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I am software developer, but from time to time I interact with closed set of end-users and customers. Sometimes we discuss requirements, sometimes I need to show some things on their desktop, sometimes I should help via TeamViewer. Email and phone calls are not always the best communication tools. There is some delay and people may be more comfortable with chatting than the voice communication. Skype or whatsapp would be better tools, but I would like to use them occassionaly only, for short interactivity sessions only. I don't like the idea that I am arriving at job and I am seeing all the time whats happening with the presence of my customers and that they see my status. Even more so I feel a bit trouble about the idea that they see me going with more pleasure than me coming. The development is my main job and it is not nice to feel the constant presence of online interactivity tools.

Is this about technical matters? Well my question may be more about online etiquette. Is it OK to use online/offline feature in the following manner - I am always offline, but when there is signal that interaction session would be welcome, then I rise my status to online, before going offline again.

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  • Most apps like Skype and Teams let you set your online status, including appearing offline. But I guess this question is not about technical aspects?
    – Stuart F
    Jun 15, 2022 at 13:16
  • Are your self-employed or doing this as part of a company? The latter usually has tools & process for these things, so you might ask a colleague.
    – Erik
    Jun 15, 2022 at 13:20
  • Our company has staff with diverse tasks and duties and project types.
    – TomR
    Jun 15, 2022 at 13:23

2 Answers 2

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Within your company, you should most likely find a general policy so that everybody is on the same page. That does not necessarily mean that everybody should have the same communication profile - as a developer your main task is to work on code, which needs uninterrupted focus. Other roles in your company will probably want to provide more immediate response to customer requests.

That said, when it's ok with your company to have "focus" time during which you should not be interrupted, you should still arrange for the occasional interruption. One option with online tools is to set a "busy" status. People wanting to discuss an issue can send an e-mail which you can read when you have some break. You'd then either call them back, or propose an online meeting timeslot if it's likely to take some preparation and more time.

There may be other times when setting the status to "available" is more appropriate, for example you might structure your day such that after lunch, you catch up with other developments in the company and maybe read some stuff that doesn't need much focus. If customers know that they can call you between 1 and 2 pm, they may get used to it.

If your management tries to coerce you to be always-on, make it crystal clear to them that your productivity and work quality will suffice considerably. People who don't themselves develop or do other highly-focused tasks often can't imagine the cost incurred with interruptions.

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As a developer, you should absolutely be offline the majority of the time you are at work. You should definitely not be visible to end-customers, and be a target for arbitrary disruptions.

I'd recommend that any such contacts be scheduled in advance via email. Then you can turn on the tool, handle the predetermined issue, and go back to your core development task. If the online meetings were limited to two days a week (say, Tuesday and Thursday), I think that would be a best-practice, too.

If you need more than two days a week for this class of task (i.e., the majority of your work days), then that's a sign it needs to be turned over to a different, non-developer, team member.

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    This is what works for me, formal contact with meeting request before I turn any sort of remote meeting software on.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 15, 2022 at 20:27

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