Visualizing one year of remote work

About a year ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced us out of our office, the January Advisors team adopted some new practices to adjust to remote work.

We now start and end the day with a team check-in. The primary objective of these meetings (called “standup” and “sitdown”) is to update everyone on our work day: detail meetings, summarize goals for the day, announce finished projects, and schedule ad-hoc meetings with each other.

Of course, the meetings also serve as a much-needed social outlet. We spend time talking about what we’re cooking for dinner, the best movie we’ve seen lately, and new quarantine-friendly hobbies (David’s a surfer now).

zoom screenshot of the january advisors team

These meetings have a consistent structure. Someone volunteers to start, talks about their day, then chooses the next person, who talks about their day, and so on.

Once everyone has gone and there’s been a sufficiently long awkward pause, Jeff says “Well, it’s a lovely day outside. I hope everyone gets a chance to go outside today.” Even if (especially if?) it is not a lovely day outside. 

Naturally, as a data person, I felt compelled to document our daily meetings and capture the trends. I admit, I started doing this so I knew who I could call on during meetings (it’s a major faux pas to call on someone who has already gone).

But then I realized the data itself could be interesting. Initially, I took an analog approach. In my notebook, I drew a simple chart, with our names as columns. Each day, I filled in a row under each person’s name, color coded to designate their position in the meeting: red for first, orange for second, yellow for third, and so on.

After several months, this approach became untenable, so I moved to a Google Sheet. Here, I recreated the same data visualization, using conditional formatting. The Google Sheet worked well for a while, but soon we all had a thirst for real time stats and slick visualizations.

The time had come to build an app.

evolution of the data visualization for january advisors checkin meeting
The evolution of the data visualization across platforms: analog, GoogleSheets, R.

StandApp is a one stop shop for collecting, visualizing, and analyzing our meeting data.

Some people may say it’s overkill to develop an app to track useless data.  Those people are certainly correct, but I did it anyway.

screenshot of the january advisors standapp
screenshot of the january advisors standapp
StandApp includes data submission, individual stats, and team stats.

Here are some trends we’ve learned from building and using StandApp.

Who showed up?

chart of who misses january advisors checkin meetings

Kelsey is our team delinquent. He misses nearly one in four meetings. But he has good reasons. He misses because he’s in other meetings, or he’s in the middle of a coding flow and needs to maintain focus.

I, on the other hand, have near perfect attendance, having missed less than 3% of the meetings since going remote. You might wonder if my attendance is due to the fact that I take the data and therefore there’s no record if I’m absent. It’s possible that plays a role. But now that the app allows anyone on the team to record data, that won’t be an excuse moving forward.

One of the challenges of recording this data was accounting for new people joining our team. January Advisors has grown a lot in the past year. We have two new full time employees (welcome, Emi and Marissa!), hosted two summer interns, and brought in external consultants to help with big projects.

Who calls on whom?

Most January Advisors team members are pretty neutral in who they call on during meetings. There’s one glaring exception though: the Carly-Shannon Alliance. This Alliance formed in June 2020. It started with Carly calling on me more often than expected. Then I quickly reciprocated. Since the Alliance formed, there have been 171 meetings in which Carly and I were both present. We’ve called on each other in all but 8 of them. Our loyalty to one another is the envy of the team.

heatmap chart of who calls on whom in january advisors checkin meetings
In this chart, orange indicates a pairing that happens more often than expected, white indicates as often as expected, and blue indicates less often than expected.

Who goes first and last?

Jeff shares Ricky Bobby’s mentality: if you ain’t first you’re last. Jeff goes either first or last in almost half of our meetings. That’s what you’d expect on a team of four, but with eight people, you’d expect to go somewhere in the middle much more frequently.

chart of who starts and ends january advisors checkin meetings

Everyone else shares the starting position pretty fairly, except for me. I never start because I fear engaging in the little tap dance when you accidentally talk over someone on a video call.

Our remote work rituals keep evolving

Our meetings continue to evolve. Sometime in the fall, we introduced fun facts into the mix. Our “fun” facts are often not fun and sometimes not even factual. StandApp just started tracking these “fun” “facts”: check them out for yourself!

What do you do to make remote life more fun? We want to know!

Shannon Carter

Shannon is a data scientist at January Advisors. You can follow her on Twitter @shan_k_carter