The pandemic changed the way the world works. Remote work was gaining adoption pre-COVID but quickly became a necessity rather than a perk. Technical professionals were already a large part of the remote workforce. Now that Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) working remotely is mainstream, how does it impact a DevOps culture? In this post, we’ll talk about the evolution of work and deliver tips for SREs to be productive and remain true to the DevOps framework.
The Pandemic Shifts the Idea of Work
To understand the monumental shift in remote work, let’s look at the data. Those working from home five days a week went from 17 percent before the pandemic to 44 percent after it began. That’s a dramatic increase!
The reality is that the pandemic forced companies to adopt work-from-home models. While many businesses had flexible options before, there were still those that believed it wasn't possible. Now it has, and leaders realize it’s workable, effective, and reduces costs.
Experts believe that this paradigm shift will stick, with Global Workplace Analytics predicting that 25-30 percent of the workforce will still work remotely multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
Some companies—such as REI—are even abandoning corporate offices, believing a remote workforce is sustainable and better for all. But what does remote work do to the culture? Is culture limited to a building? Or is it something much bigger than that? In a DevOps culture, it’s a mindset and a framework that isn’t dependent on everyone being in the same building.
Study Proclaims the Future of SRE Work Is Remote
In a 2020 SRE survey, Catchpoint asked critical questions of the SRE industry, about working remotely. A key takeaway was the future of SRE work is remote. One-fourth of respondents (the highest percentage) said 41-60 percent of the workforce would be remote post-pandemic. That’s a shocking turn of opinion; the 2018 survey found that 81 percent of SRE work was in an office and not conducive to remote work.
The survey found that location had little impact on their ability to handle incidents, with 81 percent of respondents saying they had the same or less ability. The SREs did report challenges when working from home, including work-life balance, team communication, focus/clarity, and access to tools.
Understanding the challenges and opportunities, how can an SRE team find success in a remote environment?
What Makes Remote Work Successful for SREs
Not every business can find success in a remote model—though the reasons why have little to do with where their team members sit. It’s a culture and leadership problem. Those that have been thriving have several things in common.
Companies that flourish with a distributed structure:
- Empower employees and don’t micromanage them.
- Equip staff with the right tools and technology.
- Communicate with transparency.
- Value a work-life balance.
What do employees think about working remotely? A survey found that 73 percent feel successful working from home, and 86 percent say they feel “fully productive.”
These points and data speak to the workforce as a whole. The role of SREs and the DevOps culture do have differences, but their foundation aligns with those traits noted above. SRE teams value transparency, communication, and collaboration. There are no silos or finger-pointing. Those cultural roots don’t change because people are working from home. With instant messaging and videoconferencing, some teams may see each other just as much as they did before.
Adjusting to remote work can be tricky and has its problems like everything else, but there are some specific ways SREs can thrive in the environment.
Tips to Stay Productive and Strengthen Your DevOps Culture
What do remote employees miss most about being in the office? According to a study, the gap relates to interaction, collaboration, and separating work and home. SREs working from home may have these same feelings, so how do you improve those when you’re only connected digitally?
- Respect the work-life balance: Be true to this line by designating working spaces and times. Don’t overextend yourself because you’re home and close to your workspace, or you’ll burn out. Encourage your team to practice self-care.
- Keep communication open and organized: Create specific IM channels for projects or products for quick responses. Conduct standup meetings via video, so you’re face-to-face.
- Stay connected to each other beyond work: Consider hosting social events such as virtual happy hours, lunch breaks, and virtual team building. These nonwork activities can cultivate trust, which is integral to a DevOps culture.
- Ask for flexibility: Rigidness in schedules, even while remote, can cause friction and greater stress on those caring for children or others. If that’s your situation, ask for the support you need
- Speak up about challenges: Be vocal about these, whether they be a lack of automation tools or ambiguity about reliability goals. Don’t make assumptions or toil away without support.
Remote Work Won’t Kill a DevOps Culture
If your team and leadership uphold the DevOps culture, then it won’t matter where you are. With these tips for SREs working remotely and a commitment to the DevOps framework, teams can be productive and connected. Transparency, communication, and collaboration are the core components, and SRE teams can make these a central part of their culture, working from anywhere.
If you have questions about SRE remote work, contact us today to chat about our candidate services.