Sunday, September 6, 2020

Notes on work-from-home teams

I've been working from home full-time for over eleven years - at least partly work-from-home for 20 years. I've managed work-from-home teams, and worked with quite a few others on joint projects. So when some colleagues were sharing their work-from-home experiences, I piped up with some thoughts. When I was asked recently to repeat them, I realized it might be useful to make a list for the blog. Old-style.


  1. In-person time is super-valuable. It builds a foundation for the digital interactions we're all stuck with for a while.
  2. Engineers in particular are prone to under-communicate, so a manager has to pro-actively push people to communicate more than they would on their own ...
  3. ... and create a safe environment that promotes asking for help.
  4.  Most remote workers need an extra helping of encouragement and positive reinforcement...
  5. ... doubly so for people prone to self-doubt or imposter syndrome.
  6. Worker depression is the hardest thing for a work-from-home team to manage.
  7. Trust is the most important attribute for work-from-home teams, and it has to be mutual in any type of relationship.

I think most of these are self-explanatory. In the near-term current environment, the first point is not so helpful for teams that haven't banked some in-person time; non-work activities, remote meal-sharing and happy hours are imperfect substitutes for the real thing.

The point about worker depression is worth emphasizing. It's a real hazard, often without easy mitigations. For me, daily exercise and intentional social interaction are the most effective medicine, but everyone is different. A work-from-home team needs time, space, and often support to figure out what works.