Work From Home Under COVID-19

Autonomic sent us all to work from home for social distancing a week before the rest of the Silicon Valley companies did, and two weeks before my father’s Toronto bank did. Good on them. I very much appreciate the precaution.

It was a sharp transition, because it was hitherto an office-only environment. This was less because of what we do — all our infrastructure is on the public cloud, not any kind of intranet — and more because pair programming is fundamental to the work practice. I found myself enjoying pair programming since I started at Autonomic in January, and it helped me on-board rapidly and even open some pull requests on my very first day. Pair programming is excellent for knowledge transfer. In theory it’s possible to pair program remotely, but my team is still getting there.

Speaking of working remotely, I have Jason Fried‘s Remote on order. The Amazon Marketplace vendor promises that the book will get to me sometime in April. In the meantime, Jennifer Tarliuk has written up a nice summary of Remote.

Remote book cover
Remote book cover

While my team wasn’t remote, we are distributed. My manager and product manager are in California, while the rest of us are in Toronto and other cities. We already had the structure for remote planning, separate remote stand-ups for just Eastern time zone and for joint North America, and remote retrospectives in place.

New things we’ve put in place for work from home:

  • A Zoom channel for all-day occasional voice chat.
  • Reminders to take a lunch break.
  • Budgets for work-from-home supplies.
  • A Slack channel to share work from home tips, tools, and frustrations.

I’m lucky because I’m healthy so far, I don’t have kids to distract me, and my place is large enough for a home office. We should be kind to our coworkers who are caring for their kids, or who are living in a 300 sqft studio, or who are caring for sick family members. We should help them shoulder the load. My company has been smart and supportive, and I hope your place of work does the right things too.

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