5 Lessons learnt from working at home during lock-down.
The team I'm in have always been close, so we had a few concerns about our productivity when we found out we were going to be remote working. Here are a few of the things that we tried to do to overcome some of our problems.
One of our biggest concerns was that our team would collaborate less. It is easy when you are sat at home alone to just get on with work in isolation. This seems to be fine if you are working remotely full time because you split your work up to allow this. But for a team that isn't used to this, changing how you split up your work could spell bad news.
What we did
One of the first things we identified was that in the office you know who is at their desk. Simply saying Hello and Goodbye is an effective way to bring the office online and lets you know when someone is working.
In the office, you can hear each other talking about tech. People quite often ask to be involved if they were interested. Now we all jump on a quick virtual meeting to talk about a new library or architecture we want to try.
When you are in the office, it's easier to pick up on when someone is struggling and offer help. Online we use permanent virtual meetings for pairing. This also allows other teammates to jump on and ask if they can help when they have finished their work.
With everything that is going on, it's all too easy to get overwhelmed. We thought that keeping our mental health in check would help to prevent burnout in our team.
What we did
In the office, some of the team would all go and make a drink together. At around 10:30 every morning, we all go to make a drink and jump on a virtual meeting to just chat about whatever we want. While working at home, it's easy to just sit there working and forgetting to move. Moving and taking a break is really important when combatting burnout.
Our families are around all the time right now. Everyone realises that you might have a child screaming or cats walking in front of the camera. They also know that you may need more breaks. To tackle this, we now pair by default and try to limit the pairing time to about 50 minutes before taking a break. This break allows you to balance your work and your personal life when they are so entwined. This is also a good time to swap the drivers.
Having to work at home over the past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster - not to mention the fact that my wife and I had another child! - I had worked from home at a previous job, but this was completely different. When I finished work at home in the past, I would play Video Games or code a personal project in the time between finishing and my wife and son coming home. It wasn't until we had a few retros about our workflow that things started to feel more normal. It does take time and buy-in from your team, it also takes understanding from your family. It took weeks for my son to understand that if I have my headphones in, I'm working.
The tips I have shared are just some of the things that have worked for us, and that's the key, they worked for us. They might not work for you and your team. Hopefully, if you are struggling, then these tips can give you a starting place to figure out what works best for you.