Anyone who’s worked with me has stumbled on my policy on remote employees. The short answer is, “No”. The longer answer is, “The team is moving far too fast for you to miss the various hallway conversations which randomly point us in different directions.”
Software is art. It’s team art. When the team collectively decides to start painting blue over a round of stiff drinks, you, as a remote employee, are going to look pretty silly come Monday when you’re still painting red. It’s this communication latency that troubles me. I’d rather freely communicate rather than worry about whether or not I’m freely communicating or not.
My remote employee policy has been taking a beating for years. First, we, as a software development community, continue to spread out. It’s entropy at work and it’s being driven by insane home prices as well as ever improving means of high bandwidth communication with folks on the other side of the planet. Combine those facts with my impression that the population of qualified developers outside of the US is exploding and I’ve got a policy problem.
In fact, I have to as an employee recently made a run for the Northwest and there was no other option than to let him work remotely.
I’m ready to learn and that’s today’s question, “How do you, as a remote employee, stay in the loop?” The converse, if you prefer, is, “How do you, as a co-worker or manager of a remote employee, keep everyone on the same page?”
So far, I’m trying the following:
- Created an internal IRC channel where the team hangs for informal conversation
- Include the remote employee at staff meetings via iChat video conferencing. It sounds lame, but throwing the remote fellow on the 30″ flat panel gives a solid visual cue that he’s there
What else works? Other tips? How are you making remote work?