Remote workers: Is this the new normal?

Full disclosure – My view on this topic is somewhat colored by the fact that I think people work well when they are together in the same geographical location. However most teams don’t seem to have the luxury of having their members working at the same office due to various reasons.

This blog focusses on the software engineering teams that are engaged in building great enterprise applications. As for other types of teams, It is hard to get a general sense how remote work affects businesses as it seem to generate a mixed reaction.

Some high performing teams have all their members working remotely. How do they do it?

  • Jelled teams that already have established relationships among members seem to have an easier time transiting into working remotely. Mature teams are comfortable in improvising and adapting various techniques to ensure maximum participation and accountability by team members. For example
    • Schedule multiple standup meetings instead of just one per day.
    • Establish a rule to always have the video camera on during team meetings, it always helps when yo can read the body language of the participants.
    • Maintain constant communication via tools such as Slak.
    • Adjust communication plans according to the situation, planning and design phase of the projects will require more participation from team members, sometimes all day meetings are necessary, meddle period is when less meetings and more project work happens.
  • Organizations that have experienced leadership teams are able to adapt to remote working environments easily, Servant leaders that are empathetic, seem to succeed in making remote teams jell. They still manage to create a team environment that closely resembles the team that is working in a physical office space. Also it is important to understand there is always going to be periods of downtime, for example it is typically not a problem if someone takes an extended lunch break at work, so they should be able to do the same when they work remotely as well.

Challenges of working remotely

Apart from the typical issues such as security, accountability, technical problems, reliance on the internet service provider of choice etc. individual contribution to an organization has become a gray area with remote working arrangements. No business can thrive on an environment where people contribute just enough to earn a pay check. Hopefully this is not the case with your business.

Building a new team of people comprised entirely of members from geographically dispersed locations is always going to be a challenge. For example remote teams, where members work in an office in Argentina can be managed from New York city without too much trouble, it gets tricky if the individual members work from different locations.