How to Build a Remote Friendly Environment

by Austin Pocus, on Feb 19, 2018 11:31:23 AM

austin-profile-pic4.jpg by Austin Pocus, Software Developer at eFlex Systems

workremotely.jpg

In the past months, eFlex has been working under a more remote-friendly structure, where we can work from home as needed, or as we wish. This has been a lifesaver for me, as I’ve been dealing with health issues for the last few months. But aside from that, remote work can be extremely productive and fun, and it may be a good option for you too. 

 Communication

The operative word when it comes to working remotely is “communication”. The team has to communicate what’s going on around the office, and likewise, the person working remotely has to communicate what they’re doing, and what problems they’re running into. At eFlex, we post status updates every 2-4 hours if we’re working remotely. These communication principles are a good idea for any team, remote or not — without consistent communication, how is a team to know what’s going on? 

Availability

The second word to keep in mind is availability. When you’re working remotely, you should be available online any time during the work day. If you have to step out, make it known to the team that you’ll be out, say, for lunch or a doctor appointment.

 Making a remote culture work takes effort from both sides. Both those in the office and those working remotely must adapt to the rigors of communication and availability. If there’s an important meeting, make sure there’s a Google Hangout, Slack call, or some other video call that remote workers can join in on. 

Feeling as though you’re in the office is the ideal condition for remote workers. How can you make people feel as though they’re in the office? Communication and availability. Got an interesting link you want to share? Post it on Slack or IRC (Internet Relay Chat)or whatever you use to keep in touch.

Use remote communication tools as much as possible (like Slack or IRC), even when you’re in the office with your colleagues. Make people feel as though they’re part of the conversation.

This has secondary benefits as well: it documents conversations, ideas, and decisions for future reference, and it makes communication asynchronous, so you’re not interrupting anyone. In particular, interrupting software developers is a money sink — every time you interrupt a developer, you’re sinking 15-30 minutes of focus-building time down the drain. How much do you pay developers hourly? 

But I digress. There’s one more benefit to having a remote-friendly culture: hiring. If you’re in a location other than Silicon Valley or New York, hiring can be tough. With a remote-friendly culture, you can hire developers from anywhere. 

Keep it Fun

Most importantly, have fun with your team! Share in-jokes and gifs online. Build Slack channels around mutual interests, like cryptocurrency. This, more than anything, will build a sense of community and belonging, whether you’re in the office or not. This is what makes eFlex work. 

That’s the goal, and it bears repeating: to make people feel as though they’re in the office. tl;dr:

  1. Communicate, especially through channels like Slack or IRC. Do this as much as possible.
  2. Remain available online, but try not to interrupt people unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  3. Have fun! Build a culture just as you would in-office, but do it on Slack, IRC, or your communication tool of choice.

 

Topics:Development Process

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Our team is a creative bunch that loves learning and pushing the limits to find the best solutions for today's lean manufacturers.  Internal discussions at the office might range from new features that manufacturing process control software should have to machine learning, blockchain technology, or what the future of AR on the plant floor looks like. Check out our blog for opinions, news and trends that we find interesting and think you might too! 

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