Software developers are perhaps more fortunate than most when it comes to being able to continue to do their day-to-day jobs outside of the traditional office setting. However, many of us are discovering that being good with tech doesn’t necessarily mean we’re also good with the tech that lets us continue to be productive while working remotely. Devs around the world are having to learn the skills and tools needed for remote collaboration—we are all learning together. Read these quick tips and best practices for developing software when you can’t be in the office.
Upgrading your pad
First things first: take some time to reconfigure your remote workspace. Microsoft Partner Program Manager Scott Hanselman offers some great tips and tricks for setting up your home office. He gives advice on the best webcam to use for collaboration, the right way to set up lighting (pro tip: use a ring light), and the best practices for being productive while working remotely. He even offers tips on how to liven up the standard video call with “virtual” cameras.
Given how much time you will be sitting throughout the day, remember to invest in a comfortable chair. Besides a good computer and a good keyboard, it is one of the most essential tools you have. Many developers may want to use this as a justification to get themselves a high-end gaming chair—there’s nothing wrong with that—but remember that even an inexpensive chair can be comfortable and ergonomic. Alternatively, this might be an opportunity to ditch the chair altogether and go with a standing desk solution instead.
Do you have little ones at home who occasionally burst into your office? Do you suddenly have an inordinate amount of time on your hands to engage in tech crafts? Why not build yourself a BusyLight presence indicator to let them know when you are working?
Devs gotta whiteboard
Once you have successfully set up your office, it’s important to know how to use your collaboration tools to their fullest potential. While there are lots of collaboration tools out there, Microsoft Teams is a mature, feature-rich product. Perhaps the greatest benefit of Teams for remote workers is its enterprise-level security. As more and more sensitive communications are being conducted online, it’s important to know that what happens on Teams stays on Teams.
Microsoft Teams is constantly updated to make your telework experience better. Responding to a lot of requests, Teams recently added the ability to use a custom background. Teams is also launching a 3x3 video grid very soon, so you can see your whole team at once!
If you are going to use Teams, you might as well do it like a boss. Chris Hoard has written 30 posts in 30 days to help you master this collaboration tool. Here are a few of them:
Sometimes, though, words just aren’t enough. Did you know that 70 percent of communication is non-verbal? For many developers, this non-verbal communication involves regularly scrawling diagrams on a whiteboard. With a broad set of features, Microsoft Whiteboard can help fill that urge you have to wave an Expo marker around in your hand. Microsoft Whiteboard is available for both Windows and Apple devices and allows you to sync up all the connected instances of the whiteboard as you draw. Since seeing is believing, this video helps illustrate the possibilities of the digital board.
Know your tools, know your code
While Microsoft Teams lets you collaborate during meetings and Microsoft Whiteboard helps you share your diagrams and ideas, Visual Studio Live Share is a feature that allows developers to remotely collaborate on code directly from the IDE. Available for Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code, for PC or Mac, Live Share lets you pair-code, pair-debug, call, and chat with your co-developers through your IDE. In this walkthrough video by Jon Chu, you can learn how to use this tool to recreate a collaborative workplace, even when you can’t be there with your team.
But aren’t there things you still have to meet face-to-face for—like job interviews? It turns out that with its code collaboration features, Visual Studio Live Share is also a great tool for doing technical interviews when you aren’t in a position to do the interview in person. It’s one of many tools that could seriously change the way we collaborate.
We hope these lessons from the developers at Microsoft will help you be more productive as you develop your strategies for coding from home. We believe that sharing tips about how we are all succeeding as accidental teleworkers is also the best way to work together. Now we have a request for you: Please share your own tips, recommendations, tool advice, and experiences with coding remotely in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #RemoteDevLife so we can learn from your stories!
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