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March 23, 2008

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You nailed this, Rick! My wife works from home and you (and Rachel) absolutely caught what it means to work from home - the "out of site out of mind" problems, the "no personal space" problems; not to mention that never leaving home also means never leaving work. And, we have kids running around - try having a conference call with your 5 year old banging on the door wanting a snack! Luckily, most of her business associates are very accommodating to her situation (and the occasional child or barking dog wanting to eat the mailman, etc.), which is remarkable in and of itself. There is a much longer discussion to be had about how to manage the remote work-style, and whether technology can help or not, but that is for another time.

Thanks for posting... I've passed it on. I think it made her night!

db

Great post Rick.

I've been fulltime telecommuting for 2 years, and haven't missed a step of my son's life. It's been incredible. In some ways I can't wait to get back to the office, but for now it's a perfect situation to watch my son grow up and not miss the fun stuff.

In my last job (hard to pick a good remote position, just like it is hard to find a good remote worker) it was posited that remote workers are "inherently lazy". I thought it was an interesting sentiment, and the person who said it was shot down by nearly every one else but it still struck me as an odd assessment. In his case, I would say it is true but every other remote developer is anything but.

Beyond discipline I think it requires a different sort of motivation. That and being able to feel comfortable being in an isolation chamber. Fortunately, we have a very active Perl Hackers group here in Portland (with some of the more popular names, such as Randal Schwartz and Michael Schwern) so that's a good "outlet" to get in touch with my inner geek.

The monetary savings are great. You save on clothes, gas and food. Depending upon where you live, that can easily be a 10% "bonus".

Thanks again for the post (and to Rachel, thanking through proxy).
-Jay

Hey Rick -

Great post, thanks.

There is the other side of this - how to manage remote staff. I think some of the same principles of success apply to the manager as well as to the worker. That may seem obvious, but it's critical. For example – a manager has to have discipline to check on remote staff – they can't forget - and they have to keep staff in the loop. That's as much for their morale as it is for accomplishing their deliverables.

In thinking about the "fire and forget" principle, it maps directly to what I find is the single most important part to successfully managing remote staff - autonomy and accountability for clear and measurable deliverables. If a manager can quantify deliverables (not just the number, but the quality), then it empowers staff to excel and empowers management to deliver. And in providing those deliverables, a manager has to provide the autonomy – they can't micromanage remotely (micromanagement is bad practice anyway you cut it.).

Of course, it's important to manage similarly in the office, but in my view it's even more important for remote management. And like the remote staff who should wear that badge on their shoulder, I think the manager who can handle remote staff needs to wear that badge as well. After all, managers and staff are a team - one can't be successful without the other.

Totally agree, Braydon. It is a tough slog on both sides.

This is bang on. I've been doing the home-office/telework bit since 2000. It can be a slog and the people management part (both managing and being managed) is tough.

I used to have a real "office" but I don't anymore and I do miss the separation. The other side to what I (and Jeremy) do is that anywhere we have an Internet connection, we can be working. Which usually means we are working. Setting that boundary for "time off" and not feeling guilty is very hard.

Jeremy does an amazing job, but I have to say that Christina Jones our Content Manager at b5 really rocks this. CJ is the main point person for all the Channel Editors ... who are also spread out around the world. We have an ongoing Skype chat for the CEs that keeps everyone in touch. Half the time it's just idle banter, but that's what also builds community.

IMNSHO b5 has always done a great job at pulling people together into a community (we have probably 6+ ongoing Skype chats going for different channels/groups).

Disclosure: I'm the Training Manager for b5.

Tris - you're a doll. Thanks so much for the kind comments!! Rick - I have to say, as a remote worker, you and Rachel have it exactly right. So many people tell me how lucky I am to be able to work at home, and I sure am - but no one that doesn't do it (including my own family) realizes how much extra stress it adds. Your #1 and #4 are the things I struggle with the most. It definitely can a head game at times, and often it is totally mentally exhausting to have to work so hard to be "in the loop." But I love every minute of it, I wouldn't trade anything for the opportunities I have had.

Great post Rick! I work remote (i.e. hotels, home, anywhere I can get connected) most of the time and the mental separation is definately key.

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