Is Remote Working the Way of the Future? – Two Industry Expert Test Lead’s Share Their Thoughts on Remote Working.

April 9, 2020

Without a doubt, remote working has proved a challenge for many businesses – it was an entirely foreign concept to some until a few weeks ago. Now at least 3 weeks in, we are starting to see multiple positive aspects to working from home, both from an individual perspective, and that of businesses and corporations. 

We interviewed two exceptional Test Lead’s regarding their experiences with remote working, and their thoughts on the lasting impact it will have on business operations. Shey Crompton is currently a Test LeadConsultant with over 20 years’ experience in testing, test management, and project management. Caroline Henderson is a Test Lead Analyst who began her career in testing 16 years ago, and is experienced in test management and building and leading teams.

 

What have you found the largest impact of remote working to be in your experience? 

Caroline - “Communication. I am having to use multiple mediums for what would have usually been face to face communication.”

Shey“Learning that things take a lot more time to arrange, it’s all very well being able to send an email or meeting request and then have that meeting in an office. But it can take longer if there not at their desk, it’s kind of a slower pace.”

 

Have you found that remote working has impacted your ability to stay focused on tasks?

Caroline“Definitely – there are quite a lot of distractions inside a family home, with TV’s being on, children who need to be looked after, educated, fed and entertained.”

Shey“Yes. There’s quite a learning curve because the entire family is at home, as there are things going on in the family that distract you. You’re at home with all your beloved trinkets, and technology, which can be quite distracting. I’ve been making lists with post it notes around my desk and using Pomodoro technique to time box my tasks.”

 

How has remote working impacted your work/life balance?

Caroline – “I can divide my day up a bit more, for instance if I start earlier, I can take a break and do a Joe Wicks class with my youngest daughter. If I take my regular breaks, I can quickly do the little jobs around the house, which means that when my working day is done, I have more time to spend with my family and relax.”

“I’ve also got someone else in the house making cups of tea on a regular basis!”

Shey – “It’s improved it overall. At lunch I get to sit down and chat with my family, and I can always just pop downstairs for a quick hug with my kids or talk to my wife. We have dinner at a reasonable time, we’re currently working on a game of monopoly.”

“It can be difficult switching between multiple roles ofProject Lead, Father, Husband, and Home Educator.”

Do you have access to all the tools you need when working remotely, or is this something that has proved a challenge?

Caroline – “It has definitely proved to be a challenge. Infrastructure was put under a huge amount of stress and it wasn’t designed for remote working. But with the right team in place we were able to make those changes very quickly and able to get our staff back working. For some companies that would have taken a while, but for us it was done within a week.” 

Shey“Largely yes, I do, my current client is very good VPN set up. Prior to working from home, we did a rehearsal under their business continuity initiative. We have VDI’s for stuff we can’t access, and we can go remote into a virtual desktop. But at the same time, there’s things like my internet bandwidth wasn’t running as fast as it could do, so I was finding I had to be my own technical support.”

 

How have you found working in a team whilst remote working?

Caroline“It feels a bit more isolated from my team. That general chit chat you would have with people is completely gone, and also, you’re unable to overhear other conversations in the office which has been a struggle. I’ve had to open up meetings to involve the whole team rather than just part of the team.”

Shey – “It’s been okay. I find that it’s all about scheduling. Make sure you have your daily touch points, so everyone knows where they are and need to do. Making sure you have a couple of chats throughout the day. We’ve got skype for business which tells you when people are available, so that helps quite a lot.”

  

As a team lead, how does remote working impact your decision making?

Caroline“It’s made us more focused on the decisions we make. We know that we need to involve the right people at the right time for the conversation. I think people understand that we need work more efficiently to get decisions made.” 

Shey – “It goes back to understanding that thing stake a little bit longer. You’ve got to allow double that time in your head, you don’t have all the files at your fingertips, or people around you. You have to be careful of how you’re saying things because you’re talking largely over email or skype, so it’s easy to misinterpret tasks. I’ve had that already, nothing to the detriment of the project, but I could have been a bit better in thinking about it and giving better instructions.”

 

In terms of communication with colleagues and team members, what methods or tools are you using to ensure that strong communication is maintained?

Caroline“We’re actually looking at new tools just now. Before we were using Zoom, Trillian and making phone calls. We’re holding a lot more zoom meetings, even for a virtual cuppa, other teams can join us to find out what we’re up to. We are looking into tools that will help with our projects, such as Confluence, Slack and Trello.”

 

We’ve seen online that some teams are keeping moral up by playing games, such as ‘guess who’s desk this is’, or Task Master, or holding a virtual ‘Friday night post work drinks’. Have you done anything similar with your team, and if so, have you noticed a positive impact on your team as a whole? 

