Every time I see a “the future of work is remote” article, I think to myself: “How backwards! How retro! How quaint!” That future is now, for many of us. I’ve been a fully remote developer-turned-CTO for a full decade. So I’m always baffled by people still wrestling with whether remote work is viable for their company. That jury rendered its verdict a long time ago.
One reason companies still struggle with it is that remote work amplifies the negative effects of bad practices. If everyone’s in one place, you can dither, handwave, vacillate, micromanage, and turn your workplace into an endless wasteland of unclear uncertainty, punctuated by ad-hoc last-second crisis meetings — and your employees will probably still conspire against your counterproduction to get something done, albeit much less than what they’re capable of.
If they’re remote, though, progress via conspiracy and adhocracy is no longer an option. If they’re remote, you need decisive confidence, clear direction, iterative targets, independent responsibilities, asynchronous communications, and cheerful chatter. Let me go over each of those:
Decisive confidence. Suppose Vivek in Delhi, Diego in Rio, and Miles in Berlin are all on a project. (An example I’m drawing from my real life.) It’s late your time. You have to make a decision about the direction of their work. If you sleep on it, you’re writing off multiple developer-days of productivity.
Sometimes they have enough responsibilities to have other things to work on. (More on that below.) Sometimes you don’t have to make the decision because they have enough responsibility to do so themselves. (More on that below.) But sometimes you have to make the business-level decision based on scant information. In cases like this, remember the military maxim: “Any decision is better than no decision.”