Remote work as a way to maximize productivity

Your most comfortable place on the planet, Home

Does your physical presence really matter?

When I was working in tower office for one of the largest Internet company in Japan, I often used to find myself wondering it was worth coming all the way down from my desk on 17th floor to the meeting room on 10th floor. Elevators are restricted to stop on specific floors so I had to use stairs from 17th to 16th, then get a lift to 9th, and go up on stairs to 10th.

Instead, I could “attend” the meeting from my desk via appear.in.

The question is, if this is reasonable enough for you and your team, do you even need to physically present at office?

Remember what you’ve done today at office, and see how many of them could have been done if you work from home. This will soon get you under the impression that your physical presence wouldn’t be much important because most of your jobs at office can be done regardless where you are, thanks to dramatic improvement on tools that support remote work.

Now, since I started remote work 5 days in a week as a developer at grooves, I have never had critical problems caused by my virtual presence. That’s probably because there has been a lot of remote workers even before I joined, so the culture established on that situation is optimized as you can work from anywhere you want.

This was pretty much amazing culture gap for me and I found such culture provides advantages not only for work life balance related topics, but also maximizing productivity on healthy working environment built on top of fairness and honesty.

This post will share you how we address common problems when your team came to abandon physical office, and how it will be led to improve productivity.

Lots of small-medium sized makers underneath Mt. Ikoma in Higashi-Osaka

Document and share otherwise nobody knows

The easiest to imagine, face-to-face knowledge sharing doesn’t work on remote native environment. We encourage members to publish article/document even for issues you can explain in a minute, for example:

  • How we use pivotal tracker
  • What to do when you version up Ruby on remote servers
  • What we did to address an incident resulted 404 page had been being unintentionally displayed

This is great because your team’s domain knowledges will be extracted to the virtual space where anyone in your team can access, meaning that when a new member joined, you can just ask him/her “Hey, can you please read these documents about what happens on our release pipeline? If you have questions, please let me know.”

What’s cool about this is that further communication will happen asynchronously. You can work on other tasks while he/she is reading all the documents. If there is no document, this won’t be possible.

Also there will no longer be need that you explain same thing over and over. Instead, give them a URL!

Broadcast your outputs

At grooves, we broadcast every activities you’ve done to each team’s slack channels. This includes all of operations supported by git and github, pivotal tracker, and various applications for documentation. So that you can observe what others are doing as well as showing what you are doing, without spending time for that.

I need to say losing trust starts from lacking of transparency. When you suspect what your colleague is doing because he seem to be doing nothing, that would be a sign that you began losing trust for your co-worker. To address this issue, streaming your activities helps to keep transparency in your team.

Broadcasting activities on github

Streaming build result from CircleCI is also helpful to continuously get feedback on test result on your branch, while you implement features step by step.

Getting feedback from CircleCI on Slack channel

In addition, we get updates in our channel from various sources such as ruby-lang.org, Riding Rails, Node.js repository, and so on. Thanks to this effort, we’ve been using the latest version of almost every OSS softwares that we use, giving ourselves a chance to contribute them by increasing a possibility to come up with an idea for new features or find a bug to fix.

Unite physically time to time

As distributed grows more and more, it’s definitely important for you to sometimes get out of virtual world. I do admit that humans are more likely to prefer the ones physically exists than the ones virtually. Therefore, there is no doubt that you will be lack of the team spirit as you keep working with members you’ve never met physically.

We host getting-together-day which all team members gather from all over Japan to have intensive discussion, do pair programming sitting side by side, and of course enjoy good food and drink!

There are various tech conferences and meetups in Japan, so some members plan to meet and join them together.(in this case, transportation fees are sponsored by company, yay)

Because we usually work at virtual workplace, occasional physical interaction effectively works for team building.

Conclusion

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post, and discovered how we manage common problems that distributed team faces.

Although traditional physical office ease your boss to monitor your activities, I strongly believe that the freedom of where you live makes your work life balance better, and it will lead to improve your productivity. There are of course issues to handle, but there is nothing more than individual’s happiness on their life.

Productivity gets improved not in tower office optimized for working efficiently, but distributed team with respect and trust in core, based on satisfaction of one’s life.