Business as (un)usual at Oxford Product Design


At OPD, we work together every day to solve complex problems, and the Coronavirus crisis has undoubtedly presented us with some new challenges. Today we wanted to share an update on how we’re adapting the way we work as a team.

As always, the wellbeing of our staff and clients is our top priority. Our entire team has now shifted to working from home and we’re pleased to report that our processes and ways of working - along with some extra planning and a healthy dose of creativity - mean that we’re able to continue to provide all of our services to the same standard. We’re also experimenting with some cool new technologies that make working this way even more interesting.

We have always used CAD laptops and a VPN to ensure that we can continue to work together and share files securely from wherever we’re working. When the crisis first hit and our whole team moved to using the VPN full time, we decided to move our servers from the office to a data centre to maintain a speedy connection, and to set up VoIP calling for every member of staff to ensure that we’re able to maintain the level of service that our clients expect.

We also arranged to have everything we needed from our desks (and in some cases, our actual desks!) delivered to our homes, so that each of us is able to carry on as normal(ish).

We run all of our projects and internal comms through Microsoft 365, and are using a combination of Teams, One Note and planner to collaborate across documents of all kinds and to track progress on various tasks. We’re even using virtual whiteboards to sketch together in real time. We’re holding weekly (previously fortnightly) company meetings where we each share our progress on various projects with the rest of the team, and our learning lunches, coffee and cake breaks are still taking place, but now via video conference.

Our workshop and prototyping facilities remain very much in action. One member of staff has been approved to drop into the workshop to set off prints and we are even able to watch our 3D printer do its thing remotely via the camera we have trained on it.

We’re making the time to have some fun too. Our high spec CAD laptops really come into their own in the evenings - the gaming nights we used to host at the office are now taking place virtually. The only thing missing is the OPD-supplied pizza.

In all, it’s going really well. In a lot of ways, these strange circumstances have opened our minds to new ways of working together in the future. But there’s undeniably something that’s lost in a video conferencing call. And actually, it’s the ‘something’ that we consider to be our special sauce. We pride ourselves on the brainstorming work we do as a team - on our ability to walk into a room with a really difficult problem, and to leave a couple of hours later with a solution.

So we’re experimenting. Or to put it more accurately, we’re geeking out. We’ve sourced some pioneering new VR technology that allows a few of us to gather in a virtual, 3D space with a CAD model, and to examine it from all angles - in real time, together. We think that’s pretty cool.

We’re aware that we’re really fortunate to be able to make the best of this, and we’re grateful every day for our health and wellbeing. We hope that you are safe and well, and are very much looking forward to seeing you - virtually if not in person - soon.

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