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COVID-19: How Development Teams Can Stay Productive While Working From Home

4 min read | By: Christine Wright, Senior Vice President, Hays U.S. on April 8th, 2020

With almost every U.S. state is under a non-essential business shutdown, most developers and IT professionals have the luxury of working from home. But shifting to remote work is easier said than done. Here’s how you can stay productive, communicate effectively, and get the resources you need while working remotely.

Create a work from home guide for your company

Develop a work from home guide that you can share with your colleagues and other teams within the company.

A WFH guide ensures everyone follows company best practices, uses the right VPN to access the corporate network, and knows how to communicate with their managers and tech support.

It also gives employees tips on how to manage their time, stay productive, and create boundaries between their work hours and personal hours at home.

Your first version doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. Focus on communicating key information about:

  • Securely accessing applications through company-approved VPNs
  • Downloading approved applications only
  • Expectations for communicating with the team

Once everyone’s operational and signed into the daily video conference call, you can distribute updated versions of your guide.

Re-educate the company on cybersecurity best practices

Many employees may be new to remote working and not entirely familiar with cybersecurity best practices. Even your resourceful, tech-savvy employees can jeopardize the enterprise network by using workarounds that aren’t company approved. Finally, anyone from an experienced IT professional to a non-tech worker can fall victim to social engineering tricks like phishing.

Cybercriminals look at COVID-19 as a big opportunity to make money. In fact, the FBI expects a surge in Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes due to COVID-19.

Get ahead of this by refreshing your colleagues with clear communication about:

  • Common phishing scams and not clicking on suspicious links or links from an unknown sender
  • Using company-approved VPNs to access the company’s network
  • Changing passwords on their company-issued laptops
  • Not using unapproved peripheral devices (e.g. a USB) on company-issued laptops
  • Calling a colleague or supplier to confirm that a message is from them if it looks suspicious. Criminals sometimes create email addresses that at a glance look nearly identical to a real employee or supplier’s email. For instance, if there’s an “m” in an email address, they’ll make a ‘fake m’ with an ‘r’ and an ‘n’ to fool recipients.

Clean up your network drives and create a file naming convention

Does your team’s shared drive use a legacy filing system that no longer suits its purpose? This is the time to fix it. In fact, an organized shared drive becomes even more important when everyone’s working remotely.

You won’t be able to fix this overnight, but you can definitely get started by:

  • Creating a logical folder taxonomy or hierarchy. As a starting point, separate folders by projects, so you can easily reference relevant materials
  • Creating an enterprise-wide file naming convention. This convention should include a standard date format (YYYYMMDD) as well as a naming format for clients or projects. Colleagues need to be able to find the files they need
  • Advocating that you and your team save all company files to the shared drive rather than their personal drive

Start creating clear technical documentation

There’s some debate on just how much technical documentation a team should produce. For instance, agile teams like to keep documentation to a minimum.

But in a remote working environment, it’s incredibly important for employees to access clear information about different processes, products, and systems.

If your team works in operations, rather than development, this is even more critical. Since you’re responsible for supporting the entire infrastructure, you want to limit the amount of support tickets by helping employees help themselves.

  • Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Create backlogs and review and refine them regularly, so that everyone understands what the most high value tasks are, even when working remotely
  • Set realistic expectations. You won’t develop a documentation culture overnight. Identify the most business-critical functions, tools, or processes and prioritize documenting those. Get buy-in from senior managers to ensure teams take this seriously
  • Set people up for success. Distribute examples and provide templates that show teams what proper documentation looks like. Make it clear that the goal is to get information in an easily accessible format, not to produce perfect documents
  • Collaborate with your marketing team. Talk to marketing about turning team documentation into polished final forms. Your marketing team can also turn this technical documentation into different formats like videos or infographics

Communicate your needs to management and request the necessary tools

Your team probably already uses tools like GitHub, Jira or Slack to get work done, but with your entire team working from home, you’ll likely need more WFH tools. That may mean new tools, additional VPN licenses, upgraded accounts, or both on everything from video conferencing platforms to DevOps tools to cloud storage space.

Make the ask. If you’re a manager, consider requesting a COVID-19 specific IT budget, so you can purchase what you need instead of seeking individual purchase approvals.

Above all, put your physical and mental health first. Staying focused and productive is difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic. Follow the advice of public health officials, create clear boundaries between work and personal time, and take care of you.

For more advice to help you achieve your career goals – click here

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