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Remote work and the manager's schedule

November 17, 2019 — Joe Brockmeier

A post that went popular on Hacker News this week argues that "the manager's schedule is holding back remote work" (which turns out to be at least in part a ploy to get attention for an app...). I'm not really convinced by the author's arguement that it's the dichotomy between manager and "maker" schedules rather than culture.

In the past 20-some years I've worked remote more than I've worked in an office. One of the biggest problems is that our workplaces are shaped by the idea of people all gathering in one place and remote work is treated as a divergence rather than a native part of the workplace. It's not just that people are biased towards local employees by preference, it's that one form of working is considered "normal" and the other form is not considered much if at all when designing a workplace and way of working.

At Red Hat I see a lot less of this, particularly with the departments that produce software, than in other companies. Many of the developers who work for Red Hat started out in open source, which inverts this. It would be weird to have an early open source project where the developers were all in once place. So projects developed systems to cope with the fact that the contributors would be dispersed and working asynchronously.

The author's idea that tools are important is... sort of a very late realization. Slack is just a proprietary re-implementation of IRC with a few bonus features and openness removed.

All of this to say companies that want to be successful with remote workers need to approach things very intentionally. Set up systems to be successful for people who don't all congregate in one place. Fewer meetings is always a good start, to a point. Fewer standing meetings with 50 people doing read-outs would be good. But more check-ins and opportunities for people to actually talk in smaller groups and feel connected would be a good thing. My current situation is basically being a team of one, and I work with lots of people in the company, but nobody regularly. It's easy to feel disconnected and isolated this way. (I do have some excellent cat co-workers, though, so that's a good thing...)

Tags: work, ramblings

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