Chapter 20: Working with Remote Teams

Discussion Summary

The book seemed to focus on how a person in the office can work with remote coworkers, but the definition of a remote is more broad. Many of the participants work with person in different cities or countries, but who is the “remote person” if everyone works from home or everyone works in an office?

Either way, most of the challenges are the same when trying to keep in touch with people who are not in the same physical location.

Some tips from the conversation participants:

  • Face-to-face interaction helps a lot (but it is often cost-prohibitive).
  • The next best thing is instant messaging. Being responsive and proactive in communication is essential, but having “offtopic” chat channels helped a lot of teams get to know each other better as people, thus creating better working relationships.
  • Phone calls can sometimes be more effective than chatting, but everyone should make sure that technology doesn’t get in the way of communication: speak clearly, don’t be too far from the microphone, introduce yourself, be mindful of delays in sound, and so on.
  • Occasional video meetings can help putting faces to names and add the benefit of being able to read body language.
  • Good planning is crucial - regular meetings, proper use of project management software, structured communication.

The main takeaway was that collaborating with people in other locations requires conscious effort from all sides: the remote people having to proactively reach out to the rest of the team and ask to be included in conversations, and the team remembering to keep the remote people in the loop.

A point was made that much of the discussion does not apply to freelancers, who tend to have much less contact with the team in the company that is hiring them.