What I learned with COVID-1916 Apr 2020
Wherever you were browsing on the internet during the last 6 weeks, you probably already read about COVID-19. In any sense, you probably have not read anything positive about. I am not trying to say that is something positive, but during these almost 6 weeks of confinement I learned a lot of stuff that otherwise I would have not learnt.
I have already worked remote in the past, but never to this degree. Mostly I stayed home some days or worked on a customer site during my professional life until today. The most important pieces I learned about working remote are:
- You need few items, but all of the basics are mandatory: a computer, internet connection, and phone. Then comes the space: you need a quiet room, and headphones. Without any of the above, it is pretty much impossible to work from home extended times.
- In order to keep social relationship with peers, you must communicate proactively and with intent. This means you have to prepare before the call, but also start by talking non-work-related topics (at most 5 minutes).
- Differentiate what requires a synchronous communication and what can be left (and it is best) to have as asynchronous communications. There are many tools that development teams use on their daily work, but they are not always used properly. Example: e-mails, instant messengers, product management tools, shared file stores, etc.
- Closed door, open calendar: You are remote, nobody can see you (closed door), but keep your calendar updated. Colleagues and peers should be able to reach us by looking into our calendars and being able to schedule time for synchronous communication (MS Teams, Slack Calls, Skype, Zoom).
- Use the same todo list for personal stuff and for work related stuff. This means you will use the same calendar tool to schedule such events.
- Set clear expectations on how you prefer people to contact you, and respect how people would like to be contacted. Some people prefer that you contact them via Slack, other prefer scheduled meetings on Outlook, etc.
- For synchronous meetings, send an Agenda at least a day before.
- Use video when possible
- And yes, the benefit of doubt when you read and e-mail that sounds harsh. This is key. Have empathy with remote colleagues, and always assume best intentions. It is the best for the long run. And remember, one day you might be the person who was understood as harsh and you would prefer to have also the benefit of doubt.
Be grateful for what you have
I just realized how many things we just take for granted: be it having a job (many people lost jobs), be it having food (before the crisis, I used to eat every day outside, now at home we have to cook), be it being able to stay with your loved ones (not everyone can do that at the moment, think on medical doctors or others that have to stay away from family). Not everyone has access to this, and realizing that is somehow conforting.
I am grateful that I work with very professional and nice people as peers. The company I work for is very concerned about our wellbeing and my direct boss is super comprehensive on all the needs I may have. Also, my peers and colleagues are super fun and are fully adapted as well to work remotely the best they can. It is good to be able to count with such vibe.
I am really grateful to be employed, but also, I am grateful that I am able to everyday look at my daughter having breakfast. When I did go to the office, I almost never had this chance. This is a unique opportunity for me. I am grateful to had the chance to experience this.
Overall, I think the crisis is a real learning opportunity. We can choose to use it to learn stuff and go out stronger and smarted than we were before it, or just complaining about it every day. I try to choose the first always.