Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Extremely Bad Advice for Remote Workers

As I have a long-term experience as a remote worker, also dealing with and managing remote teams in different timezones, I am always interested in experiences on this subject. Today I stumbled upon an article on TheNextWeb: 3 radical habits of highly successful remote teams. Despite the article seems to be nice with remote workers, it actually contains what I think are some of the worst possibile anti-patterns for remote work. In summary:
  1. Total transparency about yourself with your remote team
  2. Leave your webcam on all day
  3. Replace physical space with software — lots of it
Let's rephrase the meaning:
  1. I don't care about your privacy at all, so I want to know even when you are sleeping or pooping ("For example, every Buffer employee receives a Jawbone UP wristband that tracks how you’re sleeping and shares that with the team.")
  2. I don't trust you at all, so I want to check that you are always staring at a computer screen, all day long ("This provides a persistent, passive view of your colleagues that makes you feel like you’re in the same room, working together at the same table."). So you are even required to broadcast you scratching your nose or your privates: I can only imagine the level of anxiety!
  3. Additionally, I also want to mess up with your work by asking you to install, learn an manage a lot of different software doing, more or less, the same thing ("lots of it"). So that I can annoy you from even more different angles!
I, instead, suggest the following:
  1. Hire people you trust and let them organize their daily routine and priorities
  2. Adopt few, useful, simple software like Skype, Google Hangout and Slack for communication, Google Docs and/or Confluence for shared documentation.
  3. If you want a social life go to the gym or to the pub, switching off your mobile email notifications. Get a life outside your work.
Managing a remote team like being into a modern edition of Orwell 1984? No, thanks. A remote, distributed team is not an assembly line: I suggest to move toward measuring people by the actual value they generate instead of the time they sit in front a PC.

A team made of knowledge workers must generate tangible value: if you can do that while playing tennis or having a shower, I don't really care.