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Coronavirus 🦠, quarantines 🛑 and remote working 💻

nirebu profile image Nicolò Rebughini ・3 min read

As many of you will know, this new COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2) epidemic is spreading all over the world and I am one of the lucky ones who found themselves rigth in the middle of it: living in the Italian Red Zone (sounds like a bit Command and Conquer-ish to even write it). After the public announcement from the Italian Government, and from a company wide decision to try to do their part in limiting the infections, all of my team is going fully remote for two full weeks.

Today was day 10 of isolation, and has been day 6 of remote working.

Here's some quick considerations from switching en-mass to a remote workplace.

Embrace your new commute

For most remote workers the commute is going to a specific room in your house and as the commute is now reduced to zero, now there's more time to focus on my studies (hello Computer and Network Security bachelor's degree), or to run quarantine errands like getting face masks or some needed groceries in the time windows local stores are open. I hope the latter won't matter to you directly 😷.

Take also care to organise your desk properly with all the needed supplies like a bottle of water, or keep it far to have an excuse to get up to drink and stretching your legs a bit.

Communication is even more paramount

Switching from a physical presence workplace to a remote one, made me notice I'd had to communicate more things that I'd took for granted: just a little nod or quick line in chat is now needed to signal that you are actually in your office, or that you're taking a small break, or that you're going to lunch. All these things have obvious cues in a classical office, everyone can see you if you go to the break room, or are engaged with a client call, but not remotely. All the toll to launch these signals are on everyone from the team.

We use Skype (many of you will 🤮 at this I know) as our internal communication tool and so far so good, it meets all of our needed criteria, with a couple of group chats to sync ourselves on different topics.

Track and write (again)

If clear writing is already necessary, even if skimped over sometimes in favor of word of mouth, remotely becomes vital as your and other people's work will depend or be affected by what it's written and solely by it. I always ask myself

Is there a way this can be mis interpreted? How can I be less ambiguous? Will it sound harsh?

when writing in team chat or in emails with colleagues and clients.

Of course even tracking what you're doing will be sorely needed, since in the office you can simply tell that you're focusing on an issue or ticket and be sure that no one else is already working on it. We were already doing this with a combination of Google Calendar and Redmine ticketing system, so that wasn't too hard of a transition.

Log off at the end of the day

As the day winds down, it comes the time to leave your home office and go back to your home habits. I admit I had the temptation to keep working for a little more, to just end this other thing, it will take only a couple of minutes, but luckily I always went for the quick banter in office chat and then logged off.

Discussion (13)

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frankszendzielarz profile image
Frank Szendzielarz

I have been working remotely for years and my advice is to recognise that even in a 9-5 8hr corporate office job most people really only pretend to work most of the time. So relax and forget about signing on and signing off. Work when you feel productive. If your job's work culture is simply appearing present to maintain a perpetual snowball of micro-communications with the primary purpose of saying "look at me, I am still here", then the work culture is unproductive in the first place, and remote work is a good opportunity to reshape the ethos. With remote development you can take part in daily standups at most, though I think with good team members even that is too much. This is an opportunity to pressure things for decent upfront specs, rather than pointless continuous conversation.Good luck in Italy. Hopefully things will pass soon. I am hoping for a gastrotourist holiday throughout the country this year.

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Nicolò Rebughini Author

That's an insightful point of view, thanks for sharing! Most likely my new remote working habits still have to adjust to an actual remote workplace, trying to transpose the in-office workplace somewhere else. I recognize what you're saying and I also think for an effective remote experience those habits, microcommunications and micromanagement should be abandoned, or at least reframed. Being in an emergency situation, it has taken the whole team accustomed to be working closely by surprise, and I don't think it will carry on after the cautionary quarantine ends. I'd be happy in knowing I contributed to plant a seed which could say "Yes, this can work and it's more effective done this way".

When this whole confusion flares down Italy will be ready to welcome everyone to try our delicacies 😁 I expect prices to crash down in order to win back foreign tourists.

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Frank Szendzielarz

I think we are on the same page perfectly, yes. It depends really who the key decision makers are. Unfortunately in many companies it is those with less real usefulness or value who try to justify their position through constant meetings and chat. A new work ethos based on highly focused and targeted development that minimises communications in favour of communication quality would most likely result in people losing their jobs, and often it's those same people who shape the workplace, regretfully.

On Italian delicacies, absolutely! One of the great advantages of working at home is that I get to cook proper risottos, or Salsicce fatte a mano con salsa pepolata whenever I want :-) Strangely, it was Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio who inspired me to quit corporate life and go looking for tradition, history, culture and a life in the country....

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nirebu profile image
Nicolò Rebughini Author

I think we'll have to wait and see what happens about this mindset, hoping it spreads quickly.

Aw, those are new names for me, thanks for bringing them up, I'll look into them. Luckily I'm not unfamiliar with those dishes 😋

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Francesco

Hey Nicolò! First of all, I hope everything is gonna be back to normal as soon as possible in your zone! Well, nice considerations, but I'm wondering: if would be possible for you to do full time remote working (in a normal situation without this emergency), will you accept it? I'm asking you this because in my case, even if I could be a full time remote worker, I still prefer to visit the office at least 1 day per week mainly to organise the tasks for the week. My ideal work location would be a "hybrid" between remote and office. What do you think?

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Nicolò Rebughini Author

Hey Francesco, I hope everything will be again normal as fast as possible. I would have to adjust for sure, and will need to also adjust my "home office" for constant work. I'm a promoter for remote working, but I guess I'd miss some camaraderie that comes from the office setup and probably a remote office cannot replicate (I'd be glad to be contradicted). I'd put my preferences on a spectrum of 80% for remote time and 20% for office time.

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Domenico Solazzo

Hope that the situation gets better in your area.
I think that companies avoided remote working because afraid of "losing" that sense of control. However, after living a decade in Norway and having embraced remote working in several companies, I can clearly see that being at the office has nothing to do with being productive, building successful companies and company culture.

Good luck Nicolò!

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Nicolò Rebughini Author

Thanks for your support!

I think the same about the dominant mindset of employers, where remote work cannot be controlled. I'm glad that your experience is so positive, and I hope that even here in Italy things will change, especially after this forced experiment.

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Invonto

Remote work may be a huge jump for some companies. This outbreak is a stress test to see how many businesses are truly prepared to maintain operations while managing a distributed workforce. Just to add to your valuable insights, here are some great tools that can be helpful for remote work: dev.to/invonto/preparing-for-remot...

Best of luck, wishing all the best for you and Italy.

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Nicolò Rebughini Author

It won't be the worst if we act together and fight it the best we can. Practice social distancing as much as possible and take the necessary precautions. Stay safe!

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17lwinn

The UK has not been affected by covid-19 yet (Not as bad)

But the pressure caused a popular airline to shut down

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Nicolò Rebughini Author

I hope it doesn't get hit so hard.

I'm also looking closely the travel situation because I had a trip booked for MArch 11th.

Take care!