Work from home – what is important?
I love working from home. Since beginning of my software developer career when I was working as a freelancer I fell in love with this kind of work. I am the most creative and concentrated when I can make my own office set-up with light, music, snacks, coffee, turned off phones etc..
In order to have this kind of work possible, some prerequisites have to be met.
The most important thing in proper home office work setup is that company managers are open for this kind of work. Without this, it is almost impossible to make it work.
Goals oriented approach to work
Next prerequisite is expectations management. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of companies in IT industry practicing employee management inherited from old manufacturing industry, where all people are required to be at work from 9 to 5 and the only measure of quality is how many extra hours some employee made. Those that work Saturdays and Sundays are the best.
Fortunately, there are companies with modern approach. In those companies, employees still work hard and work in average 8 hours a day, but everything else is completely different. The most important measure of work quality in this kind of companies is if goals are met. Work tasks are assigned in small (weekly or bi-weekly) bursts and progress could be followed on a daily basis. All that matters is if work is done, and we all know that finished projects are paying our salaries.
Tools, tools, tools
In order to make our way of work possible and more fluent, we have to use different software tools and to experiment with new tools to try to improve things we already have in place. Some of the tools that I used and liked a lot are:
Slack – team communication tool that keeps us always up to date with everything that is going on. This is great replacement for emails that could be really annoying when it comes to the point that more people trying to communicate by CC-ing everyone about everything. We can have rooms for projects, private and misc things. Whatever is going on in company at the moment you can find it on Slack wherever you are. This is very important tool for home office.
JIRA – project management tool where all tasks are organized, assigned to employees, scheduled, and tracked during their entire lifetime. In every moment you can tell what some employee is working at the moment by just going into JIRA and looking into appropriate project. Also, you can see what are the project goals for the current weeks and how things are going. This saves a lot of time and prevents unnecessary meetings that tend to eat too many hours just for obtaining information about who is working what right now.
Bitbucket – in a typical software company code changes tool is absolutely necessary. Bitbucket is software as a Service Git repository for tracking all source code changes. This is also important for quality control, because you can see how some developer resolves problems, does he tries to take extra mile and finish his task in an elegant way, or he is just trying to get rid of it.
Confluence – This is knowledge base where all project documentation is written and regularly updated. In an agile team there is a lot of work going on and a lot of different programming languages, frameworks and tools are used, so knowledge base is very important to keep track of everything. This is also very important enabler of home office, because you don’t need to call coworker lately in the evening just to ask him something that is normally kept in knowledge base.
Employeetics – Time tracker that measures how much time we are spending on tasks and helps us improve everyday planning by analysing previous activities.
This was list of the most important tools, and I want to say that you can always find several alternatives for each of them. This is my set that works at the moment, but maybe in a few months I change some of them if I find something that works better. No matter what tools are used, important conclusion is that tools are important to keep communication in the team smooth and to justify goals oriented approach in a company.