Working Remotely Revisited – Then vs. Now

Back in 2018, I wrote a post about how working remotely can fail. It’s now been three years since that experience, and I’ve spent nearly a full year working remotely, so it’s probably a good time to revisit it.

What’s the Same?

  • I’m still a developer.
  • Pairing remotely still happens.
  • Meetings are attended.
  • My project has a comparable sized team.
  • I still live with other people.
  • I don’t commute.
  • My hours are more flexible.
  • I have significantly less socialization with coworkers.

What’s Different?

  • I have a few years of professional experience.
  • I’m working forty hours a week instead of twenty.
  • There is no time difference between me and my teammates.
  • Everyone is working remotely, not just me.
  • Before, I was working on my Masters Thesis; now I have basically no other commitments.
  • The technology for remote pairing has improved; I have more options.

What I’ve Learned

Working remotely failed for me back in 2017 largely because of my situation. I was three hours behind my teammates, I was working on my Masters Thesis, I was limited to twenty hours a week, and I was the only person working remotely. All of these things combined to create a bad experience.

In 2020, with a completely different life situation and everyone else working remotely, it hasn’t been bad at all. (Not being able to socialize with coworkers still sucks, of course.)

All-Remote Teams

I believe remote work can go well for some people/companies, particularly if most people at the company work remotely. Companies with majority-remote teams will establish policies and structure communication to support that approach.

Majority-Local Teams with Remote Members

When most of your team works on-site together, there are a few things you should do for your remote team members.

  • Crosing Time Zones – If one person is in another, nearby time zone, try to find meeting times that work for everyone (e.g., if they are three hours behind consider, not holding team meetings before 10 a.m., which is 7 a.m. for them). Try to have this person pair frequently; this will allow for easier transitions to working alone.
  • Social Events – Find a way to include remote team members, perhaps with gift/snack boxes. As the people who are physically present will usually have these things at the events, try to have this sort of thing sent out a few days before the event.
  • Large Company-Wide Events – People who work remotely should have that opportunity to participate, with the company providing transportation and lodging. This is something Atomic Object did for me when I was working on my masters. Atomic Object has also included new hires before their start dates in regular and company events.
  • Employee Relocation – Maybe the company wants to hire someone who isn’t local and needs time or funds to relocate. Remote work should possible until they’re able to move. Also have policies in place to give the person time off for a long-distance move.
  • Flexibility for Disabled Employees – Not all disabled people can get to a physical location all the time (or at all). Some aren’t able to work a forty-hour week. Nobody should be passed over for this reason.

Have you worked remotely from a largely in-person team? What worked? What didn’t? What do you wish the team or company had done differently?