Remote work promotion and office space functionality

(Polygon Pictures Inc. / Studio Phones)

This document was initially published in July 2020, and is intended to be updated as needed thereafter.
As for the document itself, we will do our best to publish it with revision procedures in mind. Our goal is to continually improve its overall quality by making gradual revisions over time.

Related documents (including works in progress):

"ssues We Have Noticed Since Implementing Remote Work"
Work in progress

"Balancing Existing Workstyles and Digital Transformation, and Some Issues Other than Efficiency"
Work in progress

A dialogue between production and development that supports the growth of workflow design

translated by PPI Translation Team

■Background and awareness of issues as of July 2020

At Polygon Pictures, we are planning on implementing a trial work environment in which we convert a portion of the company office's desks to shared desks in order to explore issues that may arise as we work towards a production process that enables totally remote working. As such, going forward we are anticipating changes to the requirements we have come to demand of the office space in terms of its role and functionality.
It is our hope that by publishing this page and continually revising it as needed, we will be able to determine how we should go about sharing information regarding our internal production process, including methods for sharing “primary information” from the studio via the internet in order to provide information to both company staff who are working from home as well as our affiliated partners.
For those of you who have participated in Film Production Technique Seminars in the past, please think of this as more-or-less an extension of those past seminars.

■Details of internal office space as of July 2020

At Polygon Pictures, we have become known both within and without the company for endeavoring over many years to establish a work environment in which many employees gather in one place, resulting in constant close interaction between various cultures both international and domestic. In particular, the PPI Translation Team’s many years of activity have resulted in us being able to maintain a high percentage of international staff members. We have also produced a number of large foreign projects, which in turn has resulted in us strengthening our server-side infrastructure and evolving our animation production pipeline over many years of development.

The image above is a map of the company office layout as of July 2020. Up until now, we have operated the office space in a way that allows for easy collaboration between departments. Production staff and executive staff are each placed around their own central areas in order to facilitate ease of communication, and teams in charge of different steps of the production process are similarly seated in a way that is conducive to dialogue within teams.

In the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which may continue in the long-term, and with the possibility of other natural disasters occurring in the future, we believe that now is an opportune time to start implementing more diverse workstyles as we consider possible solutions to the challenges presented by said disasters. Starting with the current implementation of remote working, we plan on continuing to change and adapt our workstyles as the situation demands.

■Shared desk promotion status

As of July 2020, we are gradually working towards establishing a production process in which a similar work environment can be maintained for both those working remotely and those working at the office by attempting to re-create the conditions of working at home within the office setting. Specifically, we have designated a specific number of desks as shared desks and set up the various equipment necessary for their use in the company office. We plan on creating an office environment that facilitates a production process without the need for fixed desks, which we will begin to implement approximately at the same time as the publishing of this document.
While maintaining the systems and overall feeling of this implementation of shared desks, our goal is to establish a seamless production system involving both remote work and on-site production.

■Be aware of the transmission as primary information in the studio itself

It may be common knowledge that changes within Polygon Pictures have been reported through various media, but in this seminar (A Film Production Technique Seminar), we have shared more technical information rather than general information on the company. This is one example of how we’ve endeavored to change the way we publicize information, with an awareness of the importance of considering publicity as we continue our work.
This time, given that we are in a period where remote work is seeing widespread implementation across the globe, and furthermore one in which in-person seminars are still not possible, we thought that some of the issues we are facing--including how to quickly share information about changes within our company going forward, as well as jointly implementing both on-site work and remote work while exploring the idea of moving towards completely remote work in the future--were not necessarily unique to our companies.
As such, both moderator companies decided to look into how they can disseminate primary information as a studio, while publicly sharing and regularly editing and updating a record of the process of implementing remote work, with the goal of testing methods of conveying the changes attempted within the company and the issues that arise as quickly as possible.

A Record of the Inception of the "A Film Production Technique Seminar"

This time, when we were contemplating the best way to disseminate information, we considered using a similar format as our previous online seminars on energy and resource conservation. Of course an online seminar format utilizing a video conference system is certainly a viable option, but when considering the fact that it is likely we will encounter a variety of disasters not limited to the coronavirus pandemic in the future, we thought it prudent to pursue solutions in a way that would only be possible due to the current proliferation of remote work.
In other words, rather than attempting to recreate the feeling of an on-site seminar in an online format, we decided to instead look into a new approach to information dissemination that differs from previous methods.
As such, we as a studio resolved to share the current state of the changes within our company as primary information in as close to “real time” as possible, from our own perspective as a studio, while also sharing our thoughts on certain actions which have given us cause for concern.

