No essay on software development this time, and neither tips for running better retrospectives. One of the few little glimpses of light in 2020 was the solidarity I found with the friends who kept me company this year, albeit through the screens I’ve been glued to ever since. A hot beverage helped me embrace those moments.

If you liked my work in the past and are lucky enough to have made it through the year without financial hardship, please consider donating to one of the countless grassroots initiatives created to help those struggling during these times. You can find such projects at 🇩🇪, 🇬🇧 SoGive or 🌐 GoFundMe, or look for initiatives in your area, e.g. a foodbank or a shelter. Thank you 🥰.

I’ve been an avid supporter of remote work, and not much has changed about that. One thing this year proved to me though is just how much time off-screen is necessary to make up for an eight-hour work day in permanent interaction with a screen.

While I’ll happily skip online conferences and meetups after a long day, I’m less keen on skipping the few truly personal interactions with my friends I have left. At the same time, my screen is now my living room, my office, my commute, my kitchen table and my favorite locality, all compressed into a headset, a webcam and a screen. Hardly “a change in scenery” that would otherwise help me shift gears.

The Hot Beverage Protocol

There are other tricks I’ve been employing to separate work and life when working remotely, such as keeping a separate account or even computer for work and deliberately switching that whenever I’m switching context, but nothing beats a deliberate break from the screen.

So lately, if someone in the know wants to check-in with me, they might propose to employ the “Hot Beverage Protocol” (the more awkward the name, the better it works!). It’s a mutual commitment to finish what we’re working on in time, leave our dear screens, prepare a hot beverage and only then hop on a videocall with the beverage in hand and no other thing on our mind.

The best patterns are those that are fairly self-explanatory, and I’m sure this won’t be a breakthrough discovery to anyone, but the effect has been quite noticable. Instead of just switching to the Zoom window on our screens, we abandon our previous context completely, h*ck we might even walk through a door, thus resetting our focus immediately, prepare a hot beverage and join the call with our undivided attention turned to the person we’re about to talk to.

Me: HBP ?
You: Gimme 5
Me: Cool!

Stay safe, stay healthy, insist on consensual behaviour in your pods, reach out to your friends, reach out if you need help.