Agile and Remote Work are meant to be together

I started this blog because I believe agile and remote work are meant to co-exist in peace. Honestly at first, it surprised me to hear so many agile coaches advocate against remote work. Soon I understood where that mindset came from. I started Remote Forever to equip agile coaches, developers and change makers to understand the benefits and good practices of remote work and embrace it. Because the future of agile software development is distributed.

Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy working from the comfort of their home office? Who wouldn’t want to spend less time in commute every day? And who wouldn’t fancy more time with their family?

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Many companies have already understood the benefits of allowing (and even encouraging) their employees to work from home (or anywhere really). They often have a healthy culture and a high quality product and most often a humane customer service. Most of these companies may not call their ways of working ‘agile’ per se. But in essence, they have adopted agile values in their culture and they follow the majority of the agile practices.

Companies that work remotely are far more advanced in having an agile mindset than those that are considered pioneers of agile in the agile communities around the world. From the recruitment point of view, if a company offers a WFH (Work From Home) option, it is more likely to find the best candidate for the job. Not to mention that it will have access to a global pool of talent instead of limiting the search to one city!

What you may not realize is that the moment you sit in a different room from your co-workers, you’re working in a distributed organization. If your co-workers are on two different floors, you’re working in a distributed setup. That means you need to adopt the communication practices of remote work!

More and more knowledge workers (developers, designers, etc) are starting to see the benefits of a remote working lifestyle. When one has experienced the level of productivity and non-interrupted time that remote work offers, they are less likely to accept a job that binds them to a desk in an office space. Therefore the companies that can accommodate this lifestyle will lead the job market in the future.

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I know by writing this blog, I am touching some nerves in many of you agile practitioners. Especially those of you who have strongly bought into the idea that face-to-face communication is the best form of communication. You probably can show me research that shows working in the same office helps create a human connection amongst co-workers. Although I don’t see why one needs to satisfy their need for human connection solely through their co-workers, I totally get your point of view. I really do. Actually, I agree with you in most of what you support. My mission is not to contradict you. I’m simply paving the way to the future of agile by bringing remote to the world of agile. Because:

The future of work is remote and the future is here.

Too many agile coaches consider remote work to be a *defect* and try to find remedies for it. They help companies with offices in different cities or countries to work efficiently, yet fail to accept that it’s indeed possible to work agile across locations. Companies that have an ambition to stay ahead of the market will sooner or later be distributed geographically. It’s time for agile coaches to expand their skill set and help companies adopt agile in a distributed organization.

More face time cannot help your inability to communicate effectively.

You are a hypocrite if you believe in agile but do not support remote work!

An article published by Harvard Business Review talks about the Third Wave of Virtual Work for knowledge workers. After reading this article and other studies on the subject, it is undeniable that remote is the future of work.

If you promote agile as a means to ‘respond to change’, yet you resist remote work, then you are acting hypocritically. Remote work is an inevitable change in the nature of work. It’s coming to our companies whether you want it or not. It makes sense for the business. And one of the main duties of an agile coach is to help people in companies respond to change properly and in time.

Companies like Yahoo!, that have banned ‘work from home’ are not just risking losing their best employees to competitors that do offer telecommuting but they seem to have much bigger problems to care about. As Christopher Null concludes in his post in PC world:

If people running into each other in the hallway is the only way problems are solved at your business, you’ve got bigger problems than whether someone works at home one day a week.

You cannot always relocate the best people to your city.

People are the key factor in the success of businesses. Hiring the best people is not easy. Companies look for specific skills as well as culture match in every candidate. Limiting the search for talented people to only one city, when the entire world is at your access, seems like a terrible compromise to the success of the company. Some companies that have a higher ROI, often offer relocation packages for people. But that also isn’t the best way forward.

Some people may not be able to pack their entire life to move to a new state (or country) because of a job. They may be the best for the job but have limitations such as needing to live close to family members. 

Besides, employees will be happier to do the job while living wherever they want. On the other hand, the employer will not have to pay for a relocation package just to see the face of their employee in an office every day.

Remote and Agile are meant to be and it’s YOUR job to help your organization to see it. I’m here to facilitate that work for you. Press the button below to subscribe to Remote Forever and learn about new posts, workshops and courses.

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Comment below if you have any experience with any of the topics described in this post.

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4 Responses to “Agile and Remote Work are meant to be together”

  1. Steve CragoNovember 15, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m an Agile Coach and I’m right there with you about remote workers. Being co-located does not mean you are any better at communicating or getting along with your team.

    • MoloodNovember 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

      I’m glad to see that you are onboard @Steve 🙂

  2. Michael ArnoldusNovember 29, 2016 at 5:12 am #

    Hi Molood,

    I’ll bite. I totally agree that remote work has some advantages. It’s just that I believe it also has disadvantages – and we need to see those disadvantages clearly (or we could call it the advantages of colocation) to be able to make the right choices and tradeoffs.

    So some of the strengths of colocation is:
    * Increased bandwith in talking over writing – it’s often (not always) simply faster
    * Increasing emotional connection. Which means if we disagree on stuff, written communication is actually conflict creating – and the simplest way to mediate a conflict os to bring people together in the same room
    * Enthusiasm spreads by presence, not writing
    * Depression/low energy sets in more easily when you’re alone. It’s easier to retract from the group setting without anybody noticing.

    As a final example. If you were to do the work you’ve recently done at King, including doing workshops with management/leadership – would you have been equally efficient if you had to do that remotely?

    My guess is probably not. There’s something about the presence of a person who genuinely believes in certain ideas and courses of action that is far more persuasive that any number of written arguments – or even video call. So much more happens when we sit in the same room. I agree that it does mean this is the only solution – but it definitely is not a factor to be discarded lightly.

    • MoloodNovember 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

      Michael.

      I completely agree with the points you have made about the advantages of colocation. 🙂

      What I argue for is that we need to learn the skills required for working in a distributed setup which does not offer the advantages of colocation which you have mentioned. I emphasize on the word ‘skill’ because I believe we can and need to learn how to work remotely.

      For example to create the effectiveness of face-to-face conversations, we need to become better at writing concisely and clearly. We need to improve our writing skills so that mis-interpretation does not result in conflicts. We need to develop a tolerance to interpreting the “tone” behind a written message. We need to learn to show our emotion over writing (for example using memes and emojis). We need to be aware of the risk of depression or low energy due to loneliness. For example you should work from co-working spaces or cafés where you can make connections with other people from time to time. By eliminating commute to work every day, you get a lot of time to spend with family and friends. It’s important that we remember that and actually do socialize.

      to respond to your question about King, actually yes I could have. But that’s only because the offices of King had really amazing internet connection and quite good technology for video conferencing and screen sharing. We could really feel like we’re in one room. However in my current assignment where I work with an organization that has workers in India who do not have a good internet connection, video conferencing is not an option. Therefore I need to do things differently. I have already facilitated quite successful workshops for the leaders over telephone and screen-sharing. I’ll write about the challenges of that in a separate post.

      On a final note, again I totally agree with you. We cannot discard any of the important benefits and advantages of a personal face-to-face conversation. That something you refer to about the presence of a person who genuinely believes in certain ideas and courses of action, is definitely true. Body language is a big part of persuasion. And once again, that’s why we need to learn and develop the skills that are required for persuading someone remotely (and to level up the difficulty of the challenge) over voice and screen sharing only.

      If we could relocate every worker to one room in one office in one city in one country. it would be great. The reality of the world however is leaning towards remote teams. And it’s our choice to resist or adapt. 🙂

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