Remote Working @ Gather

Remote Working @ Gather

Photo Credit: Robbie Mackay

The 3rd Gather conference happened this Saturday. Despite having been to the last two and many of the previous Barcamp Auckland’s I’ve never run a session myself.. so I finally did: “Remote working and distributed workplaces. Lets talk about remote working. Good, bad and otherwise. Bring your problems and suggestions”

I’ve been working remote for 2 1/2 years now, to start with from a coworking space, then later from home. But always very remote, the only Ushahidi staff member in NZ. I’ve had some great moments, and some low ones, and I think (hope) I’ve got better at remote work over time ..

The general idea for this session was to share some of the common issues and wisdom around working remote. And hopefully get people to help each other out.

All in all it went pretty well.. we were in the first slot of the day, not much of a hallway track so plenty of people showed. I talked for about 2 mins then left people to discuss. We spent a bit too long on the tools discussion.. and I didn’t pull that back in. But there was some good advice offered.

Thanks to Lance Wiggs for taking notes during the session. I grabbed some photos so here is a rough transcribed version..

Whiteboard notes: Secrets of Remote Working

  • Get you timezones right
    • Do a proper shift handover
    • Use video for depth, context
    • Design teams with time zone crossover
    • Know your handover times
  • Have explicit conversations/processes on how you wokr
  • Have a visit schedule to ensure constant interchange
    • Get everyone together periodically
      • Annual dev day
      • Second people to other offices - short and long times
      • Local, regional global gatherings
      • Functional gatherings
      • Training groups that are diverse
  • Be aware & work constantly on culture
    • Make sure people know others cultures
  • Pre-book flights so you know who is coming when
  • Have a system for passive comms
  • Break into manageable teams, groups
  • Create processes that work for you


What else?

I knew we wouldn’t manage to cover everything. I realised as soon as the session finished I’d missed something I wanted to know about: how do people plan remote?

Every year Ushahidi brings our team together for a week. Largely to touch base with each other, but also to do high level planning. This works alright but I’ve often wondered if doing a big sprint of planning in person prevents us figuring out how to plan remote. Things always change during the year, without notice, so some form of continuous planning while remote is necessary. How does anyone else do this?

Coming back from breakdown

Chatting at the pub after Gather another good question came from wombleton: has anyone experienced broken, failing remote work and resolved it? what happened? how did they bring it back? Breakdown is easy to achieve: miscommunication, not including remote workers, silo’d info. There’s a lot of opportunity for making things difficult in remote work.. but I haven’t seen much about how to get things back to workability again if you hit that point.

I’m pretty happy to have started discussion. Looking forward to doing it again at Gather next year, or elsewhere