Covid19 has challenged the way we eat, the way we commute, the way we socialize, and the way we work. In short, it impacted the way we live. More than a million people got infected and the number is growing exponentially, it has impacted the whole world. We need to find new ways of life and change our focus and priorities to save nature and humanity. Technology can play a great role in coping with it. eLearning, eCommerce, robots in healthcare and contactless technologies are already helping.
Remote working is the new normal, it is getting accepted by many industries and institutions beyond IT and consulting firms. Even traditional educational institutions started live classes. My 8-year-old son Lakshya’s new academic session started yesterday, I and my wife joined the orientation session and he met all his classmates over video conferencing, and today onward he will attend his school from home.
I am part of an XR development team at ThoughtWorks, we develop software for a couple of XR devices. The government of India has to lock-down the whole country to strictly implement social distancing, and we all are working from home now. In this article, I am sharing, how the 100% remote working impacted me and my team and how it has impacted the business continuity.
Do read the tips of working from home by ThoughtWorkers
My Day like
This section describes how does my day look like, and how much it is different and how much is the same in comparison to earlier.
Morning Energiser Workout
The day now does not start with a morning walk but an indoor workout session with colleagues. ThoughtWorks, Gurgaon office colleagues have started morning energizer workout session, with a basic workout of stretching and yoga.
Earlier, at this time, we used to start getting ourselves prepared for office and kids for school, and some of us may be in the traffic during this period or in the next two hours. Earlier, all the effort need to put into dropping kids at the school bus stop and reach office in time.
Support my kid to attend school from home
He got a schedule from school to join sessions starting at 9 am.
He did a rehearsal with me on video conferencing tool Zoom and now equipped with doing zoom on his own. He is super happy to meet his teachers and students today. He has not seen his friends since the last school session which got completed in first week of March. He got promoted 4th standard.
Earlier, I could not support my wife in all such activities after reaching to office. But now, I have some more flexibility and more time to plan things. While she prepares a delicious breakfast, I get my son ready for the school from home.
Team Standup and Tech Huddles
My team is working from home from different parts of India and distributed across 3 offices in India (Gurgaon, Pune, Coimbatore). There are multiple projects running in this team, and I am shared in a few projects, so attending multiple standups and tech huddles.
XR Development Standup, with a virtual background :)
The day generally starts with standup where we discuss what has been done yesterday, what is the plan for today and if there are any impediments. Then team signup for the task they want to do today, and callout things which they think the team needs to know. Since everyone is working from home, we generally have a full house, no ice-cream meters these days for joining late or stuck in traffic excuses.
Today many of the team members called out that they are canceling their planned leaves due to Covid19 situations and also looking at the criticality of the work we have signed up. Today we have signed up an interesting piece of work with the client. The team wants to deliver the signed work at all the cost. What a commitment team!
Remote Pair Development
Pair development is very core to ThoughtWorkers, we do things in pairs, and get first-hand feedback immediately and fix things then and there. It helps us producing better quality products and reduce the burden from a single human mind.
XR development has device dependency, and remote pair development is another challenge, but we have been doing remote pair development from couple of months between team located at Gurgaon and Coimbatore offices, and now we are getting better in remote pair development. Some of my time goes in active development pairing, here is how we solved some of the challenges
- A limited number of devices — Developers use emulators to test the functionality and have written automation functional tests that run on CI environments to further confirm that development build has the right set of functionality. We make sure our QA team is well equipped with real devices to test it further. We follow a concept called “Dev-Box” (aka volleyball test, shoulder check), where a developer pair invites the QA and few team members to check the developed functionality on the developer’s machine before committing the code in the repository. So the developer has a chance to try functionality in real XR device before pushing the code.
- Showing XR functionality remotely — Some devices support Mixed Reality Capture natively, and some need external tools to stream device experience remotely. We have also build a custom experience streamer to share device experience.
Developers sharing the XR streams on video calls
- Integrations with multiple tools and technologies — Since teams are distributed, it is very important to call out dependencies, and we need to make sure we are not doing duplicate work and duplicate spikes to uncover unknowns. We focus on defining contracts first and then share mock implementation to the dependent team to resolve the dependency well early. Some of my time goes into pairing with different technology leads in defining project architecture.
Pairing with UX Designer:
User experience is key things in XR development and today some of my time also gone in discussing user experience design for the upcoming product. We discussed, how we can make the design completely hands-free, and the user can control the 3D app just by head movement and gaze. Distance between intractable items and field of view of the device is a big consideration while designing the user experience. I am happy that I am able to share my experience with multiple XR devices with the UX designer of my team.
Discussing the concept of the field of view and user interactions on video conferencing was not easy. We figured out an easy way, we created an FoV box with a gaze pointer at the center, then we grouped them, now moving the FoV box also move gaze pointer and it gives similar behavior of how the XR device shows things within FOV.
Pairing with UX designer and business analyst
Pairing for Planning and Showcases:
Being part of multiple projects, I need to be in sync with project planning and requirements across the projects and I can be helpful for project iteration managers to define dependencies and plan the sprint accordingly. So, some of my time goes into discussing the project plan and planing out the showcases.
- Get buy-in from the client — we have taken buy-in from the client to take the XR devices at home for remote development.
