3 lessons from a crash course in remote DevOps management
In the era of COVID-19, work from home has become the new normal. Around the world, we have seen IT companies transition to remote working environments for their staff. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, Paypal, Salesforce and Infosys (India) have extended their work from home guidance and this trend will likely continue even after a COVID-19 vaccine is made available.
To date, remote working has been beneficial for our team. Our organization’s leadership has embraced remote work as the safest option for our workforce. And our employees agree. During the pandemic, we’ve been able to save money previously spent on fuel and trade commute time for extra hours in the day, all while working in the comfort of their home.
As a cloud-based organization, we’re well positioned to meet shifting demands and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Esper platform provides Devops tools for the purpose-built device and app management industry. During the pandemic, we’ve been able to deliver value to engineers who need to manage devices in an increasingly contactless world. Our developer tools allow engineers to remotely access and debug issues with a device or its applications without need for in-person contact.
As I reflect on the past four months of remote working, here are a few highlights:
Engineers thrive in remote environments
In fact, our team hasn’t seen a percentage decrease in productivity since transitioning to a remote working model. Several factors have contributed to continued productivity, but it begins with time. Without a daily commute or in-person meetings, our staff has noted that they are more relaxed. The relaxation and time savings have allowed our team to focus on critical tasks without having to stop and restart their work.
This is particularly important for our engineers. Most of my team, if left to their own devices, could relax in their den and spend the day coding without interruption. They prefer not to be disturbed in the middle of their thought process and we’ve even shared memes that reflect this sentiment.
This is especially true when our engineers are writing a spec or testing a new feature. While they may seem minor, even small interruptions can feel like large distractions from an engineer’s thought process. Remote working helps to mitigate this concern for our team. When working from home, we can dedicate hours to focused work, with the understanding that we can work in uninterrupted, two-hour windows.
Collaboration and communication are key
While our team has benefitted from fewer distractions, collaboration and communication are integral to our work. We rely on a suite of communication and productivity tools to ensure we can communicate and collaborate without in-person meetings. So, while we’ve gained the freedom to code at will, we maintain a healthy balance by periodically checking our email, phones, and slack channels and direct messages to ensure we’re up to date with happenings throughout our organization. The breadth of communications channels support continuity without having to be physically present at a colleague’s desk.
While working from home, our team relies on technology to streamline our workflows. Esper Cloud supports remote monitoring of tech stacks including alarm systems. Even with remote release cycles, we continue to have an output that is consistent with the work we produced in an office setting. For the most part, our processes are set–we have clearly defined steps with automated workflows and, if we’re ever in doubt, we’re able to find a solution with a quick phone call.
Strong in-person cultures translate to good online culture
Our human resources team has always set the tone of our company culture. As an organization, we’ve always embraced the mantra, “people above the process.” Our leadership–starting with our CEO–encourages each of us to help foster an environment that is warm and understanding. Over the years, our teams have bonded at team outings, birthday celebrations, as well as welcome and farewell events. Our organization has become a close-knit group and, as we transitioned to remote work, our team bonds endured. In-person meetings simply became Zoom meetings and our slack channels continue to buzz as they always have.
We’ve even continued to build our team while working remotely. As we all acclimate to working from home, we’ve identified and recruited talent digitally. Zoom meetings have taken the place of in-person interviews, but with video, we’re still able to create face-to-face experiences. Onboarding new hires has also become a digital endeavor. We’ve kept the same onboarding process and have been able to successfully support new hires as they familiarize themselves with our company’s culture.
Our communications tools help support the onboarding process. Our “random” channel on slack allows long-term employees and recent hires share informal jokes and discuss current events. Having these outlets has proven to build a sense of connectivity and allows our staff to continue to build internal relationships while can’t be together physically. When we feel connected in our minds, Zoom and Slack are not big hurdles to clear.
As we look forward, we understand that remote working will continue to be a part of our work experience. The lessons we’ve learned in the first four months, give us a foundation to experiment and build on top of what already works. Building a culture that values our people over processes has translated well to remote working. This mindset has to be our north star whether we’re working from home or in the office. As we continue to move forward, I look forward to using lessons from the pandemic to define how we support our team and their diverse working styles.