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Work from home tips from distributed development teams during COVID-19

The distributed dev community often works remotely. Pick up these approaches, such as an asynchronous schedule and video collaboration, to be productive and in sync while the whole team works from home.

Developers are in a unique position amid the COVID-19 outbreak around the world. Distributed development teams have experience to share on how to work from home and connect with colleagues and co-creators across long distances.

Let's explore some guidance from distributed development teams during the coronavirus outbreak and some tips on how to deliver a clear and concise message. While remote work is at a peak globally due to the pandemic, these tips will serve teams well in many situations, such as with members in different global offices and coordination with outsourced workers on development contracts.

Remote work expertise

The development community has a lot to teach others about how to work in a distributed fashion. Many business professionals are switching to remote work for the first time, but developers, testers and others in IT experience it frequently.

Distributed development teams have a head start on remote work. Even developers who sit in a cubicle all day can draw on their experience tinkering in open source software builds, wherein thousands of people from across the globe make code contributions and raise ideas.

"As remote work becomes the norm, developer paradigms will serve us well," said Benjamin Stein, general manager of developer experience at Twilio.

Some distributed development team best practices that assimilate well to all kinds of work include:

  • create written artifacts, which is any work that can be documented and stored centrally;
  • assume and prepare for asynchronous work, which means the 10 a.m. standup needs to evolve;
  • respect time zones; and
  • communicate intentionally and deliberately to eliminate misinterpretations.
You don't have to perform any heroics during this time to have a positive influence on other developers.
Tiffany JachjaDeveloper advocate, Harness

All these practices have value for developers and nontechnical teams that now find themselves unexpectedly distributed.

Share your knowledge

Working remotely doesn't mean disconnecting. Distributed development teams should keep up with colleagues and set an example of how to conduct business from afar.

Video sessions, for example, may not attract a large audience, but they can spark meaningful conversations with peers about important topics. It's also a great time to regroup and align with other members of your development team to discuss ongoing issues.

"I've seen developers offer office hours or online sessions on various platforms," said Tiffany Jachja, developer advocate at Harness, a continuous delivery-as-a-service provider.

"You don't have to perform any heroics during this time to have a positive influence on other developers," she said. "Continuing to pair programs and sync up regularly with your teammates is an effort that we can all appreciate. Nothing is stopping you from starting a project and calling forward your community, either."

At your service

In this time of social distancing, technology is at the forefront. Developers -- often defaulted into a tech support role for friends and family anyway -- can give back in meaningful ways with simple tech advice.

Families and loved ones stay connected over video chat. Data analysts crunch numbers to help health professionals work on patients. Local nonprofit organizations in developers' communities probably need help reaching their teams and the people they serve. Connect with them, band together with other developers and share ideas to help, Stein recommended.

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