I’ve just re-read the book Remote: Office Not RequiredRemote: Office Not Required published a few years back by the founders of software company 37 Signals. A guide to good and bad experiences of remote working, it seemed timely given the project I’m just kicking off looking at how technology can enhance working practice in one of the medium-sized government bodies.

A few themes for later reference:

When people work remotely it should be seen as an opportunity to reduce the amount of time that folk spend in pointless meetings. Meetings should be seen as a scarce resource, and when used maximised in value. (The reality too often is that remote workers spend their entire days with phone clamped to sweaty ear on interminable conference calls).

Work needs to be interesting enough to allow people to rise above other distractions. If the work isn’t interesting, people won’t be motivated to do it, whether in the office or remotely.

If you don’t trust your people to be able to work remotely, you don’t trust your people. That’s not an issue of remote working.

Managing remote workers means relinquishing certain types of control. Do that gradually – treat it like dealing with a phobia.

Some practical tools:

  • make sure there is time-overlap as to the hours that people work
  • screen sharing is a vital technology
  • as is presence and IM
  • the default should be to make everything available to everyone; openness is key to remote working
  • think about how you create virtual water coolers (possibly a challenge)
  • share progress with one another regularly: use techniques like Weeknotes
  • think about the impact of remote working on performance management processes; if all you can see is output, it potentially changes the things you can appraise
  • help people to build demarcation into their work/not-work lives
  • remote working doesn’t have to be home-based; hello Starbucks

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