- Internet availability at home — Every ThoughtWorker got Rs. 5000/- reimbursements to make arrangements at home and can get things like internet routers, inverters, headphones. It helped team members who don’t have good internet speed and prepare for remote work. Trying its best to enable all of us to work from home.
Joined Townhall from MD’s office and Head of Techs — Overview on how Covid19 is impacting us and industries, our plan to cope up with uncertainties, and what new coming up in India, new office spaces, projects, and some less painful actions. We have discussed some interesting social initiates going in ThoughtWorks to support the people of india in this Codiv19 situation.
Working from home when kids are around
My 2.5 year younger son Lovyansh, has never seen me at home every day, and that too working for the whole day (sometimes night ;). He expects more attention from me after seeing me more. He just wants to press keys on the keypad, and touch the laptop, but I just can’t afford to do that in this situation. He has started controlling his curiosity now, sometimes he is happy just by watching what I am doing. I hope you have noticed matching dress, he is learning colors these days :)
Spend good time in completing few spikes on integrating Unity Application on Android native application and interoperability around these technologies.
Integrated the client’s enterprise Active Directory with the XR app, that we are building for the client. This is a step toward making the XR devices enterprise-ready.
Some of the spikes I have done are already published at Enterprise XR
Pick up Grocery and Essentials
There are online groceries and essential delivery vendors around my house, but none of them can deliver at home due to Covid19, but they are allowed to deliver in the community center following all the hygiene and Govt protocols. The society staff allows people with masks and sensitized hands to pick the delivery. The community center is 10 mins walk in the same society area. I need to get out of my house for some time, depending on the delivery time. Today it was afternoon.
Pune team organizes evening energizer to have fun and stretching, and break together. Energizers are important to stay active and focused, going together on a video call to share/show what is happening around- kids, pets are really connecting us better as a team.
New Joiner Induction
One XR expert joined our team on 31st March, and it is not the best time to join or leave any organization. But at ThoughtWorks, we have taken this challenge and now the new joiners getting all the joining formality done digitally. ThoughtWorks has planned 100% remote induction, immersion workshops and hands-on dev boot-camp for the new joiners. I am his remote buddy, and we keep in touch remotely.
The client team is primarily distributed in the US and China. We generally have some evening meetings with the client or with our ThoughtWorkers in other timezones. Earlier, these evening meetings were most problematic for me to attend, as if I accept a meeting at 5:30 pm and try to leave between 6–8 pm then I have to pass through a lot of traffic, in that case I may opt to stay in office till 8 pm, and that means everything (dinner, evening walk, sleep time) get delayed.
Now working from home has the flexibility to attend evening calls, and even attending a late evening is also fine. So we are now more accessible to other timezones.
Also earlier, it was a struggle to schedule a meeting in office hours, as we need to check the availability of meeting rooms for the participants across the offices and book them. Most of the ThoughtWorks offices in India are preparing additional spaces, as existing ones are getting crowded, finding a meeting room is a nightmare until we get more spaces.
Keep multiple video conferencing software ready on your PC. Different clients and users have different preferences. Get hands-on these tools on sharing screen, content, chat while on a video call.
Break Time is Family Time
I noticed that kids are just waiting for me to come out of the room, and they always have a lot of things to show, and talk. Each break time is now family time. I keep getting instructions from my wife to drink water and walk after some time :)
Writing this article
And of course, after all of the above, spending some time writing this article. I am planning to do some indoor walk after completing it.
This covers my day.
Impact of Full Remote Working
In the last section, I have explained how does my day look like, it is not much different than my day in office, and it is also not the same as my day in office.
Let’s now see, how does full remote working or work from home has impacted us, the projects, the businesses, and the organization. This is applicable to non-XR projects as well.
Social distancing is a must to protect ourselves and others from Covid19 infections. As a result, social connect is reducing, and we do miss office working hours and the energetic office environment. We are trying to fill it with virtual meetings, but it has its own pros and cons. Global connect is improving though.
Family connect is improving, and we have more time for family, and also more time to work.
Now we have more flexible hours than earlier. The hours we spend preparing to go office and reach office are now added flexible hours which can plan to keep our priority in mind. We now have more control on time, we can plan our meetings in extended hours, and spend quality time with family as well.
We are becoming location independent and distributed agile practices are growing naturally. Global-first is coming naturally at org level.
Before going to 100% work from home, we have rehearsed it for couple of days, and we have measured that there is almost no impact on the business deliveries. Now we are 100% working from home, and we have been delivering on all the commitments on time. There is almost no reduction in productive hours and people have also canceled planned leaves, which adds effective productive hours.
At the organization level, there needs to be multiple initiates to be planned in addition to move operations, people support and people enablement remotely. The future will soon be here with teleportation meetings, where we can be ported virtually to other locations.
- New security policies may be required
- The idea of having big office space may not be the future
- The location-independent global first organization
- New leave policies
- Meeting infra for virtual meetings
- Remote working charter
- Cost optimizations
- Measures to face another economic slowdown.
Ops 10:30 pm, probably update this section later.
Covid19 has impacted the world from all the side and forced us to work from home. We are observing a lot of positive sides of working from home without any major impact on business commitments. We hope we will rid of covid19 soon and wish speedy recovery of the ecosystem.
It is originally published at XR Practices Medium Publication
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