#49: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses have implemented their business continuity plans. Part of those plans include remote work. Today, we talk about both of our experiences with remote work and what are the chances are that remote work will become the new normal for knowledge workers.
Viktor Farcic is a member of the Google Developer Experts and Docker Captains groups, and published author.
His big passions are DevOps, Containers, Kubernetes, Microservices, Continuous Integration, Delivery and Deployment (CI/CD) and Test-Driven Development (TDD).
He often speaks at community gatherings and conferences (latest can be found here).
His random thoughts and tutorials can be found in his blog TechnologyConversations.com.
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Darin Pope 0:00
This is episode number 49 of DevOps Paradox with Darin Pope and Viktor Farcic. I'm Darin
Viktor Farcic 0:05
and I am Viktor
Darin Pope 0:07
Today we're going to jump on the COVID-19 bandwagon, sort of. If you're watching this live today is March 12, but it's actually releasing in podcast form and re-releasing in video on April 1. No, this is not an April Fool's joke. One of the things huh
Viktor Farcic 0:32
Darin Pope 0:33
It's not. One of the things for the company we work for, we're primarily remote. I don't say fully remote because we do have some offices and we have some people that go to offices on a very normal basis. But we're primarily remote and I'm remote. Obviously I'm at home today. Viktor is at home in his really cool new apartment. condo. What do you guys call them?
Viktor Farcic 0:59
Darin Pope 1:00
apartment. So we're we're all good. Everything's the way it's supposed to be. But we're thinking about Okay, well, not everybody gets to have remote work. And let's go through a small list. I did I did a little bit of research. There's a lot of travel bans on. There are typical 14 day quarantines if you are diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19. Now, again, this is, by the time you're watching this, if you're not watching it live on April 1, hopefully the curve has started flattening. And, you know, the, the yesterday, March 11, they, the WHO, not the Who, but WHO declared it a pandemic. All the other scary words, right. Airlines are slashing flight availability. In fact, the president of the united states last night has now starting tomorrow banned all travel to Europe for however long
Viktor Farcic 2:06
I cannot come and visit anymore.
Darin Pope 2:09
Well, not for what was it, two weeks, three weeks. I haven't really. It came. It came on right before I went to bed so I was like okay, I don't know. But let's talk about canceled events. South by Southwest canceled.
Viktor Farcic 2:24
Darin Pope 2:25
KubeCon. Well KubeCon has been rescheduled.
Viktor Farcic 2:29
I mean, that's okay.
Darin Pope 2:31
Right. So right. Well, no that that does matter because they're pushing it forward. I'm talking about true truly cancelled until the next year. E3 canceled. F8 canceled a little bit of streaming. Google Next canceled but going to do full streaming. Universities. In fact, a lot of the universities in North Carolina have said hey, look, you're going on spring break next week or this week. Don't bother coming back. We're going to do it all online probably for the foreseeable future. What do you do? In fact, let's see how the tech works here. For people watching on YouTube, you're going to see something here in a moment. If I get all the buttons, right, pushed,
Viktor Farcic 3:20
Darin Pope 3:22
there's a site called https://stayinghome.club. And it lists out a couple of columns. And this is all managed on GitHub if you wanted to watch it, but if you look at it, we'll go down to Hey, let's look at Amazon because they're big. Right? I wish the headers followed, but that's okay. So this was last updated when was theirs last updated? I changed the zoom level and now it's hosed.
Viktor Farcic 3:51
Probably need to refresh.
Darin Pope 3:52
Yeah, cuz I busted it. Boy, even that didn't work. We'll do that. Anyway, whatever. Let's hit it one more time here. Well, that's super weird. Of course, it could be all the streaming or do too anyway. Amazon encouraged recommended for Seattle, Bay Area, Lombardy region, wherever, right? restrict on travel, restricted visitors restricted events. People are taking this seriously. And you can go through this whole list. It's just https://stayinghome.club. I'm going to turn off that because they got really loud. I'm going to switch us back to full screen here. Okay, that's probably as fancy as we'll get today. But remote work has been the norm for me since roughly January of 99. So over 20 years. That doesn't mean I don't go into offices. I do. It's primarily client offices, but I haven't worked for a company to where I have been required. to go into an office since January of 99. What about you, Viktor?
Viktor Farcic 5:07
I'm a bit younger than you in terms of how long I've been working from home, but it's been like, five, six years, since I'm not working in any office, at least not as mandatory.
