Safe agile done digital, learnings after 8 months working from the home office

March of this year. A peak in the Corona infections. Communication from the client: Working from home is the standard in accordance with RIVM guidelines. New challenge, wondering how long that will take was my thought. Both in terms of assignment (role as product owner Logistics in a extensive SAFe project) as well as private (from a technical plan point of view, in the middle of a major renovation). We are now 8 months later and I can call myself an experienced home worker. During this period I, like my project colleagues, have gone through a fairly steep learning curve regarding remote collaboration. The transition from working on location to Zoombie to a productive home worker.

Collaborate remotely.

The SAFe project has operated completely remotely during this Corona period. I find it (still) surprisingly intriguing to see that you can run such a large-scale project entirely via the Teams application.The daily ceremonies, the workshops, presentations, demos. Everything is carried out remotely through Teams. Normaly with 10 to 20 people and during release planning meetings with over 100 co workers. And yes; it really works! The epics, capabilities, features and user stories take shape in the IT landscape to be built. Even the fun factor is applied digitally, for example via Kahoot and Menti.

What are the most important do and don'ts that I have learned in the past period?

Respect the switch off moments. Because you can only see and speak to your colleagues remotely, you plan everything via the Teams calendar. Unnoticed you get into the rhythm of a constant flow of Teams sessions that overlap. Breaks are skipped. After a few months you become mentally tired unnoticed. Reason for this? Your brain simply needs shutdown moments to process everything. If it doesn't it gets overloaded. Solutions? Do not plan a full hour for a meeting, but 50 minutes. Block that break in your schedule and go outside. If possible, exercise in between. Ultimately it increases your productivity and you are much fitter.

Because there is no more travel time you literally shift from laptop to the plate of food at the same table. Mentally you are still working on the project. You hear what your family members say but you don't listen… I have picked up my cooking hobby again. Close your laptop, cook dinner and eat together with your family. It freshens the mind and makes your role in the family more enjoyable.

Create an ergonomic workplace where you can work undisturbed. Due to the lack of its own office, the dining table was chosen as a desk. In other words; the living room has become an office. Dining table chair is used as an office chair. Recognizable? This is a major burden for your body and family members. Living room and kitchen are a no go area for the family during the working day. The dining table chair is a no go for your body in the long run. In view of the expectation that working from home will remain the standard in the coming months, I have nevertheless taken the decision to annex the kids' chillroom and convert it into a workroom, whereby I am lucky that WeY, as a good employer, provides the workplace.

Conclusion?

I have learned that, despite everything, you can work (together) remotely, provided you observe the above 2 learning moments. Supplement this with the fun factor through the so-called virtual afternoon drinks within your team. Of course also via Teams in combination with Kahoot! This way you can keep going!

Do I expect that large projects with a longer project duration will be able to run 100% remotely in the near future? My answer is no. Daily personal contact with colleagues is and remains irreplaceable. The Dutch saying “half a word is enough” cannot be realized from a distance. This requires physical interaction.

Invite.

I am curious about your experiences and lessons learned. If you would like to share these, please contact me. Then we schedule a coffee moment by means of a digital medium. Like to hear from you!

Let's hope we collectively master the Corona virus and are ready to enter the era of the new normal!

Thijs van Stuivenberg, lead consultant