Ask HN: Small teams, how do work from home?

5 points | by njsubedi 35 days ago

2 comments

  • samdwilson 35 days ago

    I think it helps to schedule meetings to socialize. There's a lot of informal bonding that happens in an office that gets lost when being home.

    • Jugurtha 35 days ago

      We ramped up remote work before the pandemic to expose inefficiencies in communication and improve the lives of our colleagues who commute through an unreliable public transportation system. We figured we'd have to do it, so we might as well make learn how to.

      Our hypotheses was that cumulative fatigue with respect to days of the week was non-linear, and removing a couple of days to work remotely would reset us and improve recovery. We experimented with the first day of the week remotely. We thought it would be a nice transition, as people would spend the week-end, work remotely the first day of the week, then work at the office the following days.

      We noticed improvements in morale and energy levels. We also experimented with working remotely the whole week to learn what the bottlenecks were.

      This lead us to improve our technical writing and information dissemination: use helpful templatse to write clear issues that allow everyone to understand and be on the same page asynchronously, and everyone had access to these issues and knew where we were at.

      We haven't changed our stack: we use GitLab for repository management and issue tracking, Slack for messaging.

      One addition is Jitsi for video calls, but we're not using it more than before the pandemic. I'll die on that hill. There's work to be done, and nobody messes with the flow of people. We aggressively keep that under control not to disturb colleagues. We amortize that by taking notes and dispatching them, and by recording the videos for others to view ad libitum. Ideally, I want to have colleagues request a Jitsi session just to chat a bit and have a friendly conversation.

      The feedback is that colleagues say they now have long stretches of time to focus. They say that they miss the interactions. I'd rather have people say they miss the interactions on a call (i.e: demand), than having to take a low entropy call.

      One thing we've been doing from the beginning, before the pandemic, is get our colleagues' feedback: how are you feeling? How is working the first day remotely going for you? What do you like, what don't you like? How was working for one week remotely for you?

      After the pandemic: How are you today? Are you okay? What do you have trouble with? How can we help?

      These questions were important to correct course. Everyone has a different situations. Some people have less space than others, some don't have a dedicated space for work, some struggle with interruptions, and others find it hard to focus. It was important to talk these things through, encourage people, make it clear that it is an adaptation period and that everyone will find their rythm.

      It was also necessary to set expectations: I returned from Paris in late January and it was clear that it was only a matter of days before cases would pop up. We made the decision to start working remotely when the case count was 17. These cases were concentrated in a city where two colleagues lived, and they took the train to come in. It was an unacceptable risk and we made the decision to eliminate that risk until we knew more about the virus.

      Personally, I set my timeline in February that this whole thing would last at the very least one year. Having a "one year" timeline helps completely ignore press releases and government agencies roller-coaster expectation management, and helps setting colleagues expectation: we're in this for the long run, make your arrangements. This allows them, for example, to relocate to some other place and be with their family, which they cannot do if they don't know if they're going to be called in a week later. This also helps with finances so they can make the decision not to renew a lease, for example.

      We also make a clear committment that the safety of our colleagues is very important, and as long as this is not sorted out, we'll continue to work as we are. Some colleagues were worried as their friends who worked at other companies were called back after the government started pushing for "reopening", and the point that this wasn't going to happen was important to make.

      I recently switched to OBS Studio for screen-recording. I used Kazam before to record screens for presentations, but its audio stopped working on Ubuntu 20.04. I applied a patch I found on their bug tracker (replace time.clock() with time.perf_counter()) and it got the sound to work, but it has an issue when the sink is a Bluetooth headset.

      Happy to answer more questions, as it is working for us very well and we're actually working better now.