Block by Block
Togetherness 2020: A Minecraft all-hands, holiday party, and battle royale.
Twice a year we bring everyone who works for Postlight to New York City — from around the U.S., and from Beirut, with their families if they choose — and we all work together for a week. We call it Remotes Week. Teams visit clients, clients come to the office, vendors stop by to say hello. We do a hack day. Not a lot of work gets done. The office is like a mosh pit. Toward the end, we do a big all-hands meeting and go to the holiday party. It’s ridiculously expensive to bring dozens of people to New York City, but it’s always worth it. But of course, not this year.
Yet in the spirit of things, we decided to have “Remotes Week” anyway, and called it “We Are All Remotes Week.” Like everything this year, it was a pale imitation of normal life. But it also illuminated what’s changed.
One side effect of the pandemic is that we rehearse a lot more. Communication with 70 people over internet video is hard. For the all-hands presentation, my Co-Founder Rich drafted the deck with input from all over, and then we practiced the pass-off from leader to leader. We also cut out a ton of detail. Tell people what happened, focus on what’s next, and keep it moving.
Rich put in stock video of cheering fans behind all the promotion announcements. We walked through the work that our Action Committee did toward social and racial justice. We listed all the perks we’ve had during the year: mailing coffee and ice cream (with a vegan option); money for office equipment, obviously; the time we gave everyone 1% of their salary as a random bonus. We didn’t mention the time we hosted a live donkey on Zoom, but we did once host a live donkey on Zoom.
And then we had Minecraft! Thanks to hard work by Jeremy Mack, a Managing Partner who leads Engineering, and Operations Coordinator Paula Chew, who created dozens and dozens of Minecraft accounts and Discord accounts — we were all invited into a big open area called the hub. We all logged onto Discord as well to chat. Jeremy then guided us to an all-hands auditorium.
We chatted for a bit, and then Rich and I were asked to fight to the death as Co-Founders. Rich was confused and dropped his sword, then picked up a cactus, so I was able to kill him quickly. A melee broke out, and the company started in a frenzy of murder. I was killed soon after.
Then we went through another portal. And this part was just magical. It was New York City, inside Madison Square Park, right where you’d come off the R train to walk down to the office. The model covers from around 19th St. to 36th St. It doesn’t include our office at 17th St. and 5th Ave., but that’s okay. We just ran around like feral children, lighting fires, laughing on Discord, damaging the Empire State Building.
And finally, through another portal, where there are plots to build — the “hack day” for 2020. Some teams haven’t had a lot of time to do much, other teams have absolutely gone wild. There’s a roller coaster and Mario. However, senior management’s plot is just pitiful. We don’t deserve to work at this company.
It was a moment of pure folly and joy for anyone who logged in, and just a source of true joy. It wasn’t a holiday party, but it was close.
If there was a holiday party, I’d make a toast. But of course, not this year. So this was my toast at the all-hands meeting:
We pride ourselves on work-life balance. But work-life balance in the past eight months? What is it? It’s been obliterated. Work is in life, life is in work. Everyone is on camera. Families are in and out of the frame. I know some of us have had the worst days of our lives in the past eight months. I know I don’t know all of it, or most of it. But I know that it’s been hard.
The work you did forming relationships and building trust, and supporting one another over the past eight months, many of these relationships are going to last for the rest of your life. Those relationships are much bigger than Postlight. You’ll be amazed. Some of you will still be checking in with one another 30, 40 years from now.
So celebrate that. Celebrate that you did a great job. In the midst of absolute chaos, you all did a great job. We did a great job. Lebanon has been through hell, New York City has been through hell, the world is in the middle of a disaster, but the part that we could control, the only part that we could truly control, we did a great job. I am lucky to work with you.
Imagine that delivered in a serious tone, but with occasional awkward sound effects that we used to keep things light. Then we closed out the all-hands with a video montage of the work people had done all year, made up of their demo videos. I wish I could share it, but client confidentiality comes first. People are proud of their work, and they should be.
This has been a very trying time. We’re not done with it yet. People are still utterly cooked. But ultimately we figured it out. We’ve got some scars, but we’re stronger. Tell people what happened, focus on what’s next, and keep it moving.
Paul Ford is the CEO and Co-Founder of Postlight. Get in touch at email@example.com, and find him on Twitter @ftrain.
Story published on Dec 22, 2020.