Record of Online Seminars from Previous Conferences

■Awareness of issues regarding decentralization of production system

Many businesses around the world are already implementing a system involving several small satellite offices centered mainly around suburbs in order to allow employees to work closer to home.
This is likely the result of businesses assessing the various trade-offs involved and ascertaining that by securing offices where employees can avoid the 3 C’s (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact settings) and which reduce the time and distance of their commutes to work, while simultaneously allowing for remote work from home, they can achieve both a reduction in the risk of infection and an improvement in the quality of communication between employees.
When considering a decentralized approach to the production process, we think that rather than the IT infrastructure and film production pipeline required to support such an endeavor, the main issue becomes choosing the optimal location for satellite offices as well as the conditions which apply to them.

■Distributing production bases and determining the location and conditions of satellite offices

While it is difficult to take into account all kinds of natural disasters at once, for now we can attempt to address fears of the continued spread of the coronavirus, the key consideration for which we think will become determining where, and under which conditions, the satellite offices should be established in order to best avoid the 3 C's.
Despite having participated in conferences related to architecture in the past, we still have limited knowledge of both architecture and infectious diseases, meaning that in many cases it is up to the company to make decisions based on information gleaned from news channels, which is a persistent problem.
However, if we continue to expand the range of our information collection, particularly in this modern internet age, we can easily get information about the situation in various countries around the world, as well as carefully examine the situation in Japan from a more objective standpoint through the reporting of foreign media sources, and use that information to gradually improve our efforts over time. As of July 2020, this is all we can think of to do. As such, before acquiring satellite offices, we decided to first start by establishing a working environment which seamlessly allows for both on-site work and remote work, while also brainstorming possible locations and conditions for satellite offices.

Discussions between the moderators produced a number of ideas and opinions on the matter. For example: grouping staff members by where they live and looking for office spaces near those groups; ensuring proper ventilation within the office as well as the building it’s housed in; maintaining distance between staff members; reducing the need for speaking in a loud voice by using soundproofing; and ensuring the security and connectivity capabilities of satellite offices.
Additionally there were a few conditions we thought of as ideal, but ultimately realized were difficult to achieve in a big city--such as making it possible for most staff members to commute by bicycle, or placing offices within walking distance of large hospitals or small-scale hospitals where staff could easily consult with a doctor--but we still think it is necessary to continue thinking about these issues going forward.

Systems and middleware that are concerned about architecture, BIM, and city planning

■Decentralization of development and R&D bases

Thanks to the expansion of our IT infrastructure in recent years, our development and R&D departments were the easiest of our departments to transition to remote work. In recent years, the need for staff to gather in one place to have discussions has been gradually decreasing, as having each staff member pursue development of their own microservice has resulted in an increasing trend of expanding functionality via a decision-making process involving small numbers of people. Moving forward, we believe the need for staff members to gather in one place will only continue to decrease.
In this modern age where virtualization technology continues to advance, reduced communications costs and development of operational technology are likely to make it possible to do remote motion capture work in the future, as data acquisition using sensors as well as the various operations required become possible from a distance.
As such, we believe that the decentralization of development and R&D hubs will come about naturally, so our point of view on the matter does not differ much from what we explained in the previous section (Decentralization of Production Hubs and Determining the Location and Conditions of Satellite Offices), including searching for satellite offices.

■That we will also consider full remoteization

Reading “GitLab's Guide to All-Remote”, a guide published by GitLab Inc. (which thankfully has been translated into Japanese) was very encouraging, and made us think about making converting to an all-remote work style one of our overarching goals, as well as the significance of how we as an organization come up with ways to disseminate primary information.
After some cursory research, we found that companies are taking a variety of approaches to the current situation in terms of remote work, with some enacting policies that establish working from home as the standard with 2-3 days a week of remote work, while others are attempting to get employees to return to the office as much as possible. We see the current situation as an excellent opportunity to think about changes to the way we work, keeping the transition to fully remote work in mind, as we also search for solutions to a number of issues including but not limited to: further developing our various deployment systems; improving our animation development pipeline with IT infrastructure; and allowing for more flexibility when creating artist environments through the use of programmable container deployment environments.

