Where do we work in 2021?

This blog was written on December 31, 2020.

2020 was the year of not being at the office. For some people it was a blessing, for others horrible.

Management is missing the opportunity for Gemba. You can walk around an empty office but there is no use in applying the 8 steps (observe, ask open questions, MUDA, ask for improvements, decide and take action, value, follow up, feedback) when there is no one around. You can join Teams calls but the question is if your observations are the same. Sitting in at a Teams call is less informal than watching people work at the office.

The interaction around the coffee machine is missed. Talking with team members in a less official setting. But also meeting people from other teams and exchanging information and getting new ideas. A manager asking how a certain project is going.

As a Scrum Master you miss out on the observation of your team. How do team members interact with each other or with people from outside the team? How does the exchange of information go within the team? How’s the interaction during development and testing? Are they two separate stages or are they blended together? During 2020 it had to come from planned informal interactions and events.

The Product Owner has to trust that not getting questions means everyone understands the goal of a User Story. Not being able to listen to the conversation about a User Story has you missing out on the confirmation the goal is clear. Or being able to intervein when the goal is misunderstood.

As developer just asking a quick question to a colleague about that piece of software you are working on. Yes you can make a Teams call and share your screen. But it’s not the same.

On the other hand, being able to shut out everyone and having full focus on that problem you are trying to solve is great. Every time you are interrupted for a 5 minutes question, you loose about 20 minutes of concentrated work time. If that solution that just popped into your head isn’t lost forever.

Will we go back into the office fulltime in 2021? Or will the purpose of the office building change?

The importance of being able to work outside the office has become clear. If you weren’t able to have people work remote, you had a disadvantage if your competitors could have employees work remote. If you look at New-York, a lot of office places are empty and rent prices are going down. Not only for office space but also for apartments. People believe there is less need for working at an office. So why should I need to leave near one? Big Tech on the other hand is buying office space. Facebook, Google and Amazon just bought big office buildings in New York. Question is, what are they going to do with the space?

A lot of people believe the office is no longer a place to work but more a place to meet.

Many people are opting for a hybrid solution. 3 days at the office, 2 days working from home and 2 days off. You could almost say that’s the best of both worlds. If your team is opting for this option, think about having good agreements in the team. Do we have days everyone in the team is at the office? What days are going to be “work at home” days? Does your company have the facilities to have a meeting where a part of the team joins using Teams and part is at the office? Are you working all in a large office space where it distracts if people are constant in Teams calls? Do problems arise if everyone works at home the same day? Make the answers to those questions part of your “Team Agreement”. Also make sure that working from home does not become a right or a privilege but something that can be changed when needed.

I’m in favor of the hybrid solution. But we need to make sure everyone within the team thinks the same way about when do we work where.

I hope you all have a great and Agile 2021.