Recently my friend and colleague Eamonn delivered our first classroom-based training course in 18 months. This comes after 200+ virtual deliveries in almost two years. We have more in-person courses in the pipeline, plus appearances at GOTO Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Kotlin Koders. I need to get the hard pants out of the wardrobe…
It does feel very much like the transition from mandatory remote work to optional remote work is well under way. We may be in for another roller coaster ride of lifestyle changes. So perhaps this is a good time to reflect on lessons learned.
Ten points to watch our for
I don't think it's controversial to claim that in business (as in most of life) you are never standing still, instead always spiralling up or down. Like Baseball the season is long, with plenty of time to squander gains and recover losses, but you're either winning or losing. The direction of travel really, really matters, because both success and failure are self-reinforcing. To quote Sun Tzu - "opportunities multiply as they are seized".
As a professional services team my colleagues and I get around a lot. We observe companies both flourishing and stagnating as a result of the transition into remote working. Over time we have seen commonalities emerge.
As a very rough guide here's a checklist of questions to ask yourself:
- Is the default in online meetings that people keep their cameras on?
- Can people turn their cameras off if they have to manage family life?
- Is it possible for anyone to call out an unproductive online meeting?
- Are team members choosing to spontaneously meet online each day?
- Is a large proportion of the code written via online pairing / mobbing?
- Is the dialog with Product Owners and Managers still working effectively?
- Have your teams explored and adopted new online collaboration tools?
- Is your code review process optimised for asynchronous participation?
- Do you have dedicated chat channels for areas like learning and health?
- Have you made special efforts to help new staff integrate and up-skill?
Of course your mileage may vary, and we would be keen to hear what's working best for you. But these are positive indicators we have observed.
I doubt any organisation would score 10/10 on this list. But if you can say yes to most then you are in a very solid position to reap long term benefits as the situation evolves.
There was a lot of jitter and uncertainty when we first moved into remote working, and it seems clear the same will be true as we transition (partially?) back. We see the majority of developers as keen not to lose the streamlined workday and productivity improvements they have gained. But equally many are keen to embrace a more stable working day and closer social bonds with their colleagues.
Only a fool would claim to know where the balance will be struck. But, given we are in the most competitive market for staff in decades, the advantage will doubtless go to the most flexible.