GitLab's Guide to All-Remote

■Changing role and functionality of office space

Given the need to maintain social distancing in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, we think that the current environment, which allows for plenty of space between employees using the office space, is a natural situation.
However, on the other hand, when considering the possibility that after the coronavirus situation is resolved, maintaining social distance may no longer be as important, depending on the degree to which remote work has become pervasive, we predict that the effective use of such a spacious office space will become a matter we need to consider. As a result of the acquisition of satellite offices and decentralization of production hubs, as well as an animation production pipeline and internal company structure which support a variety of workstyles, at that time we think the functionality we demand of the office space will change dramatically.
Furthermore, regarding the partial implementation of a shared desk system from July 2020 onwards, we think it will be important to have regular discussions that include staff members about how the functionality of the office space changes and how we want it to change moving forward.
As such, we believe that at present it is important to look for ways to improve the communication pipeline in order to meet the demands placed on it by gradually adding innovations to the current pipeline to address those viewpoints.

■Distribution of bases and energy saving

As server-side functionality continues to expand, we believe that through decentralization we will be able to considerably reduce the number of machines and the amount of electricity required by artists and developers. The CPUs in the Chromebooks, iPads, and various tablets used by artists and developers are becoming more energy-efficient in recent times, and while it depends on the remote environment used, it is our impression as of July 2020 that by pursuing decentralization with remote work at its core, we will be able to significantly lower the entire studio’s total energy usage.

Speaking exclusively from an energy consumption perspective, it’s also possible we might consider places like older buildings or machiya (traditional Japanese townhouses). For example, we could look into installing solar panels and electricity storage units and experimenting with interior design to increase the level of freedom within the workplace. We are also able to reduce the amount of data usage and public/private cloud access required to support remote working as a whole to a comparatively low setting, meaning from a data usage perspective we could also consider using normal internet connections or wifi.
However, when considering the ability to prevent physical crimes (such as intruder detection, arson prevention and other points of concern) as well as digital crimes (IT security and management of communication terminals), it is our impression that there are some issues that might be difficult to solve. Furthermore, in office districts and residential areas, installing solar panels can result in reflected light which can often be a nuisance, and in the event that we are unable to find solutions to these issues we may have to accept that using these kinds of spaces as offices may be difficult.
Still, the amount of freedom in office space design it would allow is an appealing prospect, so we would like to keep this in consideration.

Issues of energy saving as a production system

■Importance of ventilation when performing remote work and problems with noise in the neighborhood

During this period of implementing remote working due to concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus, regular ventilation is an important action that must be taken. When working from one’s home, where generally the only people to share the space are family members who are almost always present, ventilation might not need to be as frequent, but in an office setting where a number of people gather, frequent ventilation becomes more important. However, when using air conditioning units to process large amounts of air, we have to consider the problem of the resulting noise of the air conditioners, which may make it difficult to ensure the ability to process large amounts of air in both the home and office. As such, the only option available will likely be opening the windows to improve ventilation.

There are a number of unprecedented issues that have arisen as a result of opening windows for ventilation while implementing remote work. For example, when opening the windows to ventilate, noise from the surrounding neighborhood can be a problem, particularly when holding video conferences. When participating in video conferences from an apartment complex, one must be considerate to their neighbors and speak in a quiet voice and listen to other participants with earphones, but opening windows for ventilation can result in noise from the surrounding neighborhood, which necessitates speaking in a louder voice to make oneself heard, so generally speaking people tend to close their windows when having video conferences.

However, in the event that multiple staff members living in the same area gather at one household in order to participate in a video conference, or staff members working at the office gather in a conference room to hold a video conference with staff working remotely, it becomes necessary to ventilate for longer meetings. There is also the issue that in residential areas or office districts where noises from construction sites etc. in the surrounding neighborhood are unavoidable, for longer video conferences it becomes necessary to take breaks to open the windows and ventilate simultaneously, which means extra time needs to be taken into account when planning such meetings.

After the corona pandemic is over, these problems will likely no longer occur, but in the event that the pandemic continues, hypothetically necessitating remote work in the long-term, we will have to face problems that we never needed to consider before the pandemic, such as ventilation periods and construction and traffic noise from the surrounding neighborhood. As we continue to work during the pandemic, we think we must consider ways of dealing with construction noise (unless the basis for dealing with construction noise in residential areas or office districts changes, noise will be an issue when ventilating) and traffic noise (for example, homes located near busy roads are likely have windows equipped with sound-proof glass, but noise will be an issue when ventilating) in order to confront noise and ventilation issues for both satellite offices and employee's homes. Additionally, when thinking about the effect of exhaust fumes and various other factors, establishing a production pipeline that facilitates dialogue and makes holding video conferences easy may become important. At the very least, it will be an important point to think about when considering satellite offices.

