I've seen all the videocall screenshots
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominates nearly every aspect of life, this asks for teamwork, creativity, adaptability, collaboration and communication.
We would like to share our experiences and tips with the outside world about what to do in these times. Everybody's kitchen is different, but there may be parts that you can use.
No physical meetings anymore
Physical meetings are no longer possible, not with your team, with prospects or with customers. Fortunately, we live in times where communication through video and chat offers great alternatives with many options that can replace physical meetings.
Daily communication takes place through various platforms for different purposes. Here are some examples of how you can use them:
- Slack for internal communication about projects
- Slack video calls for standup meetings.
- Mobile telephony and Skype for conversations with prospects or customers.
- jitsi.org for larger company-wide meetings.
- E-mail / ticket systems for support questions.
Video meetings: Practical tips
Here are some practical tips for video meetings:
- Call with earplugs, these have a microphone and you can write along during the conversation, everyone can also understand each other better.
- Agree how you communicate, for example, take a break after you say something so that the other person can respond.
- Agree in advance who will take the lead in a video call, otherwise there will be no structure.
- If you don't speak, mute your audio, otherwise you will get feedback loops.
Planning: Projects must continue
It takes a while to adjust, but projects must continue. At Four Digits, we try to maintain our regular rhythms by working during regular office hours or fine-tuning them as teams.
All our teams are working at home and it is important that there is structure. Structure provides peace, clarity and predictability. Three parts that many people are looking for in these times.
Make sure there are clear schedules and expectations of each other. If possible, keep your schedule the same as it was before. For example in most projects we do daily standups now twice a day.
Projects using live data
One practical example we never thought would happen: we are working on a new version of https://werkzaamheden.rijkswaterstaat.nl/.
This is a web application by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and shows all roadworks and related information such as reason, duration and traffic impact.
This project is currently in its testing phase. We use live data and there is always traffic during normal circumstances. But with daily life disrupted and when most of us are working at home, the traffic jams disappear and we are forced to wait for realtime traffic to continue testing.
There are times when there is absolutely no data, something we could never have imagined when we started this project a year ago.
Working hours: Identify exceptions and home situations with all relations
Every home situation is different and that also requires adjustments. Accept that this is the case, make agreements when you do and don't work, so that this is clear to everyone. If possible, provide a separate room / place where you can work.
Our customers, suppliers and partners also work from home, they are in the same situation. We try to talk about these (personal) situations in the projects, also with the customer, so that these collaborations can be well coordinated. We all have to deal with this.
For example, we were in an intensive test period at our office in Arnhem with one of our customers a few weeks ago. Now we have to do this differently, by working through phone and video calls, coordinating schedules and objectives.
Communication: Avoid assumptions
What we noticed at Four Digits is that communication is increasing, more calls are made and more is discussed on chat software. This prevents assumptions, which is very important at this time. Do you not understand each other completely? Discuss it again. This may seem exaggerated at first, but it helps us a lot. Also indicate if the calls are too much.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we did physical retrospectives in our office. In a retrospective you look back at what is going well and what the areas for improvement could be. We encourage everyone to do this during these times. For digital retrospectives we use retrium.
This way you know what is going on with everyone in your team, the company and you will gain more understanding and respect for each other and the situation as a whole.
Chit-chat is important
What we noticed is that a lot of chats or video calls are also about chit-chat, non work related things. Recognize that chit chat is important, we need social interaction in our life as we are not robots. This is not a waste of time, this is needed to cope.
I would like to thank everybody within the team for their flexibility. Hopefully there is a suggestion for you that you can use.