Remote Work


4 mins


There’s a 73.9%1 probability that I’ll be working remotely soon (along with 19 bajillion of my friends) as we collectively navigate the national response to COVID-19, the coronavirus that was first observed in China in late 2019.

This post isn’t about the virus or even the broad-based response. I don’t have any expertise in that so I won’t pretend that my impressions or superficial analysis would be meaningful. I’ll instead stick to a topic I do understand very well:

Remote work

I invented hosted source control in May 1999. This was in direct response to issues I encountered remotely accessing my client’s source code; I detail this in my book 145 MPH.

When I raised capital for Freepository, the hook of my pitch was this:

Geography is irrelevant

I maintained then - and now - that physical location was irrelevant to your ability to collaborate with peers, as long as your tools supported you. Freepository did exactlty that - team members could share repositories from anywhere on the globe. As my service, Freepository, grew to over 3 billion lines of code under management serving 400,000 global developers, I continued designing & delivering software development solutions to clients.

A ton of this work was done remotely - from the very office & desk at which I’m typing this post. I’ve been an advocate of remote work for a long time.

So. Here we are on the cusp of a potential mandated social quarantine. A time during which we will be asked (read: mandated) to work from home.

Here are the important things to have in place.

VPN

This is the obvious one but if you haven’t yet installed the VPN client and tested it, then you have no idea if you’re ready to work from home. This should be your number one priority tomorrow. Get this working. Test your access to critical systems like email & internal chat.

I cannot stress this enough: test your access. Connect to the wifi and try to login to the network using the VPN. There is no substitute for this test.

Remote Meetings

Webex is very common in enterprises. You probably already use it. It works the same from your home office, as does Zoom & the handful of other meeting applications. One that does not work well is Amazon Chime. If you depend on that, make sure that you can use the alternative client that they link to in their dialog boxes (i.e. ‘if you can’t connect, click here’). This is a known issue, apparently.

Source Control

If you’re a developer, you almost certainly already have this in place. Gitlab, Bitbucket or Github are the three most common repository management tools in use today. Maybe you use something else. It doesn’t matter what you use, just ensure that you have the access you need to participate in your projects.

Ensure you can access this on the VPN. If your source control uses LDAP for authentication, you will not have access - even if it is a hosted service - unless you can connect to the VPN.

External Displays

If you use an external display at the office, your productivity will be impacted if you have to get by without one at home for any length of time. Get one setup now.

Headset

You will need to be able to take phone calls, listen to web meetings and do the other stuff you normally do at your office desk. This means you’ll need a headset of some sort.

You might be able to get by using just the microphone & speakers on your laptop, but that will get old quickly. Get - and test - a headset with microphone today.

Time Tracking / Project Management

Most enterprises use Jira or something like it to track time & progress against project tasks. Whatever you use, ensure you can access it on a VPN connection from your home office.

Common barriers to that are LDAP (see above) and occassionally licenses that are tied to specific corporate domain addresses. It’s possible that when you’re on VPN your address will appear to these apps as originating from outside your network, thus resulting in being blocked.

Sort that out tomorrow.

Quiet Work Area

Find a quiet area to setup your laptop. You know your house or apartment - I don’t. If you have a playful dog who likes to bark a lot, you’re going to need to be able to close off your work area from that as necessary.

Ditto for other family members. Improvise if you have to, as your team mates may be in the same predicament.

Summary

Remote work has been part of the corporate fabric for 20 years. It’s about to become a necessary, widely-used tool that helps organizations maintain BAU during a time when a global pandemic limits in-person contact.

- jbminn

1 I made that up but it’s non-zero