Remote Work

In March 2020, the world shut down from Covid 19. In May 2020, I started a new job as a remote manager at FB. Here are my thoughts

The Good

  • We get better at flexiblity
  • We get better at communicating

Social

Social - Chair Swivel

Social - Big events

Technical talks

Challenges when the team is well gelled

The team I joined was very well gelled, as a result you didn’t see much of people’s engagement, except they had to use it.

Sync vs Async Communication

Collaborative Documents

Remote workers vs Flexible Time In Office

Social Things

The environment controls are emotions and engagement

  • Work at work, home at home.
  • But when work at home, need a way to change work and home
  • A great movie on environment controls action disguised as a movie on covid shutdown.

Remote Work and Camera Setup

  • Portals.
  • Hanselman a good remote worker posts:
    • https://www.hanselman.com/blog/GoodBetterBestCreatingTheUltimateRemoteWorkerWebcamSetupOnABudget.aspx
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDc0Ne0KTQ4

Cute and ackward moments

  • Co-workers 6 year old coming in dancing naked with just a cape
  • Camera left on, and being naked
  • Daughter coming in and giving a backward hug while I’m giving an important presentation

A Post E-mail world.

As part of remote work, many orgs have dropped e-mail and instead use Slack/Teams/Workplace Messenger/Chime as their dominant form of information exchange. This has been challenging for me as I’ve spend 20 years optimizing for e-mail use.

In this section I’ll use Quip as a reference to collaborative document systems (E.g. google docs, shared OneNote), and Slack as a chat platform (E.g. Teams, Chime, Workplace Messenger)

Long term information storage

A top use case for e-mail, but e-mail is terrible at this because it’s private, hard to comment on, and doesn’t store history. Chat shares the e-mail downsides in this use case, and makes them even worse as it’s rare to take the time to craft a good chat message, and there’s many tangents in the chats.

A shared doc systems like Quip is far superior for this usecase. History, collaborative editting, rich inline comments, etc.

Keeping track of non-immediate follow ups:

In an e-mail world, I’d have folders for followup_today, followup_this_week, follow_up_next_week, follow_up_next_month. I don’t have a great solution for this - In theory a tasks system, but that kind of sucks as it loses too much context.

Grouping everything at self controlled granularity with rules and folders.

I have sophisticated e-mail rules grouping low priority e-mail to the same folder, different groups to merged, folders I look at frequently, and folders infrequently, bumping mails from people and projects I care about. You get almost none of that in chat (and collaborative documents).

Don’t have a great solution.

Discrete “units of action” and follow ups for non-public tasks.

In a public setting, a task system is better then storing todos in e-mail. However, for private and small group tasks e-mail is great, especially when organized into folders with rules.

Focused Threads

Other Use Cases

  1. Read a thread at at a time.
  2. See only “Un-Read” post comments
  3. Sending a mail to yourself for followup
  4. Seeing your sent mail to people
  5. Sending mails to a random group of people, adding someone to a thread.

  6. Chat: Async but ephemeral, not durable.
  7. E-mail: Async but durable.

Quip vs Wiki

Many companies have both Quip and Wiki, and it often comes up which should be used for what. For this post, I assume your wiki system does not have collaborative real time editting, @mentions or a very powerful comment system. I prefer Quip for everything, though I appreciate Wiki is good once your document is complete.

Quip vs Word (and Word Procesors)

Word, is great, but it has many irrelevant features optimized for an era where you’d print your document. Assuming you’re not at Amazon, you won’t be printing a document so there’s a lot of cruft in these tools that you just don’t need, and can waste time.

The good and bad of public communication

Good: You are generally nicer and more careful when talking in public. Less likley to gossip or bash someone.

Bad: It’s more expensive, more sterile, needs more context.

Other Resources