One of the unexpected side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that productivity has noticeably improved in some areas as everyone works from home. We’re hearing and reading stories about development teams keeping their pace just as before as well as companies claiming their development speed has actually gone up considerably. Despite the fact that people need to rightfully put their families first during a time like this, there’s apparently still ample room for development time.
How is this possible? Is it a matter of better concentration and less distraction? This will play a role for some, especially for those who don’t have families with small children to take care of. Is it because people are spending less time on other side work activities, like training, risk and compliance stuff? These aspects will most certainly play a role, and in some organizations more than others. The more overhead activities you have, the bigger this effect will be on your organization.
However, I think there’s another aspect to all of this that shouldn’t be underestimated: the social aspect. There’s a lot less social interaction going on, and I don’t mean so much the coffee machine chat. There will be some small effect of that, I guess some of that is still going on to some extent, but this wasn’t the greatest efficiency waster anyway.
I’m talking about meetings. Meetings seem to be becoming much more focused, much more disciplined and time-boxed. Looking at my own meetings, I rarely see one going over time, preliminary documents are better prepped and discussions are more focused. This may be a temporary thing; when people get even more used to meeting online, the inefficiency may increase. There’s an obvious downside as well; with less social interaction, it’s more difficult to sense the feelings of disagreement and have hard discussions. Meetings where we used to use whiteboards to brainstorm ideas are possible, but not as effective. Scribbling on a laptop to share ideas? Sure, the tools are available, but they’re not yet on par with the old-fashioned whiteboard wall.
So, maybe in the long run, we’ll end up with worse design decisions, worse architectures and more trouble. Enjoy your increased productivity while you have it, but be careful of those worse design decisions. Don’t forget to make proper long-term designs and monitor your architecture carefully.