Remote Work

7 tips to improve remote work

So we are all in this Corona madness and many of us are working from home. Yes, we want to see our colleagues more often, but we also need to stay safe. So why not try to make the best out of it while doing our part to fight this pandemic. That is why we want to share some of our best tips to improve remote work for small teams. These tips are mostly towards small developer teams, but it might be useful for more of you as well.

1. Chat Program

So this is a given, and most likely all of you already have this. At Ananki we have both Teams and Discord, some of you might use Slack or something else. It really does not matter as long as you have some form of chat program that makes it easy to do asynchronous communication. That is, messages that is not super important that the reader needs to respond to immediately. This way you can respond to messages when you have the time to do so, that is really important. And it is also important that all on the team respects that.

2. Chat Rooms

So while having this chat program, it is a great idea to organize the chat into several rooms or groups. Here we can have rooms for just off-topic chatting about anything, specific project chats, chats and information about certain tools and the list goes on. Just make something that fits your team(s).

Some of our rooms

3. Voice chat

Now, we were a bit sceptical about this. Would it be too much noise and hard to concentrate? After several weeks of this we found out that it was really great to always be on voice chat, but muting when we were on the phone, eating or something like that. It was like actually being in the office together, we could easily just ask out loud if we needed some help, or we could just ask about “How is life these days?”. Just like normal office chat really. And the best thing is that you can leave the voice chat if you need to concentrate even more, but it has never come to that for any of us.

Voice chat is one of Discord’s best selling points, this is one of the many reasons we are using Discord as our main communication platform.

A small cut-out from our Discord server.

4. Stream the screen

Another thing we found out was that we usually wanted to show the screen of what we were working on to one or more on the team. That way we could get advice about something and it was really nice to troubleshoot together. However it was a bit cumbersome to start the stream that often, so the solution was to stream all the time! And here Discord once again has some great tools! Among them is that all the team members can stream at the same time, and you can easily view all the streams at the same time using the grid view. This made it very easy to switch between team members and help troubleshooting.

How screen sharing looks like for us.

5. Stream using OBS

Default Discord will stream either a window or a screen. And it is not that cool to stream your screen all the time, you know privacy and such. So here comes OBS into play. OBS is a really nice tool that most streamers use today. It is powerful and has lots of nice features. In OBS we created several scenes based on what kind of tool we were using. For instance Unity, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, Adobe XD, Browser etc. This is easy to setup in OBS. And by adding some hotkeys it is easy to switch between the scenes. That way you will only stream what you want to stream. And you can keep the NSFW stuff on your screen all the time. 😉

6. Show which task you are working on

So you might watch a team-members stream and wonder which task they are working on. This information is available through tools like Jira or Azure DevOps. At Ananki we love Azure DevOps, and we created a dashboard showing just the tasks we were working on ourselves. Jira has the same possibility. So using OBS we could open a browser window with the dashboard URL and crop the view of the window to show only the list of tasks we were working on. That way we can always show the tasks in the stream as well, no need to go to the browser to view this. This is just the first step. We could add even more information like PR’s we are assigned etc. All the information you can get from the dashboard that could be useful to show to your team-members.

7. Live Share

So we all remember the awesome experience when we were co-editing google docs with someone else. It is a really efficient way to work, at least we think so. When Microsoft released Live Share, we knew that would be even better. Now we can easily share our Code Editor (Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code) and our team-members can join in and edit code and do troubleshooting along with us on their machine. This is such a powerful new way of doing pair programming, we just love it!

So that was that! We hope these 7 tips might help your team improve the way you do remote work. It has really done wonders for us.