Darin Pope 5:19
Right. So, for a lot of people, the concept of remote work is very foreign. How can I, I can't do it. I don't have my PC. I don't have my free coffee. I don't have my free food. What is remote work?
Viktor Farcic 5:40
when, you know, most of the good things that happened to humanity are out of necessity in one way or another, right? Like electric cars, right? That's, I see it is out of necessity because we know that fossil fuel fuels are running out and they're damaging and all those things and then that necessity produced electric cars right or is about to make them really affordable and all those things. And now we are in another cycle of such a necessity that necessity to do things remote. And it's quite likely that when when the situation passes, we will see some of the the effects of that. Those changes due to necessity stay forever. I'm sure of that. Because many companies don't want people to work remote and now that people are people are working remote for weeks or months. We don't know how long this will last but the longer it lasts longer people will be working remote. And then there is not necessarily the going back or at least not fully. Because once people get used to the benefits of something you cannot take it away that easily.
Darin Pope 6:50
The genie is out of the bottle.
Viktor Farcic 6:53
Yeah. But it's not only work. Let's see. I mean schools are interesting. This if this lasts if I hope that this will and before we actually even publish this video, but if it lasts for months, then probably universities are going to come up with some really creative ways how to do remote schooling. And then why would I go to university? Well, yeah, maybe I can study from Barcelona or university or MIT, for example, right? It's an other side of the of the pond.
Darin Pope 7:28
Yeah, they've always pushed the online MBAs at least in the US for a long time or for over the recent years. So it's like, oh, you work during the day and then you can take your MBA at night or you're doing things online, but to do mass online, universities, legitimate mass not the that's in the US. There's lots of problems with for profits that do very bad things, but not not all. There are some for profits that are legit and they do the thing but many have gotten a bad eye. But we said the genie's out of the bottle. Here's another way to think about it. And I gotta look at my notes over here real quick. Much like the TSA in the US is security theater, believing work only happens inside your office's four walls, I'm gonna call it productivity theater. Because I've got some friends it's like, oh, no, we nothing happens outside the office. We all work only happens between nine to five except when things blow up on the weekend. You have to take care of it from home. okay, well, if I'm having to take care of it from home. Can't I do it during the week too? It's, it seems logical. But again, I'm biased. I've been doing this for basically 20 years. So I don't know any to me to go into an office to work in a cube or in a real four walled office would be highly foreign to me.
Viktor Farcic 9:00
You're very politically correct now.
Darin Pope 9:04
Okay, what? Okay, what was I trying to say there then?
Viktor Farcic 9:08
Okay, I'm not gonna be explicit.
Darin Pope 9:09
Do I need to get the button ready? Do I need to stop?
Viktor Farcic 9:14
But do you think that Yeah, people are and you know, actually in many companies working remote was not was accepted a similar situation like university I think that some people were in most of the companies there are some people who can sometimes work remote. They are what haven't happened most of the companies until now is that majority is remote and then you can start building that remote culture. Me being remote while everybody's in the office doesn't count. That's not
Darin Pope 9:49
that's not remote culture
Viktor Farcic 9:51
I would rather go to the office than do that.
Darin Pope 9:53
Viktor Farcic 9:54
for many different reasons. But now everybody's remote. It's amazing.
Darin Pope 10:00
And it still works. There are companies that it works at all it has always worked. You look at sales forces, primarily sales forces have always been remote. Not Salesforce, whatever. Right? So those things. So there was a book that was published back in 2013. It was called Remote: Office Not Required. It was by the guys that started Basecamp. Back then they were still called 37signals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the guy that created Ruby on Rails. And again, this is 2013. This was a revolutionary book in 2013. But again, 13 years into my remote experience. So it was like, Oh, yeah, that's cool. But I think back now, seven years ago, could I've had two 27 inch monitors and a, you know, 32 gig laptop sitting in front of me? I probably could have but it would have been how many thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars versus now just a couple thousand dollars. Maybe it's much more affordable the technology curve has is helping us a lot. In fact, where's my cool little, you know, I have this thing now. Well, wait, what is that? Well, that's the reminder. And you can see that Yeah,
Viktor Farcic 11:17
Are you showing me now that you've got a mobile?
