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.