I like the idea of encouraging people in the office to, "work as if you're not here." The advantages will add up over time and not just for remote people: you'll have databases and logs of everything! Throw search engines on it, watch trends evolve and use it to be more productive!
That is just bad practice even without remote workers. Chats are going to happen offline all the time, over coffee, over IM, or in the hallway. No matter what you should be reconnecting with the entire team about the choices. Whether that means a google hangout with your remote worker or talking to the guys you didn't go out to lunch with in the same office
Couldn't agree more. I could actually work one day per week from home at my last job, but interacting with everyone in the office was close to impossible, all communication was almost comically co-located. This isn't my style of working, even when in an office, so I realised I don't fit in and left.
At my current company I'm working remote all the time. The boss is remoting as well, which is a pretty good guarantee that it's going to work out. There's only one dev in the office in fact, so he doesn't have any choice but to communicate properly :)
As one of my manager put it, why would I hire a remote worker in the UK when we can just add more people to our office in Poland. ( Polish dev are just as good, well qualified and hard to find but they are cheaper )
To me "work as if you're not there" is just volunteering to prove your job can be outsourced.
At my last on-site position (now I'm contracting remotely) the dev team was originally going to be in another city (London) from the rest of the company (minor EU capital), however because of this reason it was decided we should all be together. I rarely saw the advantages of this, or felt value from being around the business folks. Most decisions were made in hallway chats and we were kept out of the loop, except when something 'super urgent' needed to be changed and a PM walked over and grabbed someone. Disadvantages were apparent, as it was a lot harder to find decent Rails developers compared to London.
If you have a hard working person that understands that very simple concept then he or she can work from anywhere as long as he or she stays really focused, only then will hardly be beaten by a local folk or folks working on an office and subject to all sort of distractions.
I've been working remotely since 2006. Probably 90% of the decisions I'm involved in happen over the phone, either one on one or in group conversations via Webex. So there are no logs.
Usefully searching and organising email is an open problem - there is probably considerable scope here for improvement and I'm sure enterprises would pay lots for some kind of meaningful email discussion trend mapping.
I wonder if I should challenge what these perceived benefits are.
- Remote work makes a company more transparent. The documentation and writing that makes remote work possible has an interesting side effect of giving insight into all corners of an organization. While this might not be desired in some organizations, I think it empowers individuals to get a sense of the overall company goals and health and make the best decision of how to use their time.
- Remote work breeds trust. Instead of getting the trickle of information from closed door management meetings, you get a log of what is happening and a sense of what decisions are to be made and the implications.
- Remote only works if everyone is on board. I have been at organizations that tried to make remote possible, but it never quite worked as some groups refused to monitor the central chat for fear of it taking too much time. You do really need everyone on the same channels and using the same tools to maintain the level of communication required to make remote work.
Travel to an uncharted area of your city and bring your laptop. Set about 10-20 concrete objectives for the day. Each time you complete 5 objectives, you get to transition to a new place such as a coffee shop (or anywhere with WiFi).
This segments the day and makes it feel a little more structured, not to mention fun.
The only issue is getting coffee, settling in, then finding the wifi doesn't work >_<
This is one of the most important parts of the post IMHO. You have to see people at some point even if they work remotely or work occasionally from home. It's particularly helpful to coordinate travel schedules to get as many people in the office at one time no matter how small or large the company is.
The most important thing though is having the culture that includes remove workers in the day to day conversations. The water-cooler is where a lot of magic happens, and that's the first thing that you miss if your corporate culture doesn't embrace remoteness.
I also got access to ethernet connected security cams to take a look around the office.
People adjusted to it quite fast I think. At least everyone said it felt normal after week or so. Having blurry wall projections or even bigger integration between the two spaces would be even better, but haven't been able to try that out yet.
I also want to chime in about sqwiggle: It was switched on all day at my previous job and I absolutely hated it. Might work if you live alone but having a camera pointing at you when you're hugging your wife or playing with your son for 5 minutes is horrible.
Not to mention the fact that you can be in mid-thought and suddenly "bing!" and someone's talking to you.
I did like the chat stream though.