Darin Pope 11:20
I have. Well, I mean, this is a computer. This is not a phone. Right? This is this. It's a real computer. So if I needed to run out, I could still really check email, not Blackberry check level email. Now, I never had a Blackberry, thankfully. I did have pagers. But I can do most everything on my phone. If I needed to log on and run a script, well I've probably got a UI that I log into and just punch buttons. I couldn't have done that with a flip phone, but I can do it with a smartphone. So those things are important. So remote doesn't necessarily just mean that remote is at home or working in a coworking space. Remote may mean literally remote like you were saying, just go somewhere and wherever you are, that's where work is.
Viktor Farcic 12:11
Exactly. So we have a necessity, which is coronavirus, and we have all the technologies that we didn't have before.
Darin Pope 12:19
Viktor Farcic 12:21
It's not only home now basically, literally, you can go to a park bench and connect to the city WiFi, if you are in a city, and you can still work.
Darin Pope 12:32
Right? And a number of our people that we work with do that on a day to day basis.
Viktor Farcic 12:38
Darin Pope 12:39
And it, it makes for good life balance. But it's also one of the most evil things for work life balance, because where does work stop and where does life begin? Because it's hard to walk away if you're working from truly working from home, that's it's sometimes hard to split the two in half.
Viktor Farcic 13:05
Yes, for good or bad. I mean, on one hand, it's hard to limit yourself to eight hours or whatever you should be limited to. On the other hand, you know, you have that flexibility. Oohhh...should I go and pick up my kid at four o'clock afternoon? Yes, I'm not in the office, I can do that. I can make an hour break from work and then work an hour longer or whatever the my schedule is. So there is that flexibility that I think people just need to get used to it. Most of the people I know they don't really work eight consecutive hours. It ends up being eight hours spread over 10, 12 or something like that.
Darin Pope 13:45
Right. But you catch that point that work eight consecutive hours. If you go into a physical office, you're not going to work eight consecutive hours.
Viktor Farcic 13:55
Darin Pope 13:55
You might get on a really good day, six hours of productive work. There's been studies made about this. I don't remember it. But realistically you go into an office. Now if you want to count meetings as work. For some people meetings are work. For other people, meetings are a waste of time. I can prove that by the people that come into the sessions when I go on site, and they're working on their laptops doing other things. They don't need to be there.
Viktor Farcic 14:23
Darin Pope 14:24
Hey, we got a comment in and you probably can't see. Can you see comments?
Viktor Farcic 14:30
I'm not watching it.
Darin Pope 14:31
Oh, you're not watching? I don't know.
Viktor Farcic 14:32
Yeah, I thought you're the master of it.
Darin Pope 14:34
I am. Yeah, I just again, this is an experiment. So if you're listening on the podcast, we'll put a link down to the episode in YouTube. But hey, I can put a comment up on the screen. So let's see if it shows up.
Viktor Farcic 14:47
Darin Pope 14:48
Viktor Farcic 14:49
Darin Pope 14:49
Viktor Farcic 14:50
Oh, I know that guy.
Viktor Farcic 14:52
Well, mine's not but it's still better than what it used to be. It's still better than 56k dialup
Darin Pope 14:52
Viktor Farcic 14:52
"also, the proliferation of the broadband and it's speeds. Average internet speed here (Netherlands) is around 200mb/s." And that slow. Mine is like, I'm measuring mine at 600 real. Anyway, yes, it's that that's why I mentioned the bench before. I mean, we can get like 100 megabits per second on a public WiFi these days. And the home is going crazy and all those things.
Darin Pope 15:21
It's because you live in a rural area.
Darin Pope 15:26
I do live in a rural area. That's true, but I do have cable and I do have I think I'm actually bumped up to 200 200 down and 20 up is what I've got right now. Something like that. So it's still for most things. It's okay. I'm not having to bake ISOs and ship them up. So if I was doing that locally, that's a whole nother problem. Right? But when you're when you're thinking about remote work and you think about the the pros and cons, a lot of people think that this is my my perception, a lot of people think that we just sit around and watch TV all day.
Viktor Farcic 16:05
I can tell you that I know quite a few people who sit around and watch TV and play games and watch Netflix in an office. I think it managers are under estimating our ability to do those things in the office. Kind of like oh if you're in the office you cannot watch Netflix. If you're at home, you can. That's absolutely not true. Let me tell you that. I've been playing games in an office and I've been watching videos in an office. It's doable.
Darin Pope 16:34
Usually, well even if you even if they have it firewalled off, you have your mobile device.
Viktor Farcic 16:42
Exactly. That's that's it. The computer in my hand.
Darin Pope 16:46
There's there's ways to get around it.
