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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Mike Davidson on working remotely

Mike Davidson:

First, let’s dispense with the easy part: despite what you may read on Twitter, remote work is neither the greatest thing in the world nor the worst. We are not moving to a world where offices go completely away, nor are we going through some sort of phase where remote work will eventually prove to be a giant waste of time. In other words, it’s complicated.

I worked remotely for about a decade. I now find myself working remotely again. A lot has changed since the first period that I worked remotely – as Mike points out in his post – but some things still remain the same.

Things that are improving:

  • Internet speed
  • Real-time chat tools
  • File sharing
  • Video / audio conferencing
  • White boarding

Things that will always be the same:

  • The need to over communicate
  • Distractions hurt productivity
  • Most meetings are terrible
  • People need to see people

I’m going to address each of these quickly.

That chatter that happens in office can sometimes bear fruit. Since these serendipitous interactions will no longer happen you have to create those interactions through deliberate action. Over communicate with your team about what you’re doing, what your ideas are, etc.

I feel there are less distractions working remotely than in an office though I can see how some would disagree. I suppose it depends on experience. In my experience, working in an office is like going to public school – a huge amount of time is “wasted” on chit-chat. Some, but not all, of that chit-chat moves into your chat client of choice. You have to be OK with this.

Meetings do not have to be terrible. There are some simple rules that I like to follow that help them suck less. Namely; Be certain you need an actual meeting, rather than an email or chat. Always give people enough time in advance to prepare. Always have an agenda. Always have action items. Follow up on those action items weekly or as appropriate.

Some people need to see people more than other people need to see people. 🙂 Finding some way to “get together” now and then is really valuable to the entire team.

I’m bullish on remote work. I think it is the way of the future for a large number of jobs though I totally understand people that would not want to do it. I cannot see it slowing down. I only seeing it becoming more and more normal and acceptable.

Happy Tools

Happy Tools:

Distributed teams, changing business needs, and complex dynamics are redefining the workday. Happy Tools makes it possible for your office to run smoothly, no matter what it looks like or who makes it go.

A suite of tools specifically built for the remote team by Automattic, a completely distributed company.

I’d be very surprised if these tools were not open source soon.

Communication for America

Jeremy’s title. Not mine.

Jeremy Keith chimes in about remote work (see last post) and the advantages the “time shift” can have when working on large client projects:

As it turned out, it wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, it worked out nicely. At the end of every day, we had a quick conference call, with two or three people at our end, and two or three people at their end. For us, it was the end of the day: 5:30pm. For them, the day was just starting: 9:30am.

We’d go through what we had been doing during that day, ask any questions that had cropped up over the course of the day, and let them know if there was anything we needed from them. If there was anything we needed from them, they had the whole day to put it together while we went home. The next morning (from our perspective), it would be waiting in our in/drop-boxes.

In the very late part of the last century and into this one I worked with an entire team in India on a software project. When things were really cooking we also found a similar groove where I’d come into work each day to a pile of work having been accomplished by that team, some questions, comments, feedback, and stuff I could deal with. I’d work through it during the day and send it back. It was like project tennis and it forced each team to deliver something almost every single day. It worked great.