Some thoughts on “Remote (office not required)”

Being in IT and SW development for quite some time I thought there is little (if anything) to add to my wide list of DOS and DON’ts in making a remote team work.

Yet, a recent reading added few more things to pay attention to. “Remote” is a book authored by the founders of 37Signals (the creator of Basecamp). Big thanks to Carsten Neuendorf (VP Engineering at Searchmetrics) for giving me that hint.

Jason and David walk you through all the innerworkings of a remote team, and believe me they know how to do it – their 50 colleagues are spread across 32 locations. So I highly recommend reading it from cover to cover and not limiting yourself to my notes.

Woman working from balcony

Hiring

  • Hire people you trust so you can avoid the caveat of having to exert control on their work. As Richard Branson once said:

To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.

  • Hire by doing a paid test project – in my practice I have often seen tests or test days being used but I find the idea of doing a paid test project also a great way to reward candidate’s time and test her/his skills for the job.

Productivity

  • When working remotely be very available. This avoids the black box impression of many remote teams I have either managed or dealth with in the past. Also, get your client constantly involved in the project – in the end it is their project. Yet, the best way to ensure high visibility is to do an exceptionally good work and show you progress often.
  • If your teams are working in very different timezones, ensure that teams have an overlap of some hours (IMHO 4 hours is a good number) for maintaining communication. For example: arrange for teams to start some hours earlier or later their work in order to get that overlap.
  • Remote workers tend to overwork (who hasn’t been tempted to read work emails in bed?) and it needs some effort to cultivate the equivalent of “good (and sufficient) work” so the day can be considered well spend by your remote workers.
  • Ergonomics – get all the necessary and healthy equipment to ensure people are enabled to do their best work while doing the best for their health.
  • The unealthy paradox of saving time on commute to the office and still not exercising enough. A study by insurance company Aetna showed that remote workers tend to be heavier. This can be easily fixed by finding routines to get you out of the home office and let you do your daily steps e.g. go out for lunch.
  • Give control away – step away from the established traditional ways and allow more freedom on deciding when to take holidays (“be reasonable”) – let others know and time well with your work, and how to deal with spending (“spend wisely”, no limitations set).

Socializing

  • Get the team together several times a year – be creative and organise workshops and all-hands in all sort of funny or exotic locations. Why not meet in Egypt if you have a remote worker there?
  • Create human experiences – when working remote you miss many of the social interractions in a “normal” company headquarter so there is a need to catch up in some way. So why not with memorable experiences – this is why 37Signals sponsor very diverse holiday gifts e.g. hobby-related, family-related etc.

Do not miss on this book, hope you enjoy it too! I am moving on to my next recommendation from Carsten: “Team Topologies – Organising business and technology teams for fast flow” by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.