Meeting Free Days

Leadership should also adopt a mindset of protecting focus time. "When we saw that wasn't happening, leadership mandated 'meeting free Wednesdays,'" he said. But if leadership doesn't enforce this, meetings will bleed back in.

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How to successfully work remotely in an engineering organization

techrepublic.com

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Panel

As remote work becomes more prevalent among engineers, success requires the key building blocks of workspace communication and mindset, said Darren Murph, global head of remote for GitLab. Murph was one of four engineering leaders who shared insights and perspectives on the future of remote work and remote software engineering during a recent panel hosted by Dev Interrupted and moderated by Dan Lines, chief operating officer and co-founder of LinearB.

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People and culture

A company with a "hero worship culture can be very toxic," especially for support roles, Downard said. He advised engineers to focus on collaborating and working together to accomplish a goal--not whether they have completed something as an individual.

"This is a team sport and it's critical that you create an ethos and understanding that everybody is contributing to getting us going in the right direction and having success," Downard said.

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Mandel said when you work in technology, flexibility in terms of time and location are important. 

GitLab hires for values fit not a cultural fit, Murph said. "Our values page is more than words on a wall. You want people to join your organization and know they're going to align with the specific way you're working."

The speakers also offered their tips for onboarding new employees remotely. Downard said they want to get participation as quickly as possible.

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"I would argue that it makes your company more inclusive because it puts the focus on results" and pushes politics aside and makes the metrics about the work. Although it may sound paradoxical, when people do that, they are actually kinder to one other, Murph said. "It's not about who can position themselves a certain way but driving toward results." 

Mandel added that he doesn't need to know what his staff is doing, only whether they are delivering results. "Offices allowed us to be lazy,'' and now there needs to be a system in place and rigor to develop output.

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There are also "a couple of random breakout rooms that simulate small conference rooms in an office,'' he said. That way, people "can roll in and out as you see fit."

The rooms are designed to make people feel like they are sitting next to someone in an office. It keeps people bonded.

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Chris Downard, vice president of engineering at GigSmart, said that when the company went fully remote, he knew it was important to keep people "in sync" and his strategy was to create a Zoom meeting that offers "coffee talks," and the first person who joins makes a list of breakout rooms focused on projects and various committees. 

Collaborations went up in the coffee talk rooms, where issues like planning and production troubleshooting occurred. There was a "command and response room" created.

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The speakers also discussed how to make remote engineering teams more effective, noting that it can be a challenge to understand where issues such as delivery bottlenecks are in remote teams. Saraf, who led a fully remote team at Packet before its acquisition to Equinix, said they start every Monday with a meeting, during which every department goes through different metrics and explains why numbers went up or down

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Murph recalled being asked by a chief people officer how to make remote meetings better. His response? 'Make them harder to have'.

"Ideally, you want as few as possible using asynchronous tools and then reserve synchronous meetings for making decisions."

Lawrence Mandel, director of engineering at Shopify, said the company is now 100% remote and leadership has made an effort to utilize tools to drive efficiency, such as Slack Huddles. Slack Huddles offer audio-only calls, allowing greater freedom.

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Most companies embracing remote work also have dedicated headquarters. But remote-ish teams have even more communication and collaboration challenges than fully remote teams.

For example, in hybrid teams, remote employees are often left in the dark. Office workers are often heard, recognized, and promoted, while remote workers are forgotten.

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Personal Connection

A sense of connection and belonging are sentiments that are helpful for building “affective trust” – a form of trust based on emotional bond and interpersonal relatedness.

It varies from the “cognitive trust” – which springs from reliability and competence. Both are influential to performance, but affective trust tends to be more salient for a team at the beginning of a relationship, according to studies.

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... that's capable of executing in a remote setup:

  • Hire doers: they will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island.
  • Hire people you can trust. And trust the people you hire;
  • Hire people who cand write: communication is one of the most important parts of a remote team - good writers are critical to a team's success.
  • Hire people who are ok without a social workplace.

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