5 min. read

January 02, 2022

Tech lead

Work From Home Guide for Tech Leads

Achieve peak performance from the comfort of your home

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Yasas Sri Wickramasinghe, Lead Software Engineer (Past), Lecturer

Whether the “Working From Home” concept is productive or not, the pandemic has significantly influenced this new work norm for software engineering companies. Therefore, this article presents some proven techniques for Tech Leads to ignite day-to-day work productivity while enjoying the home.

Best Practices for Tech Leads

The suggestions below are based on multiple studies and experiences that I've encountered. Of course, you may feel free to adapt these pointers to customise them to the nature of your work.

1. Turn on your video during virtual meetings

Sounds simple, but turning on your video is highly recommended during online meetings for a number of reasons. As a tech lead, you can reveal your non-verbal expressions to your colleagues, create better interpersonal connections, and make all those meetings a little less dull.

work from home tech lead

Notably, by turning on the video, you will get additional requirements to prepare yourself before the meeting and be mindful of your work environment at home. I believe this is a good pressure to take action to improve yourself and make your home workspace a productive work environment.

2. Use a shared calendar and reserve a daily distraction-free time

When you are busy with work at the office, your colleagues usually won’t interrupt you because they can visually observe that you are busy.

However, if you are remotely working, it brings you many distractions since you can't physically see each other. These frequent distractions during work hours hugely affect you, especially if you tend to procrastinate.

According to a study by Utrecht University, non-work related actions yield to the workplace procrastination of employees, which directly impacts their productivity.

During remote work, interruptions coming via online channels and phone calls initiate non-work-related actions which in turn interrupts your focus.

I recommend implementing a team-wide shared calendar such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook Calendar to reduce such distractions. Due to that, everyone can see others’ daily work schedules and commitments.

And also, you can reserve your own schedule allocating a daily focus time. By doing so, your teammates will notice it and not disturb you unless there is an urgent cause. You can use “Do Not Disturb Mode” or silenced notifications during this time to solely focus on your work.

3. Plan your day ahead and measure the performance

It's an entirely different atmosphere when working from home, compared to the usual workday at the office. You are self-managed, and also you have responsibilities to assist your team even though everyone is working remotely. As a Tech Lead, you need to be exemplary and well planned, achieving peak performance in these circumstances.

Below are some of the suggestions to boost your daily productivity.

  • Daily planner — It is a good idea to use a day planner (a paper diary or an online tool) to sketch your next-day tasks a day before. During the day, try to stay committed to the plan and tick off the items you complete throughout the day.

  • Aim for smaller, measurable work items — Whether you are developing a software functionality, planning the architecture of a new project, or doing other project management work, make sure to decompose your work into smaller work items as much as possible.

  • Include short intervals in your schedule — Regular intervals help your brain stay focused during the job. You can have a quick walk around your home, take a cup of coffee or snack or even a fresh glass of water during these short breaks. Since you are working from home, you can go and have a quick chat with your family members as well.

However, it is worth mentioning that how much we plan, it is not realistic to always commit 100% to your plan. Therefore, if you are not achieving all the scheduled tasks, spend a few minutes reflecting on the root causes and arranging fixes for the required ones.

4. Read twice before sending DMs

Direct Messaging (DM) is mainstream nowadays, and it has become significant in the remote working culture. You might be using Slack, Skype, MS Teams, or a similar tool to keep connected with the team members.

However, the missing part of instant messaging, non-verbal communication, can cause severe issues in professional work environments. Also, it is common that we tend to express our vulnerabilities more through instant messaging, responding to our emotions without taking a breath, and managing them. I recommend you to,

Never send DMs to your colleagues if you are angry or stressed, instead take a moment and read your intended message before sending.

5. Don’t schedule office work outside work hours or weekends

According to a study, workers overwork during weekends, approximately 50% of their weekends per year. By experience, you know this is not a strange phenomenon in the software engineering world as well.

Unless it is a job role-specific need, never encourage your teammates to work day and night, weekdays and weekends, toward achieving project goals. This affects not only the overall team productivity but also your leisure time as well.

Instead, encourage your team to engage with more human interactions meanwhile working from home. As a Tech Lead, below are some activities that you can propose to your team,

  • Home workout program for the team

  • Small scale hackathons, competitions within the team

  • Virtual tea parties, singing competitions, ice-breaking activities

  • Conduct webinars and online workshops for the university students

Final Thoughts

Working from home has its pros and cons. Yet, spend some time working on utilising it for your benefit. Remote working can be a real gem compared to an on-site office desk.

It's clear that more software engineering companies are now encouraging working from home and occasionally inviting employees to the office premises for special events and meetups.

This Hybrid model might be the long-term new normal going forward.

I believe as a tech lead, you can incorporate some of these techniques mentioned above to make your and your team’s day-to-day remote working experience a happier and productive one.

Let me know what you think about these suggestions, and I wish you all the best! 👏👏👏