What equipment changes are you making to support a hybrid workforce of engineers?

TommyGlicker
TommyGlicker Principal Product ManagerMember

Engineers can have various equipment needs to be productive: performance computing, display/ monitor requirements, peripheral or hardware connectivity, collaboration tools, etc. Engineer productivity can also be impacted by factors such as on-premises or off-premises location of data, computing, and hardware. There’s a huge call and trend for flexibility to work remotely or have flexible hours or days in the office. What changes are you seeing or making to help support this transition but still maintain (or improve!) productivity?

Answers

  • JeromePeck
    JeromePeck Sr. Director of Product Management TSIA Administrator | admin

    Hey Tommy, I'd also love some thoughts on this. @DeniseStokowski @JosephReifel @StevenForth @LauraFay @GeorgeHumphrey — Any insights on how to accommodate these equipment requirements for remote engineers?

  • JosephReifel
    JosephReifel New Product Introduction Engineer Lead Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭

    @TommyGlicker short answer I haven't seen anything new equipment-wise introduced in our company since the pandemic started. It was already good - you could order new desktop/laptop/monitor equipment and have it shipped to your home, even the more consumable stuff like keyboards, mice and headphones if you don't care about what you get. Desks and chairs are not offered for remote employees.

    I've been a full-time home-office engineer since 2016 and I've seen some changes for the better now that all engineers are working from home.

    Many communication disadvantages that I encountered as a work-from-home engineer have been improved upon. The following helped improve our remote communication culture:

    1. Record important meetings where decisions are made
    2. Cameras off (mostly - cameras are opt-in) and mute on
    3. Only attend if you're a participating stakeholder. Stakeholders can watch a recording of the productive meeting afterward, at 2x speed. FEATURE REQUEST: please add a 3x speed. :)
    4. After asking "any questions?" wait ten full seconds for a response
    5. For new technology/features, record and publish a video showing how to provision, configure, and use it

    For software engineers, the Configuration Management infrastructure was already supportive of remote work: VPN access, a centralized build environment and staged build pipeline, code review collaboration tool, bug and feature tracking system, static code analysis, automated test infrastructure, remote debugging and troubleshooting tools - these were pre-existing to support our worldwide engineering work force.

    Collaboration was impacted, Teams and Slack can only get you so far. We added Miro for whiteboarding and I like it for brainstorming. I think the jury is out on its long-term potential as a physical whiteboard replacement once people start returning to work regularly.

    Our company designs hardware too. I think that many hardware engineer roles still need to come in to the lab when needed. That's because there are only a few prototypes to go around. I can't speak for powerful equipment needs like that for CAD engineers, I'm not sure what they did, they used six monitors when they were in the office.

    Mental health can impact productivity. That's another topic. :)

  • TommyGlicker
    TommyGlicker Principal Product Manager Member

    Hey @JosephReifel ,

    Thank you for the reply with all of the information on how you all have adjusted to the remote work and I think it all makes sense. Have you seen at your company or others the idea of hybrid work locations where you can have the office as your main and then you work at home for a few days a week or vice versa with the home being the main location? Since I think from the equipment standpoint, if an engineer is full-time remote or full-time in the office, only have a single set make sense, but what about for this new type of hybrid work location?

    Thanks, Tommy

  • JosephReifel
    JosephReifel New Product Introduction Engineer Lead Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭

    Our company polled all of the employees that were normally full-time office workers and asked them what their preference was

    1. Full time in office
    2. No more than two days a week in the office (and no assigned cubicle)
    3. Full time at home


  • TommyGlicker
    TommyGlicker Principal Product Manager Member

    For those that chose the 2nd option of no more than two days a week in the office, were they just instructed to bring their laptop in to work and go to a hotel cube/hot desk that is set up with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard already? What about the engineers who have desktops, if any of them do?

  • JosephReifel
    JosephReifel New Product Introduction Engineer Lead Founding Member | Scholar ✭✭

    Option #1 and #2 still haven't occurred. Things still aren't "normal" and folks haven't returned to an office environment on a regular basis. It seems I've arrived at your original question:

    1. Shelter in place begins, and an engineer takes their desktop, monitor, chair, keyboard, mouse home with them and figures out how to do the job remotely for the twelve months.
    2. Work in the office resumes, and the engineer wants to work in the office no more than two days per week - what do they do with their equipment? Toting a desktop around like it's a laptop isn't practical, and addressing each employee's needs as one-offs doesn't scale.