Working from home in a time of Coronavirus

Introduction

I’d noticed that once our team had shifted to mandatory remote work, it seemed to take our team a bit off guard. Working from home was something I’d championed a while before this came about, though I hadn’t planned for it to happen so suddenly. I spent a couple months researching a number of books and articles, and came away with some common themes I’ll share with you below.

This is from the perspective from someone working at Microsoft, and so using Teams rather than Slack or Zoom, but the principles should transfer over using like functionality.

The daily routine

  • Initiating the day Creating a ritual for the beginning of the day helps to level set your head. This replaces your commute. This can be a walk around the block, a run, meditation, or whatever works for you. This can also be the time where you decide what’s the one win you want to get from the day.
  • The Workspace It helps to create a workspace at home, which is zoned for work so you can mentally be at work, and minimize distractions.
    • Some may be disciplined enough to work wherever, and switch up their work environment to the couch, the back porch, a coffee shop, or a coworking space. Just be mindful of distractions, and productivity impact.
    • Ensure you have the gear needed to create a productive work environment. Ars Technica has a decent starter list.
  • During the day You’ve probably heard that breaks during work are important. A good guideline from research is to follow a Basic Rest-Activity Cycle (BRAC) also known as the ultradian rhythm (contrasted with your sleep circadian rhythm). The guideline for following this is to take a 20 minute break every 90 minutes but you can make breaks as little as 10 minutes, and the break interval up to 120 minutes.

    You can use apps like PowerPom , Stretchly , or my personal favorite, Forest for IOS and android to encourage your computer or phone to remind you. If you’re already doing the pomadoro method, this accomplishes basically the same thing.
  • Finishing the day Creating an end of work ritual is also helpful. You can use the cues from this simple website to wrap up your day, but whatever you do, find a way to shut your brain off. Write down anything you need to remember from the day before, and decompress.
  • See Also:

How to succeed when no one can see you

  • Amplify your Work When working remotely, the key is to overshare what you’re working on. That means never assume people know your intentions, requirements, current blockers, etc unless you share them. These can be shared in a group meeting, a standup, or on a work progress board (if everyone uses it). You must confirm, not only that you put it out there, but it is seen by others in whatever medium you use.
  • Share your successes Related to the above, don’t be afraid to share your accomplishments. This is another way to be seen, and to have others use the work you’ve done.
  • Foster a Culture of Gratitude Did you know Teams has a praise app ? Whether you decide to use this, or another method, do your best to recognize others who are doing great work. It’s important not only to be seen, but to show the team you see others who are also trying to make their work visible.

Being part of the team

  • Find ways to share stuff about yourself with others When people commiserate, it creates camaraderie. If your team has a common chat area, participate. This doesn’t have to happen in a group setting, it can be when you’re collaborating with another team member. The theme here is to be proactive in this step, especially since most engineers tend to be introverts. The more you trust others, the more they’ll trust you.

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