Remote and flexible working 2016

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Text copied from the Hackpad.

Remote and flexible working

Minutes for Remote and Flexible Working session 15/11/2016

Attendance: Matt, Alex, Partrick, Ellie, Kayleigh, Chris, James, David, Amil, Matt, Joaquín, Tanc

Facilitator: Matt K (Outlandish)

Minutes: Tanc (Agile Collective)

Summary

Matt led the session and stated that a good outcome would be some kind of plan of how best to manage the remote working experience. We split into pairs to talk about good and bad experiences and then shared those with the group. We identified three main issues: trust, communication, guilt. We decided to talk most about trust and communication. We then shared our knowledge of tools that we use to manage remote working. Finally we identified that possibly the most important thing for a co-op is setting ‘ground rules’ or some kind of policy to manage the expectations of the co-op and their remote workers. This would include things like which tools should be used for different types of communication and when a remote worker needs to announce their availability.

At lunch some members of Outlandish (Ellie, Matt K and Kayleigh) discussed and noted what particular ground rules would help them with remote workers.

Note: This summary was compiled by Tanc, please contribute if you can.

Minutes

Matt: What I want to get out of it: Good and Bad experiences, what makes it good?

Outlandish works in an office and finds it hard to support remote workers.

Some kind of plan of how to do it would be a good outcome.

Problems. Asking around the group:

Matt: Couple of experiences. Matt worked on a sprint with one remote worker. Didn’t feel successful, not the same level of collaboration as office workers. Felt like Sam (remote) was working on a separate thing. Maybe we weren’t using the right tools. We had a standup but otherwise disconnected. Availability and understanding when people are available is one issue.

Alex: Remote workers who are solo can work well. Office workers can sometimes forget about that person.

Kayleigh: As project manager sometimes didn’t know when remote worker was available or had done the work. When there is a deadline how do you attempt to make sure everyone works together?

Feedback after pairs session:

Patrick: Sometimes I like to drive into the forest and work in a focused way. Its a particular type of work on my own. Other types of work we need to be together to do it. Some people are more visible virtually. I’m not like that. That seems to allow remote working better.

Alex: The kinds of question that someone might ask are very difficult remotely. My relation with team leader was often strained. He was focused on non-consequential and sent email and chats that were not productive, sometimes aggressive. Daily standup was different and almost a formality if one person was on the video link.

Ellie: We were talking about informal communication in teams is really important. Individually and remotely might be easier than in teams. There are things that you pick up when you’re in person. Being in the office is important (sometimes), a mix of in person and remotely is useful. Standups in video link can be difficult. Find a way to make the agile board more successful in standup. Make those meetings useful.

Kayleigh: Guilt of working remotely. In summer I had family visiting so I decided to spend time with them but I felt guilty even though I worked the 6 hours in the evening. I want to get good work life balance.

Chris: Guilt of remote working. Worked remotely from New Zealand at one point with no time overlap, so no guilt as people in office were asleep. So didn’t need to worry and that helped me to understand the issue and how not to feel guilty.

James: We worked remotely and didn’t feel we had issues. But it depends how closely… no-one works fully remotely. Everyone comes into the office at some point in the week. When people work well together they work well remotely as they get used to each others processes. Skype for video and audio. Git for commits and email. Communication is more the issue than the tools, particularly with new people.

David: When everyones working its fine, but when things go wrong thats when its hard. Especially when everyones remote. Someone needs to take charge.

Amil: Resourcing people who work remotely in different areas of the world is hard or impossible. We have particular way of doing meetings, might be awkward doing checkins and checkouts.

Matt: Sense of trust between all of the team and responsibility. Period of relationship builds up on projects before going of into the wild (remote). Shouldn’t be limiting but hard to work with people we haven’t met. Found myself in a project with remote workers. Clarity and openness is important about availability.

Joaquín: In general working remotely did work but one challenge was the communication tended to be in pairs but didn’t necessarily happen in the team. Hard when private conversations happen, especially when the client was talking to individuals and communication didn’t happen.

Principles for remote working

A group of us continued talking over lunch and thrashed out a first draft of principles for remote working. This is especially relevant to Outlandish, as the majority of the group working on this at lunch were Outlanders, but may be interesting for other coops to see how we're planning on working.

  • Always be available at 10.30am for the daily stand-up and dial in
  • Communicate clearly when you’re available and when you’re not during the day
  • At the kick-off meeting explain what your working pattern is and when you’ll be working from home
  • Make sure your working pattern is in your (google) calendar
  • Clarify with the team how you will all use the various communication tools available

Principles for how to use Comms channels

Slack

  • Use the project slack channel for all internal project comms.
  • Use hashtags in the slack channel to make it more easily searchable (e.g. #devops).
  • Check in/out during the day on slack (eg. ‘Hello I’m online’ in the morning or ‘I’m off to lunch – be back in an hour’ at midday). This is not so the team in the office can spy on those at home, its so they know when remote workers are available.

Email

  • Use email for comms with client, especially where you need formal written sign off.
  • Try to minimise the use of email for internal team comms.
  • If you do use email for internal comms, cc everyone in the team in or reply all.

Google Calendars

  • Keep personal calendars up to date – indicate you are ‘WFH’ + add in your office hours.
  • Respond to calendar invites – if you’re WFH, respond ‘Yes’ and reply with a note saying you will be joining by phone/hangout.
  • If you are WFH, but have accepted a calendar invite, contact the meeting organiser to let them know you will be dialing in.

Phones

  • Use good microphones, headsets, phones, etc. This goes for those in the office, as well as remote workers.
  • If its easier to call, then do it, but be aware that the conversation will have been between two people and others in the team may need to be kept in the loop.