Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: Part 2/5

Second post in The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: The Series.

Email communication done right.

Everyone should have world class email skills

Have clear and concise subject lines. Sending an email without a subject line makes it more difficult to asses the urgency of an email message and setting the right expectations before opening it.

Write short email messages. One or two paragraphs are enough most of the time, but one line emails that spark conversation about a topic that requires a decision later on are also a good idea.

Finish with a clear set of next actions. Don’t only state the problem, but also propose solutions.

Only CC people that have to be involved in discussing the topic. Don’t CC everyone and fill up their inbox with replies and long discussions. Try to inform people of the decisions and only involve in conversions people that are part of the decision making process.

Every day all members do Inbox Zero

If email is expected to be a reliable communication method among team members then all team members should make sure all email messages they receive are processed on a daily basis. Emptying the email inbox daily and including the next actions in the right place (a GTD system hopefully) is a process that can enhance the general reliability of the team communication.

On the other hand, email can be a source of constant distraction if used in a wrong way. For people that need to focus for longer periods of time (developers, designers, etc.) email notification systems with pop-ups and BlackBerries should be avoided. Reading emails twice a day (before and after the work schedule) is enough most of the time.

Team should agree via email on meeting agendas

Meetings are expensive. Getting team members to participate in team meeting that don’t have a clear desired outcome and a meeting agenda, previously agreed by the team, can make the meetings ever more expensive, sometimes to the point of wasteful.

To avoid getting in this situations, remote teams will gather topics discussed via email and include them for a brief discussion (to agree on something previously discussed, not to create lengthily discussions on topics that can be had on email in the first place) in the weekly review meeting.

The next post will be about ‘Skype and how to use it properly’. If you like this series please share the links with your friends using the ‘Share’ button inside the post page.

The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: Part 1/5

First post in The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: The Series.

Why working remotely?

Fewer interruptions and distractions

When done right, working remotely shows an increased level of productivity for the members of the team. Working in an Agile, open space environment, has lots of advantages but also some disadvantages. People can ask questions at any time and interrupt the focus of all team members, which has a negative impact on productivity. In the post on Skype we will discuss the best compromise between an open space environment and keeping team members focused on their current activity and only grabbing their attention when absolutely needed.

It is also important that each individual members can organize him or herself in a way to isolate from non-work related distractions. The great thing about remote working is that actual productivity assumptions about ones work output are replaced with measurements of velocity and team involvement, so a non-productive person will stand out sooner than later as compared to the other team members.

No commuting

Commuting every to the office often usually means a couple hours of potentially productive time used to get to and back from the work place. By avoiding commuting, the team members can concentrate better on the most important task and avoid wasted time, money and attention to getting to the physical workplace.

Can have the best team members no matter their physical location

As everyone says, good help is hard to find. Accordingly, when good help if finally found, he or she can be located hundreds or thousands of miles away. By implementing an effective remote working environment, the team can be distributed pretty much anywhere in the world and still provide better value to the project compared to working in a physical office.

The next post will be about email communication done right. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed!

The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: The Series

In the next five weeks, on every Monday, I will publish a post on working remotely. It is based on years of experience on technology projects done via distributed teams, but I am sure that most if not all the techniques can be extended to other types of projects as well.

The five parts of the ‘Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely’ are: