A couple of years ago after a couple of email, some long skype call, a micro-project on Github, ideato hired me without ever having seen me, neither in webcam, neither in real life… and it seemed simply right.
There are a lot of things you can do without being in the same room, but it’s not simple the first time you try… these are the lesson I learned along the way to make everything running smoothly.
Remote working has its own etiquette
We are used to an implicit etiquette in colocated working, but remote working has some different rules. Work from home without pants can be ok (like the Scott Berkun book) but make a Skype call with a microphone without noise reduction is very rude (don’t let me start about not having headphones at all). Likewise, when you have a slow internet connection trying to speak with you can be a real pain. To care about these things is a way to show respect to your colleagues, exactly like having a shower before going to work.
Sometimes you need to meet physically
People and relationships are the first things to care about, and to build a trust between team members and with customers is a much more accelerated process when you pass some days physically together.
In ideato this means two things:
when you are just hired you work from one of the offices for 1–2 weeks
the kick-off of a new project is done with the team and the customer in the same room for a couple of days
Be explicit with your needs
In a colocated environment people often sees when you are stuck, when you are upset or when you need some help. In a distributed team this is more difficult or requires wider times. You need to learn to make your needs more explicit (that is anyway a great skill for your life):
is better to ask twice when something is not clear than to wander in uncertainty
is better to ask for a pause (in pair programming) when you are tired instead of loose concentration
is better to make explicit when you disagree, because it is possible that no one will see the doubt in your facial expression
Get the benefits
When you work in a colocated team, your social life by day, from Monday to Friday, are your colleagues. They can be intelligent, fun, kind and so on but you will see the same person day over day, for years to come. When you are a remote worker you can choose everyday who you want to see that day, you can find the most inspiring people to pass your day with. It’s not always simple, but it’s a great opportunity you can (and should) take. Remote working doesn’t only mean work where you want, it is even work with who you want.