two male software developers working

Improve Your Telecommuting Productivity

That didn’t take long. A March 30, 2020 survey by Gartner indicates 3 out of 4 CFOs want to shift 5-20% of their employees to permanent telecommute positions. After a month of working from home themselves, it’s likely more CFOs will want more positions permanently outside of the office. That’s not a decision that’ll come from a wild guess about the cost advantage—they’ll want to quantify it. And if you’re working from home, you should try to quantify it too.

Telecommuting Is Not New

Up to a third of software developers already work from home on a routine basis. Telecommuting is unavoidable with offshoring and outsourcing to development agencies and freelancers. The practice is not new, but many more developers are experiencing it first-hand a lot more. Don’t be surprised if some find they prefer working from. But, it’s not an either/or proposition. 

However, there are some interesting work-from-home statistics from The Ultimate List of Remote Work Statistics – 2020 Edition, like:

  • Savings. Employers save an estimated $11k per employee per year they allow to telecommute—reduced office space, hardware, internet, and utility bills.
  • Retention. Many (76%) developers will stay with you longer, reducing turnover (by up to 25%), if they are allowed to work from home. 
  • Productivity. 86% of telecommuters feel remote work is both less stressful and more productive.
  • Quality. Two-thirds of those who have worked from home believe it is where they do their best work.

Work-at-Home Productivity Tips

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1. Work Hours – Management. Enabling employees to work from home allows for a lot of flexibility in setting work hours. But, flex-time all of the time for everyone is chaotic and hard as hell to manage for large teams. What starts as a blessing can quickly turn into a curse – as unless guidelines are established workdays extend into Friday nights and weekends. 

The Fix? Make a schedule for everyone and stick to it. You can still provide some flex-time on a daily basis – and perhaps allow some of that to slide into the weekends. This depends upon how you assign tasks and how rapidly you want them to be handed over. You’ll still want to do standups, code reviews, and keep it easy for team members to interact with each other. This also helps to avoid widespread procrastination. 

2. Managing Your Environment – Everyone. Overall, most people who telecommute say they have fewer distractions and interruptions at home than they do at work. That’s not the case for everyone though. Some have to get children off to school and be attentive to them if school’s out, need to take the dog for a walk, or have time for a spouse – perhaps working a different shift. There are a lot of other distractions that you probably don’t have at work. A few minutes of TV or Netflix can kill productivity as fast as anything. 

The Fix? Explain to everyone in your household that you are being paid to work from home and have a responsibility to perform just as if you were at the office. Ask them to please respect this and for their help to keep distractions to a minimum. If you have a spare room or den, consider working in it. Keep the door closed if it helps. Keep the TV in a different room. Simply do your best to eliminate distractions.

3. Breaktime – Everyone.  Everyone’s already tired of social distancing, suffice the police probably aren’t going to break into your house and taze you for not taking your legally allowed breaks. Ironically, sitting too long without stretching just might get us if the pandemic doesn’t. The police aren’t going to taze you for not stretching either. Being facetious, but you are the only one who can look out for your health.

The Fix? Get up from behind your desk for your breaks and lunchtime. Schedule them in and take them. Everyone’s typically allowed a 15-minute break for every four hours at work. Most companies provide 30 to 60-minute lunch breaks. Breaks help us to be more productive.

4. Collaboration and Messaging.  The one drawback with telecommuting almost everyone agrees upon is that it is more difficult to collaborate with others remotely. But, this begs the question of how many of you are using VR environments for collaboration and code reviews with your distributed teams?

The Fix? Define which software or platform you will use for meetings and on-the-fly messaging. Slack, Skype, Zoom, or Google Chat are common options if you aren’t uniformly set up already. If you’re wanting to take remote collaboration to the next level, you might give Primitive a try. Let us know what you think? Have you tried other VR options that you’d like us to know about?  

Analytics for Telecommuting Productivity

Today, automated analytics platforms for software development help engineering managers track their developer’s productivity.  They are like “Google Analytics” but for software development making it easy to track any meaningful development metric. 

These metrics can be highly relative and fluctuate between projects. Over time they tell you what is “normal” for a developer, so you can focus on areas where they may be challenged. A developer who spends most of their time writing JavaScript is likely to be less efficient or show more code churn when writing in C++. 

The transition between working from home and office is also likely to have an impact on a developer’s productivity, but how – and for better or worse? 

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