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Ask HN: What are some good practices on remote work?
30 points by in9 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments
I ask this question both from the perspective of company and the employee. I'll be leading a newly built team that is going to partially remote, including my self. So I am just digging around to find some good practices in such work environment.

Been working remote now for four or so years. The big items that I found useful:

If part of the team is remote, then the entire team is remote. Keep this in mind for meetings. If anyone in the meeting is phoning in, then it's best to just keep everyone at their desk and have everyone phone in as if they are remote. Otherwise, the in-house folks just end up tuning out the remote employees and you end up with two meetings. A meeting of the in-house and a meeting of the remotes.

Team bonding is always an issue. Fly people in once or twice a year and really schedule most of their time in-house to be situated around social activities. We do daily stand ups and block out thirty minutes. Wrap up stand up in five minutes, spend the other twenty-five bullshitting about what's going on in your life. When you're not in the office, it can be difficult to really know what's going on in people's lives. If someone has a sick kid, or a grandparent in hospice this isn't going to be readily communicated unless you schedule and encourage some non-work-related conversations.

One thing that has been extremely helpful for me is to work in Pomodoro sessions. I use a pomodoro session of 55 minute work + 5 minute breaks. And, I have a rule of not checking email, reddit, HN while I am in the middle of a pomodoro session. I also use a neat python package called pymodoro (https://github.com/dattanchu/pymodoro) to show me the current duration. This has single handedly removed distractions from my work.

I have been leading a remote team for past few years and the best tool for me is a long 2 hour call Wendsday afternoon, we start with status and project updates and after that we just chat about everything else including venting against the company, books, sporting events, the weather and I find this to be the best bonding tool for the team... good luck!

I like this approach. Having 1-2 hour long call every day is bit much but having 1 call with whole team once a week and rest of the days just updating each other on Slack seems more efficient.

if you don't mind me asking, what tool do you guys use for this long running calls?

I work for a big telco, so I am using internal conferencing system...

I've worked with both a partially remote team and now currently with an entirely remote company (~50 employees).

I find it best to assume that everyone is remote at all times. My experience with the partially remote team was that people in-office would talk face-to-face more often and then would not relay effectively to the rest of the team.

There's still the problem of phone calls having the same effect but we use Slack and Google Docs often enough that most of our conversations are there for everyone to see/search.

Be sure to ask the team what is working for them and if they have any preferences. I find it best for everyone to be up front about these kinds of initiatives. Something that's a minor annoyance can grow into a real problem down the road. Best to lay everything out early and discuss as a unit.

Best of luck! Working remotely is extremely liberating.

Hardware suggestion: actually true even if you work onsite as well.

Let each team member have a bootable backup drive, preferably it is backed up multiple times a day. You do not want a situation where someone is spending time configuring another machine when his actual machine crashed.

To use the bootable drive, though one needs another machine and giving a backup machine to each team member can get expensive quickly, but the backup machines can have enough configuration to keep moving. But I think it is worth the expense of a basic machine. Eg: I use MBA as a backup machine to my mac mini when working remote and Carbon Copy Cloner to create bootable drive. Become more risk averse and have a bootable drive in the cloud as well. YMMV.

This stuff seems like utopy to me. Here if my machine gets f* I have to ask for a replace and setup everything again, losing at least a day :(

I'd recommend Slack, JIRA, and daily stand-up calls. Slack is good for general news and messaging people on your team. Daily stand-ups and JIRA are nice for issue tracking, planning, and making sure everyone is on track.

To build on that, encourage everyone to get in the habit of using email and Slack instead of talking (Those who aren't currently remote.) For example if someone has some feedback on some code, they should post it in your code review platform or Slack, not lean over and discuss it with their coworker in person.

I'd actually avoid daily stand ups assuming a distributed team. Focus on async communication that has a written record.

What's great about Slack too is that you can create additional channels to split up discussion into different broad areas or concerns.

Staff your team with people who are articulate and resourceful. Then, relax :)

Time-box everything!

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