"This column is called Corner Office, and most people who choose to have offices are usually the bosses. And I’ve been to the offices of billionaire C.E.O.s that have their own private bathroom, beautiful art and couches. But these are all things that you can have in your house. What I love about distributed organizations is every single employee can have a corner office."
Of course, the assumption here is that you live/work somewhere in which you can have a separate, closed-door, home office. This is true for most people who did distributed work pre-Covid (for example, 100% of my fully distributed team of ~25 engineers/PMs/designers has this setup or something close to it) but this may not be true for those who had to adapt quickly in small urban apartments, as is common in NYC or SF, post-Covid. That said, given how software engineers are usually comp'ed and given how much a software career relies on autodidacticism and flow, I think every software engineer should strive to have a serene home office from which to work. It's a good investment in your career and your sanity.
The only thing we had to trade for it was a 20 foot tall ceiling and empty space with a chandelier for a 9 foot tall entry area with recessed lights.
It's a small office, 5x10ft but just having anything out of the way with a door that closes is just miles better.
My point in sharing this is that lots of space, especially in our American homes and condos is poorly allocated. There might be a creative way to add on or convert some existing space in the place you live now.
If you're head down on a coding task or writing a document or doing some piece of design... having your own space is amazing. I love that I can work at home (put music on speakers, not headphones) and just go for it.
But it sucks for collaborative meetings. There is really no substitute for getting people in a room with a whiteboard.
Yeah, there are online whiteboards and video conferencing and whatever, but they still aren't as good and likely never will be (at least until we get some kind of amazing VR/AR workspace).
I'm curious as to how other people have solved this.
We settled on something like this:
- Write a memo asking for obvious requirements
- Get feedback
- Ask more questions
- Get feedback
- Schedule a call, launch into chatting in detail
- Write a memo
- Get feedback
- Schedule a call...
There is nothing really you can do live that you cannot do online. You don't get progress thanks to some fantastic insight while "brainstorming".
You get progress by chipping away at the idea and having space to think. Having a weekly cycle of memos and Zoom Calls will handle this.
Face-to-face really shines when you have to sync up on priorities and goals.
It's a great way to get everybody feeling they communicated and are part of the same group. I don't mean this in a derogatory way - people need this feelings to work and overlooking that part of communication is causing the breakdowns.
But after you get all your human rapport building out of the way, async is really effective.
Communicating online is not a natural skill and should be deliberately practiced.
I packaged all my learnings into a free mini-course: