A community of technology community managers, leaders, and builders.

Working remotely

Most of the 13 attendees work remotely; some work for a company that has no office at all.

How do you feel connected to the people you work with.

Can you find a local community, such as shared office space?

Some people feel some connection, even just going to a coffee shop where you don’t know people.

In UK, it’s frowned on to get one cup of coffee and just sit in the coffeeshop for a long time. Seems to be OK in the US. Better to go to one place regularly so the staff know you.

Only a few of us carry on teleconferences in public places such as cafes. Noise-canceling headphones help a lot with your hearing. But seems to exaggerate very loud noises. Most of us don’t want to disturb others.

In San Francisco is a “Third Work Space” where you can do teleconferences comfortably. Other places have a share kitchen, booths, you pay for the time you spend. You can also rent space that gives you a dedicated desk, 24/7.

Colleges usually don’t bother you if you work in a public area.

Some people arrange to get together at one person’s house on a single day.

Can be ergonomically bad to work in a coffeeshop with a laptop. Just looking down for long periods of time can cause back pain. There are laptop stands.

Interruptions by children: can be OK if you’re taking part in a conference call, but not if you’re a leader. Can be nice to see coworker’s kids, can make it more personable. Also useful to remind collaborators (whether or not you have children) that you have a personal life and don’t work all the time.

Videoconferencing getting more popular. Talk of putting up backdrops for videoconferencing, types of videoconferencing software.

Google Hangouts can be good if you have enough bandwidth, and tends to work on all computers. Some issues with browsers and Macs.

Zoom has useful features. Bandwidth is particularly an issue in a global context.

Skype can hog the microphone, not good to keep running if you use mike for something else.

The water cooler side of work. Videoconferencing brings out artificial “game face.”

Useful to start out with banter in team calls, even if just for five minutes per week. Creates some connection.

Some people like the banter, whereas others hate it.

Can have dedicated time before the formal meeting so that people who want can connect and hang out informally; then move to agenda when the other people join.

Another organization uses a dedicated asynchronous chat to let people share banter and photos without interfering with the work chats. But have to remember that your casual postings may be seen by senior people in the organization.

If you lack human connections in working from home, can get involved in volunteer activities on evenings and weekends for that kind of structure connection. Or find reasons to get out of the apartment, such as to pick up lunch. Make a date with spouse.

Can get together with people from work for an intensive week or two, find out what people are doing in their personal lives, get close. Like summer camp.

Can feel guilty taking time off for gym, lunch, etc., even though office settings would allow it. One person tends to skip lunch and gets cranky because they’re involved in work. Some people close the laptop and put plate on top so they have to finish eating before starting up work again.

Slack on mobile phone: can go anywhere, pick up kids, etc. because he can jump into conversation. But tries to get critical interactions over with before child gets home from school. Some people take regular breaks, take an afternoon nap. Good idea to discuss your routine openly with remote team, so you don’t have to pretend you’re always available, and other people can feel free to take care of themselves.

Can be easy to respond too readily to interruptions. Wouldn’t do that if you were in the office.

Managing remote people.

One remote person was not getting work done, hints didn’t work. Required a face-to-face meeting.

Remote working requires trust.

In one office, people have to send out weekly updates with what they have accomplished and what they plan to do next week.

Some sites offered people as much vacation as they want, but when people took them up on it, they did not advance as far in the organization. Organization must follow up and not penalize people. But it’s tough because some people are willing to work harder in order to advance. This is more a US problem. In Europe, 28 days of vacation required by law.

At one site, if you send a message out on an official holiday, everyone complains. Another site found that not enough people were taking minimum vacation, so the company shut down between Christmas and New Year.

Online “happy hour” where you can express your feelings, talk about stress, have a drink if you want. Nobody tries to solve another person’s problem, but good to share.

Consider adding blocks to your schedule where you’re out, not doing work. Some people need to warn others that they’ll be unavailable, others aren’t in such demand. Might be particularly useful for people who are new to working remotely.

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