The sounds of sniffles and coughing filled the air.  Slowly but surely, fewer and fewer team members appeared for stand-up.  If things kept up this way, soon there would be barely anyone left in the room with whom to pair.  It was the great sickening of 2019, and before it was over, no one would be spared.

The project room is, in my opinion, the most powerful environment for proper Agile teamwork and collaboration.  The proximity in which the project room places team members, however, does not come without risk.  The Achilles heel of the environment is, of course, germ transmission and infection.  At this time of year, it is critical to consider ways to mitigate the spread of infection (colds, cases of flu) amongst team members, for the benefit of everyone involved, as well as for project delivery.

Some facts to think about:

  • Most germs are spread through the air via sneezes, coughs, or breath
  • Germs can be transmitted via direct contact, such as handshakes
  • Germs can also be easily transmitted through the sharing of devices such as keyboards, computer mice, whiteboard markers, etc.
  • A typical Agile team room places people in close enough proximity to intensify all of these possible transmission vectors

Given these realities, here are a few ideas to consider to minimize the impact of seasonal illnesses:

1.) Periodic/frequent disinfecting of keyboards and computer mice using an anti-bacterial spray

  • Dirty, germy hands can leave trace amounts of infection on physical surfaces
  • Best to do what one can to eliminate these frequently

2.) Increased use of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer

  • It’s a good idea to keep a few bottles handy during this time of year to ensure people keep their hands free of microbesand hopefully avoid the transmission to peripherals described above.

3.) Discouraging “presentee-ism” team culture

  • A team or corporate culture encouraging coming in to work no matter how badly one feels, like a of badge of honour, is outmoded and counterproductive
  • Advances in remote collaboration technologies make physical absences from the team much more manageable

4.) Frequent hand washing

  • Hand washing is recognized as an effective way to reduce infections
  • Encourage team members to wash their hands frequently; for example, when switching keyboards (during pairing) or arriving first thing in the morning are good times to wash one’s hands (the TTC is a common source of germs)

The above suggestions may seem like common sense, but in a busy working environment, environmental hygiene activities can sometimes be forgotten.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.  Always remember that the Agile team room is the single best configuration for encouraging and maximizing communications and collaboration, but it isn’t perfect.  Sometimes team members end up transmitting more than relevant project information.  Be well, my friends.