Viktor Farcic 16:48
Darin Pope 16:49
J sent in a question. While some things are not better or worse doing remotely or in an office, some work such as building relationships, trust is much better done in person. What's your take on the tasks affected? Now let's talk about this for a second. In parallel with this. There are some jobs that require to be in a physical place. If I'm doing auto assembly, I can't do that from home. If I am creating my McDonald's hamburger, I have to go get it and somebody has to make it for me today.
Darin Pope 17:26
so there are some service related and manufacturing related things that exist. From a knowledge worker perspective, which is what we are today is a knowledge worker, that where we typically be classified as a knowledge worker. I think it's important to and I come at it from a bias I've been doing consulting for 20 years. In and off coming in and out of startups. But building trust is important. But I see I'm biased because I have to build trust within five minutes. I don't have time I don't I don't have the luxury of building trust over time. So let's, maybe since you're younger this, how important was it having a place to go physically and do face to face stuff on a normal on a regular basis, daily basis.
Viktor Farcic 17:26
Viktor Farcic 18:18
I do think it's very important. I do notice, and I'm talking about me right now only, I do notice that the way how I collaborate with colleagues that I met is different than with colleagues that didn't. So I do think it's important for us to meet every once in a while face to face. And you know, you establish that relationship that is a bit harder to establish remote, I'm not saying impossible, just a bit harder. Because it's not only about work, it's about having lunch together and then having dinner together and then going for drinks and stuff like that, right. So there are those social activities that are not necessarily work. But that creates a certain level of bonds. It's the same thing with customers right? When I visit a customer I need to establish that trust immediately but then I also go to lunch with them right and maybe I go for for dinner and drinks. So it is important but not for an extended period of time. It's enough for me I think to once a year if I can meet all my colleagues and especially new ones that that's enough. After that, the relationship continues remote and I'm fine. Just that initial contact and the initial relationship is nice to be face to face.
Darin Pope 19:43
Yeah, I think having face to face as a generally remote company and GitLab actually has a really they publish how they do their stuff. Again, I don't have any fact. I think we actually do know some people that work at GitLab now...oh, you have the red can today not the blue can. It's a it's a running joke. Coca Cola not Pepsi today.
Viktor Farcic 20:06
Darin Pope 20:06
we have some friends at GitLab I say friends, people, I know that from other places are at GitLab now. And they do 100% remote work. And they but they have this thing called Contribute to where they get together. I don't remember what the cadence is, but like they canceled their March one, because obviously for the COVID reasons. And their, I'll put a link in the show notes today. They talk about their whole remote culture. And it's it seems to be pretty reasonable. I you know, it's, it's taking care of business. But when you're remote, you have to set yourself up to be successful. You have to, you gotta be prepared. It's not just a laptop on your lap, on the couch. That's usually not going to be the most, that's not going to be the best long term working situation. For an hour? Sure. But for sustained amounts of time, probably not.
Viktor Farcic 21:13
That's the thing, it's, it's requires a certain persona for that to be successful. It needs to be you need to be autonomous to begin with. And to be autonomous, you need to be experienced. Right. So I would say that that experience is is is a very important factor. We cannot really easily employ juniors, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because who's gonna hold your hand and teach you all the stuff. So, seniority and autonomy are very important and also character. Some people cannot work without human contact. We are forgetting that. I can, kind of and maybe in our industry probably we have more kind of nerds than than other industries and then more people who are kind of loners than others, but still, if you're social very social person then this might not be for you.
Darin Pope 22:15
That's what happened to my daughter. She she's a freelance graphic designer or whatever it is that she is this week. Sorry babe if you are listening. But she she has bounced back and forth between co working spaces and coffee shops and working from home. She's very social. She likes she doesn't necessarily need to be talking to people but she likes having people around her. Me on the other hand, I'm being I'm fine being locked away in my room at home and come out for my wife has learned. Sometimes she just pushes food under the door and I push the empty tray back. It's just how it goes. Things happen. But it's it's not but that's normal for us. So I don't know, I think remote work, but go ahead, go ahead.
Viktor Farcic 23:14
coworking spaces I've been in couple of them and that's fascinating how actually, there are two companies get get created kind of as if all the people in the coworking space working in many different companies are kind of for forming certain level of ties and that they're kind of cohesive group even though they are split in different companies. And then you have another group that is your company itself. And that kind of solves the problem. And we're forgetting that the major problem I think of remote work is in our industry is that is the acquisition of talent. I don't think that you can if you're in Barcelona, and there is a limited pool of people you can you can get to work for you. So sooner or later you need to go remote. And the real question is, are you going to open an office in every single city wherever you you find talent, or are you going to say, I'm not in search for talent, I'm in search of bodies, because bodies you can find anywhere. Yeah. Anyway.
Darin Pope 24:23
Well, that's what going back to Basecamp, right. They are a fully remote company. They tried to sort of center their people in Chicago area. But now they've got people all around the world. And they only have a handful of people in Chicago. So it's those kinds of things that it is possible to do remote. It is possible to do remote well. It is possible to be 100% remote company. Are there are upsides and downsides to that? Yes. But there are upsides and downsides to driving into an office every day. Because again, the mentality of work only happens between the hours of nine and nine to five in these four walls. If that is preached as truth then when people go home at five o'clock, it's like, okay, something blew up well, I can't work on it till Monday when I get back because I left on Friday at five. It's there's still that mentality, it's usually an older mentality and, and because of my age, I'm, I'm I caught the tail end of that. But I'm also on the leading edge of what has become the normal remote stuff, or at least I think I have
Viktor Farcic 25:44
At the end of the day, it's all about being inclusive. I think, you know, we want to include both sexes in our work environments and different Whatever religions and stuff like that, and so we are trying to be inclusive so that we allow all different permutations of people and people preferences to work together. And that includes people who prefer to work remote and people who prefer to go to the office. I do think that every company should have an office because we wish it shouldn't be also only remote but it should be an option. We know that the technology is there just a question whether we want to include people who prefer not to drive two hours to work.
Darin Pope 26:41
Yes. I I'm thankful I don't have to do that. When I lived in Dallas. In a no traffic day. I we did have an office on a no traffic day. I could get there in 45 minutes. One day, it took three and a half hours to get home. I was like nope, not doing this anymore. Just not gonna do it. So anything else about remote work?
Viktor Farcic 27:06
There's not much. You are going most likely you're working remote or you will be working remote soon because of corona or COVID or whatever it's called virus. And so this this is trial period and then we can speak after all passes whether it stays or not.
Darin Pope 27:22
If you if you know any companies that need funding right now that is in the remote workspace throw money at them really fast because they're getting lots of calls. I saw somebody yesterday was like they do basically VDI, virtual desktop. And it's like we our phones are ringing off the hook. Well, you should have thought about that before now, because unfortunately, that's not a magic. typically not a magic button, scenario or fix. Alright, so if you're listening via Apple podcasts, please subscribe and leave a rating or review. Sorry for YouTubers. I'm looking at aside, all of our contact information, including Twitter and LinkedIn can be found at https://www.devopsparadox.com/contact. And if you'd like to be notified by email anytime a new episode is released, you can sign up at https://www.devopsparadox.com. The signup form is at the top of every page. And finally, there are links to the Slack workspace, the Voxer account, and how to leave a review in the show notes, but also there will be a link off to this YouTube video there where we tried to do this live. Again, this is an experiment we'll decide if we keep with it or not. Remote work. Good or bad?
Viktor Farcic 28:35
We'll keep it.
Darin Pope 28:36
We'll keep it?
Viktor Farcic 28:39
Darin Pope 28:40
Well, it depends, right because number one, I'm not always home where I have good gear. So it could it could and your in the same problem. We won't talk about where I've seen video from you before. At least you haven't been in the hotel lounge. That could be interesting as well. Remote work if it's not happening to you, and you're a knowledge worker, there's a good chance that will be happening. So, get used to it. If you've been affected by it, man, just sort of lay low and do what you can take care of yourself, take care family. But here we go. Remote work is coming to you whether you like it or not. And hopefully you still have toilet paper where you are. We do. I go to Costco and buy toilet paper anyway, and I bought like, in mid February. So just to stock up the normal stock up. So we're good through April. So it's not a problem for us. Of course, there's only two of us here. We don't have a house full of people. Anything else about remote work, I'll stop talking about Costco cuz I'm hungry.
Viktor Farcic 29:51
No, simply we'll see at the end of the pandemic, the results of it.
Darin Pope 29:58
And again, https://stayinghome.club I'll put that link down in the list too to where you can sort of keep track of what other companies are doing because maybe you need justification to your boss. It's like well, six of our vendors are on that list and they're all required to work from home now. Why can't we? A little bit of pressure. Alright. Thanks again for listening to episode number 49 of DevOps Paradox.