Fortunately, GitHub has always been remote-friendly, so we had a head start in managing the challenges of a distributed team. We use our own platform for async communication, in addition to video conferencing tools for real-time syncs. Stay-at-home orders have definitely been a pressure test, but I’d say that the distributed model of open source was already pandemic-ready.
If I could choose one tool for a time like this, I’d prioritize something to manage institutional memory. Asynchronous communication is critical as co-location is less of a norm, so I’m naturally I’m committing to GitHub, which allows you to write down an issue, lock it, and ratify the decision. You can even show comments to ensure that everyone has the background information they need.
My second priority tool is video. Remote work has created new challenges, particularly around empathy and connection. If you’re ever speaking past a co-worker or partner, jump to video right away to take advantage of the additional, emotional context.
My third priority tool is something like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or an open source alternative like IRC. Quick chats are a great way to push work forward without ideas getting stuck in an inbox. This said, never treat team chat tools as institutional memory. Backscrolling is the worst way to determine context.