A Quality Engineer’s Home Headquarters: Come on in!
Given the current situation, we have seen an increase in remote work for a variety of trades and jobs. For most people working in tech, this new reality didn’t change a thing. Yet, some tech workers were better equipped than others to adapt to this. Developers are used to working from home. How does it feel for other employees in the IT community, and for Quality Engineers in particular?
Quality Engineer: Working from home vs Working in an office
The current crisis drove us all back to our apartments or houses in search of a spot for setting up a home office. For some, this new challenge is a necessary evil. For others, it is a blessing. But what has changed in our daily activities and tasks? Is it more convenient to work from home or is it a bugger? And going even further: can we make it a standard for Quality Engineers?
A day in the life of a Quality Engineer
Let’s remember a typical day for a Quality Assurance Engineer. They come to work, they set up their working space, they get caffeine and are ready to rock. First things first: answering emails and attending a couple of meetings. Then they can jump to the main course: testing, reporting, documenting, consulting. During that time, QA Engineers are in contact with lots of people, at the office or remote.
Where are the clients for whom a product is being developed? Usually in their office, and most of the time in a different country. Developers, who develop the product? At home, as it’s their usual workspace. UX designers? Outsourced or in another office, too busy for a quick chat. Project managers? Some may be on the premises but given the huge amount of meetings they have every day, it can take hours to get an answer.
So with whom do Quality Engineers have the most direct contact with? Other QA Engineers who have to work from the office. We are keen to allow developers to work in their home offices, but quite reluctant when it comes to QAs. Why this double standard? There is a difference in the scope of their work as well as in the habits and methodologies used in their daily work.
Working in an office as a Quality Engineer
Working in the office has its pros. You can take a break to have a small talk with your colleagues, go for lunch together, have a laugh or two, and bond. Having work colleagues nearby helps project communication, contributes to problem-solving and fosters brainstorming. You can receive almost instant help from others, be it a piece of advice or helping with testware.
Whenever you need a device you can borrow one from an inventory of ready ad hoc devices for testing. There are monitors, chairs, lots of cables and your favorite coffee machine. Need a reference or forgot how to write documentation? There is a library of resources to help brush up the necessary knowledge. When working from home, you don't have access to these assets. And of course, you may not have all those occasions to socialize. Luckily, we live in the 21st century and have a couple of tricks up our sleeves.
Working as a remote Quality Engineer
Let us look at the previous concerns. QAs don’t have that much direct contact with other people at the office even when they work from the company’s place. They still go for online communicators to make it quicker and more efficient. Online meetings are the norm anyway. They make it easier to accommodate the client and other team members' agendas. There are so many digital resources and repositories to make the physical assets available online.
Create your workspace
It’s not all roses right now in the spot where I have set my QA headquarters. Most of the people were unprepared for the way the situation unfolded. Our company got us all the equipment we considered necessary to continue with our work. Monitors, chairs, desks, books... You name it, we got it.
However, there is a finite number of devices in the QA locker. We now depend on online virtual machines or our colleagues' real devices if they have time to spare. The situation isn't exactly easy even though studies show that the work from home productivity is higher than that in the office. There are lots of strategies on how to focus and get things done.
Create a routine and stick to it
Introducing changes and sticking with them is key to adapting to any hardships. Think of some new routines to mark the beginning and the end of your workday. Get prepared for work as if you were going to the office. Take breaks every two hours to increase productivity. Remember to nourish your body and energize it with some physical activities. Don’t take your work to bed even if it’s tempting. Think of ways to help yourself. Mind your well-being. And remember — YOU ROCK.
Remote Quality Engineer: cheat sheet
To help out our fellow QAs, here is a simple and essential cheat sheet on which tools to use when working remotely.
Browserstack: You need this one — trust me. You get access to the most popular devices. There are also lots of different environments and settings. You can even automate your tests using this site.
Slack: The unquestionable king of online communicators. You can create different channels for specific projects. You can also invite clients, and share content in the messages.
Hangouts: Missing online meetings? Google Hangouts is great. It’s integrated with Google calendar. You receive reminders about the important meetings that you can’t miss.
Confluence: It’s part of the typical development management kit. Right now, you can use it as a repository for templates, meeting notes, and knowledge sharing.
and… your previous tools. Most of our favorite tools for testing management, cross-browser testing, reporting, documenting, performance or accessibility testing have always been ready for remote work!
Though the Internet provides countless tips and tricks on how to stay focused, here are our very own ones:
Pomodoro apps: A great help to help you split your workload into manageable bits to ensure you stay focused. It reminds you to take frequent breaks to increase your productivity.
Regular meetings: Nothing motivates people more than other people. Set meetings with your coworkers to stay up-to-date and beat loneliness.
Stick to routines: Find or create a routine that works for you. You are the ruler of your time.
Tackle the harder first: People are more productive in the early hours of the workday. Plan the most challenging tasks in the morning. Schedule meetings and lighter mental tasks in the afternoon.
Stay hydrated: Be a part of a water gang and don’t let your dehydration increase your mental fatigue.
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