The always-on camera can be an issue if you don't have a private work area separate from the rest of the house. I had that issue before I moved into a new home. My wife, daughter and I were all living in a two-bedroom apartment and my, "office," was in the living room. I'm sure there were a few awkward moments caught on camera. Things are better now with my own office and I hardly notice it's even on anymore.
That being said I'm a huge fan of sqwiggle. :)
What tools are best for remote screen + cam video on an IP behind DHCP?
Caveat: I work at Sococo (I architected the audio/networking system).
When the team starts to expand you need human interaction. People need to engage in debates, intense debates that spark creativity and get to feel the energy in the room. That energy is the driving force which aligns everyone for the same common mission. Quarterly team assemblies are always great, as we revive the power of being in touch on a human level. Not 1s and 0s.
Cloud tools are great to exchange information but not to grow a company, culture and keep the fire fueled for a very long time. There are exceptions (outliers) but let's not use those since we know that to draw conclusions from data we need statistically significant sample of data.
Saying this, work environments are changing and need to change to allow a piece of isolation (just like meditation provides) and a piece of connection (that human component). All wrapped up in a flexible schedule so employees do not feel like prisoners.
I'm certain creativity and collaboration don't require any phantom energy in a room of people to happen. The majority of people who build open source software have never met. And in projects like Apache, OpenStack, Mozilla and what-not there are thousands of contributors at every level.
I contribute to projects with people whom I've only talked with on IRC and through commit logs and code reviews. It hasn't stopped any of us.
I think you're mistaken that there is some evolutionary heritage that requires us to be in person in order to effectively collaborate.
Have you read this?
The Lethality of Loneliness - We now know how it can ravage our body and brain
Growing up I know my parents were forced to work and commute by necessity. They made friends at work because those were the people they were forced to spend their most time with and that's what most people do in that situation. It's not useful or necessary and it takes away from the time they could have spent with their real friends and family.
I'm friendly and professional with my co-workers. We get along. However at the end of the day our relationship is ephemeral in the grand scheme of life. In a few years they or I will leave the company and it's not like we're going to be sitting on the porch together when we're 80 and remembering, "the good old days." (Outliers not withstanding).
I have to agree with the article about possible distractions at home. Got a 1.x year old son, will have a daughter in < 30 days. I'm confident that I'm doing a good job, I really prefer working without the (especially in our company culture) regular interruptions in the office. But .. family and home office needs really strict rules _and_ the right environment.
We moved 11/13 for the most part to give me a room that is isolated from the daily noise of a family. If you're having a family and consider remote work: It is possible, but you need to make sure that your SO is on board and you need to expect some downtime while you're trying to adapt. I think it's totally doable, but anything but easy.
Secondly, Hipchat is a great central posting ground for all your apps, both internal and external services. The same apps that we have created to increase internal transparency on work being done are set to be relatively spammy in Hipchat, which allows the team to receive passive updates on activity with no extra work from individual team members.
Our product (Sococo) has group and P2P chat, but its also a voice/video tool so you have to remember to chat/paste examples etc for posterity.
Has anyone used any Enterprise-wide tools like this? We've got stuff we absolutely must keep inside the firewall.
But chat is generally aggregated/federated so ends up on an encrypted server in the cloud. That can be an issue to fix; either its saved on everyone's own machine (and not your pad at home when you want it later), or its on a server and theoretically 'at risk'.
Also we've ported it to Android pucks for conference room stations, but not selling that - no deal with a vendor yet.
There's a web client, but the audio situation there is fragmented so now (sigh) you have to call in. Its OK if you're just attending a meeting but less tolerable for all-day use.
Not only you get a clean separation between "home" and "office", but you also can socialize and have colleagues to go with to lunch. And you still have all the advantages of remote, because if you feel like working from home rather than the coworking space one day (or from a different country for a few weeks) it doesn't make any difference for the people you work with.
The next best thing is to do a small co-working space plan. Something that's around 20 hours per month. On the other days alternate between your home office, the park, the coffee shop, etc.
One important thing is to reach out and chat with people on a daily basis to avoid feeling isolated and also of course visit in person once in a while to have a bit of face time.