Working from home — tips and tricks for the testing community
COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways. There is not a single aspect of our life that is untouched by it. The way organizations operate their work has also changed drastically. Before 2020 no one would have guessed that work from home will become such an internationally accepted phenomenon.
However, working from home has been a new experience for most of us, and there are times that we find ourselves struggling too. So, we thought of sharing some tips and tricks with the testing community that is working from home, aiming to improve their working experience overall.
Maintain continuous team collaboration
During regular office setup, any doubt clearance or communication can happen right away. However, in a remote working setup, smooth communication becomes challenging.
In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly — Mark Sanborn. This quote is absolutely true, when working in a team communication and collaboration is the key to success. Relying on text messages to communicate is not productive at all. Today, teams are relying on communication tools like Zoom, Skype, and Slack, etc. to keep team collaboration handy.
Also, the integrations with tools such as JIRA, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint etc. keep the teams on the same page. This is critical since even if a small detail is missed the results can be catastrophic from a testing perspective.
A daily stand-up, even for 10–15 mins, is essential for smooth communication among the team members. You can have a daily stand-up at the beginning of the workday to resolve any roadblocks and define tasks for the day. A daily standup in the evening can help to communicate how much has been achieved for the day and plan the day ahead better.
Robust and secure infrastructure saves the day
Today, when people are working from home, they are using personal or company-provided laptops to connect to the office network. In such a case, the infrastructure is required to be robust and stable to provide 24*7 available testing environments for automation testing.
Mostly we are using a virtual desktop to stay connected to the organization’s network. Any technical glitch such as a network bandwidth issue can impact the output of the whole organization. This can cause a huge negative impact on the employees and the clients as well especially in an agile environment.
We cannot even afford a single day of downtime when working in sprints. Hence, it is imperative for organizations to have proper backup and plan to tackle such unforeseen issues.
From employees perspective, there are infrastructure issues that can impact the productivity for the day, they are:
- Unstable internet connection
- Video recording not working
- Screen sharing lags in voice and screen
The most common and annoying is internet connectivity issues. Even a few packet drops in the internet connection can disconnect you from the virtual network. Hence, it is very important to choose a service provider which provides the best network and customer service in your area.
Meeting tools to have effective global meetings
This is an era of distributed teams across the World where their team members are sitting across continents. We know smooth and consistent communication is the key success factor for any team. First of all, a suitable time is required to be set up for these meetings.
Obviously, the teams need to work in such a timing where the time zones coincide and overlap. The usual 9–5 office timings will not work, in a globally distributed team set up.
Tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, etc. help teams to share screens so that the whole team can view the same screen and provide inputs. This is really required when the testing team is demonstrating a defect during a defect triage call.
These tools help to keep the communication game up without any compromise on the quality of work.
Keep distraction away from the work area
In an organization’s office setup, employees are focused on their work only. However, when we are working from home there are all sorts of distractions around. This is normal because it is home, not an office, but as an employee, this may impact our productivity.
Distractions like other family members working from home and having meetings or children having online classes are daily events. There may be guests visiting or your cat needs your attention.
The list is endless, but there has to be a way to keep the distractions away and stay focused on work. Because you will not want to miss a defect anyway.
A solution is to have a separate corner in the home where you can set up your workstation away from these distractions. Choose a corner that is comparatively quiet and has a well-defined work routine. Create a to-do list daily, this plan will help you to achieve short-term goals and maintain mental peace.
Tracking the processes to plan better
During a testing process, you need to track and plan the testing activities such as:
- Test planning
- Test scripts writing
- Test data creation and management
- Test versioning, review, and approvals
- Test case scheduling
- Test reporting
Thankfully, we have many testing tools that are great for managing the above-mentioned testing activities. These testing tools are available on the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere, hence they promote work from home. Thus, out of all the tips we discussed above, the most important for the testing community is the adoption of testing tools during work from home — for managed and quality software testing.
One such test automation tool is Testsigma, which is cloud-based, AI, and NLP-driven. It helps you to write your test cases in plain English and accelerates the test case writing by up to 5x speed.
You can perform automated end-to-end testing of web, mobile, and APIs at ease. There is no need to write cumbersome code and framework any further.
In a DevOps and Agile environment, teams are working on the cloud and the same version of artifacts are accessible to everyone. Without metrics, parameters, and tracking we can not have a successful scrum.
Data such as how many test cases are executed, the number of unit/regression tests failed, which defects are new or fixed, etc. helps in having a clear picture of the testing process.
This helps in tracking tasks such as who is writing test scripts for which module. This in turn enables proper planning of tasks for the whole team. The in-sprint test automation helps to achieve quick results with continuous testing and integration of code.
If there are any resource bandwidth issues, the testing activities can be quickly redistributed to the whole team to have minimum impact on the delivery date. This tracking and continuous status sharing to the higher management helps in making decisions and coordinating release management.
You can also use KPIs to track the effectiveness of your software testing and test automation process, it can be as primitive as colour-coding. For example, you may keep this colour coding to determine how much the team has achieved out of the expected output.
This can be applied on a daily/weekly basis to keep the team motivated to achieve their short-term goals. Green may mean awesome work, yellow may mean great work, etc.
Maintain professionalism at all cost
Although it may seem comfortable to work from bed, it is not a good idea to do so. You will agree that a proper work routine and ethics certainly help to achieve a better outcome. Maintain a proper workstation desk with all the technical essentials available right there.
There are steps that you can take to maintain professionalism during working from home:
- Dress professionally: Working in a comfortable t-shirt and pyjamas is an advantage of working from home. However, when you have important meetings wearing a formal dress instils a sense of professionalism.
- Video meetings: Make sure that you attend video meetings on a desk setup and not from anywhere. Also, try to keep background noise as minimum as possible, as we understand in a home we cannot totally avoid it.
Set clear boundaries and expectations for others and yourself
An issue which most people face during work-from-home is that the boundaries between working and non-working hours blur. People find themselves attending late-night work meetings. They complain about working longer than when they used to work at the office. Why is it so? The reason is a lack of proper boundaries and unclear expectations.
It is advisable to be firm and assertive about the office timings, mention clearly how many hours per day you can invest. Do not accept more work than you can execute in designated working hours. The reason is that blurring these boundaries is toxic for your family. Losing on family time can negatively impact your mental peace and work eventually.
It not only applies to you, but it also applies to others as well. When you are defining daily tasks or other assignments, meetings, etc. for your team members, stay empathetic about their family life.
Take breaks and do exercise to keep the spirit high
Due to COVID-19, people are already feeling low globally, because everyone is missing the life they had pre-Covid. The monotonous life with no fun may become outright boring. To come out of negativity it is really important you take mini-steps to elevate your mood and feel refreshed.
- Do not sit for long hours at a stretch, take mini breaks in between to divert your mind from stress and work pressure.
- Play with kids or pets, it is the easiest mood refresher.
- Exercise or take small walks, releases endorphins in the body and makes you feel happy and good.
- If you have a hobby, practice that in your mini-break, such as playing a musical instrument, singing, cooking a quick snack, etc.
“I discovered that a fresh start is a process. A fresh start is a journey — a journey that requires a plan.” — Vivian Jokotade
So, for the testing community and also in general — consider work from home as a new beginning which has its perks such as work-life balance, the flexibility of work timings, and no need to travel for work, etc. However, it has its share of limitations as well. Technical and personal aspects of work from home need to be sorted out for a seamless work experience by proper planning and vision ane we hope that this tips will help.
Originally published at https://testsigma.com on January 6, 2022.