Caroline“We played an online game today calledscribbl.io – you have to guess what people draw; it was quite fun. We have virtual cuppas where we can talk about anything. We’ve been sharing memes, what we have for lunch, those general things.”

“I think we’re being more personal about ourselves, they can see my home, my children, my pets, and I can see theirs, which makes us feel a bit closer. They aren’t just my teammates but also my friends now, as we are all trying our best to help each other.”

 

Is there anything that you think will make returning, or adjusting to a normal office working environment difficult?

Caroline – “Commuting and having a tighter time schedule. All those time constraints we are used to having will be back, such as commuting, school, office hours. I’ll be happy to see my team in one respect, but on the other is having to organise dropping and picking up children from school, clubs, appointments.”

Shey“What I have experienced over the years isa reluctance to work from home for various reasons - fear of the unknown, trust issues. This is going to be a universal issue, now that we’ve proven that companies can function normally with people working from home, it’s going to be difficult to deny that facility. I can see companies having to change their views very quickly or they’re going to lose their employees.”

 

Once we are able to lift the self-isolation measures, what do you think the lasting impact of so many individuals remote working along period of time will have on how businesses operate?

Caroline“If they can see the positives of allowing people to work remotely, I think that will open up a lot of business opportunities for people.”

“It comes down to employers seeing the work and trusting employees, and the employees being satisfied as well. Micromanagers might struggle with this.” 

Shey“Savvy businesses will realise the cost saving of having half the business working from home, for instance you would only need 50% of the office space. For large corporations, this would translate to savings of tens or hundreds of thousands.”

 

What’s the best thing to come out of remote working for yourself?

Caroline“No commuting and more time with my family, even though it’s difficult to split my time between the two.”

Shey“I’m connecting more with friends in the testing community. We have a constant google hangout that people drop in and out of. Being able to spend more time with my family too.”

 

Are there aspect of remote working that you think will be implemented into office working environments once we return to normality? 

Caroline“Definitely. I think companies can see that we don’t need so much office space and that they can cater for remote workers. It is a massive amount of space saved if people can work from home.”

Shey – “Absolutely, I think the flexibility of being able to do your job from home, that implementation is imminent across the board because of the cost savings, as well as the workforce wanting it, realising that it is possible and has benefits, such as a better work life balance.”

 

What is your no. 1 tip or piece of advice for anyone whois finding remote working difficult, or is completely new to remote working?

Caroline – “Get your environment set up right for what you need.”

Shey – “Connect by face as much as possible. Most people have a camera on their phone or laptops. Various video conferencing tools are available to use, utilise that, get in touch with people, and make sure you’re connecting with your workers and friends.”

 

Post Covid-19, the way businesses and offices operate is undoubtedly going to be fundamentally impacted. According to a survey conducted by, it is estimated that 90% of the UK workforce commute to work, and of that 55%of workers reported an increase in stress levels during their journey.[1]Although the circumstances currently surrounding remote working are stressful, it is clear that many workers are experiencing a better work life balance due to time and stress saved from commuting.

In 2016published an estimation that 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020[2],and according to a survey conducted by n 2020, “'long working hours' is now the 7th most common cause of work-related stress compared to being 1st in 2018”.[3] Before a global pandemic ensued, there was a clear trend in the number of businesses adopting amore flexible approach to remote working.

I suspect that once restrictions are lifted and workers are able to return to office working environments, there are going to be instrumental questions raised by employees regaring the continuation of remote working opportunities, whether full time or part time.stated in their survey that work from home policies (39%) [and] flexible working hours (37%)” are two of the “most common measures in place by companies to help manage workplace stress”.[4] Despite showing a positive trend, I believe that that these measures ought to be in place in many more companies than they already are.

Previously many company infrastructures did not support remote working because it went against the norm. The old saying ‘don’t fix what isn’t broke’ comes to mind. But the past few weeks have proved that remote working is a possibility that many businesses and organisations can support, albeit under better circumstances and with more planning.

In the past decade we have seen an increased awareness of mental health in the workspace, and companies providing more outlets to support their employees and enable a more constructive work life balance. It is apparent that the ability to work from home has a positive impact on workers lives, allowing them more time spent with loved ones and reduced stress caused from commuting, as well as many other benefits. 

Of course, this won’t be the case across the board, for somer emote working has proved detrimental to their work, or even impossible. But it goes to show that one type of office set up does not fit all. Hopefully a silver lining of the current nationwide lockdown, is that employers will seethe benefits remote and flexible working opportunities provide, opening doors for many in the future.

 

By Phoebe Blair

[1] https://www.populus.co.uk/insights/2016/08/the-health-impacts-of-the-rush-hour-commute/

[2] https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/telecommutersremoteworkersintheuk

[3] https://www.perkbox.com/uk/resources/library/2020-workplace-stress-survey

[4] https://www.perkbox.com/uk/resources/library/2020-workplace-stress-survey

 

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