Relja Trajkovic has converted a corner of his tidy two-bedroom flat into his office.
The 42-year-old takes his two young children to kindergarten every morning before settling down with a cup of coffee to work for Lancashire-headquartered tech firm Viddyoze.
It’s a familiar scene repeated by millions of working parents every day – except Relja is 1,500 miles away in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad.
While COVID-19 has created a new generation of remote workers, Relja has been doing it for years – and said he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Relja worked for a big corporation in Serbia for 13 years before deciding to switch to remote working in 2014.
Serbia’s burgeoning tech sector employs around 75,000 people and claims inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla as one its most famous sons.
In 2015 Relja started work for a new video-making start-up in Preston called Viddyoze after an application found its way to co-founder David Chamberlain.
“Every morning I’d start by applying for jobs on various freelance websites when David contacted me out of the blue,” he recalls to BusinessCloud.
“I’d applied for so many jobs I thought it was a different David but then he started talking about templates and motion graphics and I realised it wasn’t who I thought it was.”
He joined originally in June 2015 as an animator but was promoted to lead animator in 2016 and then to his current position of head of animation.
Viddyoze’s technology allows people to create and use their own video animation in just three clicks and Relja used his experience in making motion graphic templates to help create a library of more than 1,600 templates.
Relja has only met David and his co-founders Joey Xoto and Jamie Garside in person five times in five years but insists he still feels part of the team.
“I think most people have that one friend or two who they don’t see for months or even a year and then pick off exactly where they left, like no time has passed,” he explains. “That’s kind of how I feel about colleagues at Viddyoze.
“While I communicate with my team daily, I only hear from other people when things are not running as smoothly as they should.
“I’m also very comfortable with video chat and calls. Throwing jokes around in the general company chat and getting at least an emoji from various people makes me feel like we’re all together.
“Remembering to ping people simply to ask how they are with no job-related follow-up can go a long way in maintaining team spirit.
“As the head of animation I’m in charge of setting the overall style of animations and giving some creative feedback to animators.
“I’m also kind of a bridge between our development and animation team, looking for new technologies and helping solve issues on both ends so everything runs smoothly on the platform.”
Relja said despite all the productivity apps on the market there’s no substitute to an old–fashioned list.
“I make sure that list includes all the personal stuff too like breakfast, exercise and a reminder to clean up the flat before I go pick up kids,” he says.
“Although good Wi–Fi is essential, it’s vital to invest in a good camera and microphone set-up because it’s essential people can hear and see you loud and clear during webcam meetings.”
Relja has visited Viddyoze’s Lancashire offices once in five years and said he’s proud of working for such a ‘pioneering’ company.
“I don’t see something else at our scale and diversity of fully automated animations elsewhere,” he says. “Having this level of simplicity for users while still being able to experiment and keep adding new exciting stuff is unprecedented.”
The animator said he occasionally misses the office banter but not enough to give up working remotely.
“Seeing people is overrated,” he says. “Working in sweatpants is not.”
David Chamberlain describes Relja as key and valued member of the team. “We recruited him a few months before we launched Viddyoze and he’s been with us every step of the way,” he says.
“We’ve grown our workforce to 52 and a lot of our staff work remotely. The key is having absolute trust in your staff and that’s what we have in Relja.”