Remote Work: the definitive guide

Mia-Platform Team March 5 2020

We are going through a very delicate moment in our history. Many companies need to reorganize themselves and many people have found themselves working remotely overnight.

 

We are facing the same issues at Mia-Platform: day-by-day we are adapting to the situation and adopting Remote Work when necessary.

Here’s the guide to Remote Work that Giulio Roggero, our CTO, wrote for us, taking inspiration from the Agile model. Although the guide is based on our own rhythms and on our company organization, the good practices that you are going to read, are always valid: whether you work remotely or at the office, or during major reorganizations, or in daily life.

Therefore, we hope that you will find this guide useful, that you want to create a similar one for your own company, and that you can put many suggestions into practice right away.

The guide is divided into five sections:

  • Time and logistics management: how to organize your routine when you work remotely;
  • Communication: etiquette Do’s and Don’ts;
  • Tools: which one and why;
  • Team rules: tips to help working better;
  • When it is mandatory working in Co-presence: when remote work is inefficient.

📝 Although it is possible to work remotely thanks to all the accessible tools, face-to-face communication is the most effective and efficient way to communicate. Never forget it!

 

Time Management

It is important to create habits even when working remotely, otherwise, you may risk wasting effort, working more than necessary, and finishing before than when you work at the office.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Get ready and pretend like you are going into the office;
  • Start and finish working at regular times;
  • Get started earlier, dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up, and turn on your laptop at least 15 'before the start of the stand-up, so no one wastes time;
  • Take the usual 15' breaks every 2 hours, and the 1 hour lunch break;
  • Stay physically active, take a break and get some exercise to disconnect from work;
  • Do not eat at your desk;
  • While working reduce distractions: eliminate notifications on laptops/smartphone, television, radio that speaks, social networks and newspapers;
  • Put the Mia-Platform water bottle next to your laptop and drink it often.

 

✔️ If you can't concentrate, use the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves the use of a kitchen timer (typically in the shape of a tomato but any other shape will be fine) to break your workday into chunks, traditionally from 25 minutes each, separated by short breaks. During each chunk, you can enter the Flow phase: stay focused on what you are doing and be really productive, postponing all other activities and interruptions to the next tomatoes.

 

Tecnica del pomodoro

 

 

Communication

Communicating effectively is the most difficult part of working remotely. The risks of misunderstanding or dispersion are very high. Here are some tips to avoid them:

  • Turn off notifications from your laptop and adopt a mechanism for checking new messages and periodic emails (every 20 'would be ideal - polling);
  • Use the Team chat to send information and request support;
  • If the chat conversation lasts more than 2-3 minutes, you may prefer talking about it by calling (by video calling is better);
  • When working together on a piece of code, on a document or on another project, open a video call and share the screen;
  • Constantly updates the Jira board with the tasks you are doing and the stories you are completing;
  • Use email to communicate information that needs time to process and it is not that urgent;
  • Do not delegate the communication to just the email, and thinking like: "I wrote it via email so I'm okay". Always verify that the communication has been correctly understood.

📞 If written communication is not enough, call the person on the phone (share your phone number with the team).

⚠️ During moments of communication, focus and avoid interruptions. The risk is spending hours on the phone and not finishing anything.

 

Tools

The tools to ease a remote conversation are:

  • Google Chat:
    • share information fast that doesn’t need to be historicized;
    • ask for help;
    • solve small problem;
    • share parts of the code.
  • Google Chat - Video Meeting:
    • pair programming;
    • meetings;
    • solve problems that need more than some minutes.
  • Jira:
    • update the activities you are working on (use SubTasks). Remember to update the tasks at least 2 times a day;
    • keep track of what your team is doing.
  • Confluence:
    • keep the diary of your Team;
    • document the project.
  • Google Drive:
    • create documents that need to be shared with the Client;
    • do co-design, by editing all the same page / slide where it is not possible for all to be present (you can use a slide to do co-design).
  • Google Calendar:
    • book your appointments of your video calls and the checking meeting of your Team.
  • VPN:
    • Mia-Platform VPN to connect to our clusters on Google;
    • Customers’ VPN to connect to their systems;
  • Internet connection:
    • Your connection must be really good quality (at least 10Mbit) and not have problems closing doors with the usual tools;
    • You are not allowed to use a public internet connection, because it might be exposed to hacker attacks of MITM (man in the middle).
  • Telegram
    • Use your Team chat only for topics not related to work unless it is an emergency

⚠️ If you want to use other tools, forward your request to your Team.

 

Team Rules

Sharing the information and the presence board of the whole team allows everyone to know where the others are. Use a shared tool and update your information on time.

✔️ It is important to mark the presence of your teammates before the Sprint, so it is possible to organize the design phase, retrospective and all the events that are most effective in co-presence.

 

When it is mandatory working in Co-presence

Although the tools you have available allow remote work, this is not always the best solution. Co-presence is required is required in the following scenarios:

  • all Scrum events except standup. Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective are always in co-presence. The refinement of the product backlog depends on its complexity;
  • co-design of software components;
  • user experience co-design;
  • co-creation of content;
  • estimate of a new project;
  • kick-off phase of a new project;
  • onboarding a new person on the team.


📜 “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
The Agile Manifesto

 

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