I’ve been on a hybrid/distributed team for a long time. Immediately before the pandemic our team worked in the following arrangement (everyone worked 5 days a week regardless of location). Since this team was originally all in NY, I was very conscious of the language I used so NY wasn’t “the center of the universe.”
3 people full time in the NY office
2 people in another office in a different city
1 person in yet a third office in a different city
1 person in the NY office three days a week
1 person in the NY office two days every three weeks
1 person full time in her home office
During the pandemic we all worked from somewhere in our home. Some people had nice home offices. Some people worked from a creative arrangement in the middle of their apartment. I used language about myself like “I’m leaving work now” even though I was moving two feet away.
Right now, the NY office is doing a “back to the office” pilot and my team consists of
me physically in the NY office
one of my teammates physically in the NY office three days a week on a different floor (we weren’t on the same team when the pandemic started so our seats aren’t currently near each other.) It’s a pain to move so waiting until the department shuffles everyone’s seats for that.
everyone else at their home offices (I think everyone except the two of us choosing to be in the pilot has an actual home office)
Last week, I was using a bunch of different conference rooms in the NY office to test the new webcams and such. When I wrote up the experience, I used the phrase “in person.” One of my teammates immediately called me out on that. Which I appreciate. I certainly wasn’t thinking of the NY office as being the center of the universe when it was only myself and one other person from our team there. (at one of the meetings; the others I was the only one in the NY office for.) I was thinking “in-person” with reference to myself.
This got us talking and me thinking about various terms that can be used and various sensitivities that can exist around them. I’m using WFH in the comments column for brevity. If you don’t like that term, substitute another in your head to get to the gist. It’s hard to fully qualify every time. Especially in a discussion about terms and subtleties.
Everyone works in person regardless of location.
This doesn’t usually bother people. However, it isn’t always home. I worked for a week from a hotel. In some companies, a person could be working at Starbucks. It varies. I do like that this term is part of the WFH abbreviation. One of my remote teammates said she prefers home office or remote over home.
I like this term when talking about people who actually have a home office. However, it is a term that has sensitivities to me because it includes an assumption that one has a space for a home office. (My WFH area is smaller than a cubical and not anywhere near as conducive to work.
This is a location. If there is only one onsite location and everyone is WFH, it could work. However, in my case, there are three “onsite” locations involved so it doesn’t clarify much.
Depending on the context, this could be a good term. In some ways, it has the same problem as “onsite.” However, it could also mean simply that people aren’t all together if not viewed from the lens of a common location.
I like this term because it shows that there are varying locations. And it doesn’t make assumptions about a primary site.
teleworking or telecommuting
I like that this is location agnostic. But it also implies that you aren’t at an office. Whereas distributed could mean any location.
This term assumes that it is replacing an in person thing. It also treats the activity as an alias.If I’m having a meeting, I’m having a meeting. It doesn’t matter if we are in the same room or on Zoom or whatever.
Uncollected feedback is perishable; the longer you wait the less reliable it is
Many years ago (even before doing Scrum or remote.), I noticed that people had trouble recollecting what they wanted to contribute to the retrospective. They were quiet at meetings and didn’t remember problems not fresh on the mind.
I solved this by putting a shoebox and post its in a common location. This let the team put in their thoughts right as they happened.We had someone organize the post its by topic and used the retrospective time to discuss them.
Over time, that shoebox became electronic. But the benefits still stand. Real time opportunities to record those thoughts. I really like the perishable quote and am sharing it with my current team at our next retrospective!
Purpose of an office
The article lists the following benefits of an office. It was interesting reflect on how much of this applies to me and my troubles over the last 15 months. The table shows my thoughts on them both for work and the high school robotics team I mentor
Item from article
Collaboration, communication, and the sense of belonging that comes with colocation
I’m not sure. It’s definitely good seeing people, but my team has been distributed for years. So a lot of my connections were with people not on my team anyway.
Definitely. The kids noticed how much they feel not being able to hang out, have team dinners, bond over dodgeball, etc
A place to work away from the distractions of home
Yes! This is one of the problems I’m having. (I put not having a good physical work space in this area. A subpar work environment is certainly distracting.)
Some of the students share rooms or have distractions on calls.
Creation of physical products and use of specialized tools
n/a – our tools are computers
Definitely. Not having access to the lab, tools, robot greatly limits what can be done.
Space for gatherings and training
While I don’t need to see my teammates every day/week, we do all meet in person on occasion.
In person meetings allow for more flexibility and cross training
A need to directly interact with customers
A place to focus
Another one for me. I only have so much energy to focus at home. It’s less than 8 hours worth which isn’t even enough for a day let alone fun things after work. I also notice, I can’t carry as many thoughts in my head at home.
The status and stability a physical location conveys
Another quote I found interesting:
Working more hours to get less done is not a recipe for success.
For most of the weeks of the pandemic, I refused to work more hours. (I made an exception for the a month and there was a high cost. I’m still recovering to get myself to the point I was at the week before I made that exception.) I got less done but it wasn’t from more hours.
Most of my colleagues get the same or more done at home. They should be able to to telecommute forever! I am not one of those people. At the office, I have a desk so I can see more stuff at once. I have two monitors so I can work faster. I can hold more thoughts in my head
There will be times when after-hours work will be needed. These need to be the exception – not the rule.
I agree with this. And I made that monthlong exception intentionally. Also my employer passed the “test” of it being important. I worked one weekend day in exchange for a comp day. So at least it was my employer’s time too, not just mine.
I hear a lot of people say “since I’m not commuting, I can work more.” I strongly disagree with this. I used my commute time productively. I read the news in the morning and a computer book on the way home. (My computer book reading is also down because my at home energy isn’t available when I have time to read now.) Commuting time belongs to me, not my employer. It being gone isn’t a reason to work more hours.
Hybrid workspace ideas
The article also lists some ideas for hybrid work. My thoughts on those
Have designated team days for in-person work
We did that when we were a colocated team with telecommuters. (Monday was the day nobody could telecommute.) I consider this a crutch that we long moved past. Luckily we became a multi-city/time zone team after I no longer needed that crutch!
Institute policies to fight ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and burnout
The article suggests holding 10 minute breaks between meetings. I’ve had meetings 9:05-9:55 for as long as I can remember. So meetings i control do come with those breaks.
Always hold team events in virtual conference space
This one we didn’t quite do. We did have people at the same site connect from the same room rather than everyone being at their desk. But everyone did contribute equally. It wasn’t most people in one room and a handful alone at home.
Publish all meeting notes in a visible space which can be accessed remotely
Everything is electronic. While we do publish notes, we aren’t an async team though.
Only use virtual whiteboards
Definitely! The only time we used physical whiteboards was for pairing when the two people involved happened to be in the same location.