■Storage of books such as art books, and their referenceability during artwork

As a studio concerned with artistic creativity, we have a library abundant with a variety of artistic reference materials, including art books and collections of artwork used in the animation production process, particularly those concerning the pre-production process. One benefit of the current form of the studio, in which many people can gather and converse in one central location, is that everything is in one place, meaning that one can reference this archive at various points of consideration during the animation production process.

However, many of the art books in the collection are not yet digitized, and including out-of-print books, there are many that are still stored only as physical texts. Of course converting these publications into a digital format ourselves without permission is out of the question, so our current system involves thorough management of checking out these books. When considering the decentralization of work hubs, the once-beneficial policy of having everything in one place instead becomes an inconvenience, necessitating moving to a central location to view reference materials.
As the vast majority of our animation production process can be accomplished via digital data, that data can be collected and made accessible on the server, but the same is not possible for the various books, artwork, models, art anthologies, and other types of art books which cannot all be converted into a digital format.

Currently, one solution we have thought of is to move towards establishing a management system based on mailing materials, while doing our utmost to convert those materials that can be converted into a digital format in order to reduce the need to travel to one location to view reference materials.

■Art direction in remote work and dialogue required there

In order to establish a system with a basis of facilitating dialogue during the art direction process while remote working, we will have to construct an unprecedented animation production pipeline that can operate while minimizing the number of meetings as much as possible, with the prerequisite of having clear indexicality handled by internal databases. While remote working, the greatest difficulties we have encountered have been communicating thoughts that amount to little more than feelings and ensuring the ability to have dialogue during the artwork phase. Communication via conversation tends to be vague, and that vagueness can often lead to confusion. We must work towards optimizing the art direction process in a way that avoids such confusion, and also address a number of other issues. These issues will be summed up in greater detail in the separate document Art Direction and the Dialogue it Requires.

"Art direction and dialogue that is needed there"
Work in progress

The possibility of cel-look pipeline and challenges to take advantage of the hand-drawn animation

■Flexibility of artwork by remote work and work style innovation

One of the more difficult-to-manage aspects of remote work has been accurately assessing each staff member’s contribution to the performance of each project, as well as the studio as a whole. There are a wide range of issues to address, including increasing the number of indicators that can be used for personnel assessments, and temporarily applying the same assessment methods to the various studios and freelance artists involved in our production process in order to work towards a mutually beneficial relationship in the long term.
If productivity alone were all that needed to be taken into account, we could consider fair trade arrangements and the like and work towards establishing appropriate employment systems and improving the employment environment. Unfortunately, much of the artistic work done at an animation production studio is highly creative in nature, and art direction and artwork in actual production have a rapid and diverse iterative process. Even for tasks such as background artwork that are relatively easy to do independently, coming up with an appropriate system of evaluation is extremely difficult.
Currently we do not feel that it is a particularly big problem, as we have established relationships of trust with studios and freelance artists we have worked with over relatively long periods of time, but as we continue to consider making changes to our production process in order to adapt to remote work, it will likely become a very big problem in the future.

■Balance between existing work and DX, Some issues different from efficiency

One of the most significant challenges of implementing remote work is considering the digital transformation that we have promoted with existing on-site workstyles, while also thinking of remote work as a given going forward. At this current stage of a hybrid work environment involving on-site and remote work, while considering the transition to fully remote working in the future, we think that as of July 2020 it is important to put together our ideas in the separate document “Balancing Existing Workstyles and Digital Transformation, and Several Issues Other than Efficiency”. 。

"alance between existing work and DX, Some issues different from efficiency"
Work in progress

■What is required of the headquarter office

under construction...

■Issues when proposing a candidate for place of residence to the staff

under construction...

■Challenges in supporting the selection of potential residences for staff

under construction...

■Difficulty in selecting a location

under construction...

■Satellite office portability and location selection

under construction...

■Overseas universities and cloud services (educational)

under construction...

■Cloud usage in other fields where security is delicate, and examples

under construction...

■Internal office space details as of October 2022

under construction...


under construction...