been spending more time working with Unreal to find better ways to optimize games to look nice but perform well. Very useful in the development pipeline since I'm working on Bake ‘n Switch.
E: I feel so new listening to you guys talk about what you've learned during the MCO. Honestly, most of my skills as an Associate Producer comes from direct application. If I don't understand something, I'll ask a Dev I'm working with for more context. I have bought a course to learn Python, but I've been stuck in the lessons, and there's this UI/UX one I've yet to begin. Apart from that, I've mainly been working out, rediscovering old hobbies, and learning more recipes.
I: What does your WFH setup look like?
I: What's the first thing you want to do after the MCO ends?
E: Will it end?! The government keeps extending it every two weeks. I want to go on a nice long walk. Specifically, I want to go on a good hike. I miss the outdoors and physically catching up with my friends.
M: I want to do small things like going to the cinema or going to my friend's place to play board games. Then, if possible, I'd like to start planning my trip to visit my brother and go to Japan. 2020 was supposed to be the year that I was finally going to visit Japan! I've always wanted to go, but it looks like that maybe next year's travel goal now.
R: I don't have any post-MCO plans. I'm quite happy being home, but like what Mauro mentioned earlier, I want to regain the freedom of going out as and when I want as the heat and humidity at home is driving me insane!
I: Thanks, everyone, for sharing your MCO stories!