My latest vacation was a bit of vacation and a bit of work. My current employer and I are in the middle of an experiment of working outside of the office. We both agree that it is no longer a technical problem, after all, we have laptops more than capable, Blackberries, and wi-fi at every coffee shop in the Western world.
It seems that there should be no issue then getting started. I am a self-starting individual who likes to stay on schedule and can get the work done without someone looking over my shoulder. In fact I think that I do a better job when left alone and am working late into the night at the office. The challenges lie with communciation and soft skills. These are skills that we are not taught in school, especially in engineering. We succeed by having face to face meetings and yelling over the wall.
So what do I think about this first try?
1. You are still working
Unlike what Mr Ferris may think, if its an 8 hour task in the office, it is going to be at least an 8 hour task at home. The efficiencies that you gain by not getting interupted often are removed by the inefficienies of not having everything at your finger tips, getting questions answered by email rather then yelling over the wall, and new distractions like the dirty laundry, etc. I am hoping to make this less of a concern over time while I improve my process, our VPN gets better and my preparation time gets shorter.
2. Email sucks
Email sucks as a communication tool. If you want to use email to get your point across with out a lot of time going back and forth it is a lot of effort to word it correctly. You need to know what you are looking for and convey that to the recipent. This is a skill that I am lacking greatly, I thought that I was good at it before this week but I have realize that it is very time consuming to write an email long enough to get the background in, while short enough that people will not miss the question.
3. Herding Cats
When everyone is busy, then the sweakiest wheel gets the grease. By not being in the face of the resources back at the office I am sometimes forgotten. This is not malicious by any means, other leads, PMs, etc are just there to poke the individual to get what they want. I have found myself flagging emails to followup on daily to ensure that I am still high int he queue, where if I was in the office I would be simply mentioning it to them as I saw them.
Being back in the office I am consciously working on my management skills, email writing and team building. As requested by a colleague I have started summarizing what I believe are the deliverables for the week and following up when I don’t get a response. This will take some getting used to as team lead, but I think that it is a great suggestion to ensure that people are moving forward.
The team building is going to be a harder one, I am struggling for ideas to create a “team” on the projects so that people want to cover for each other and realize that you are not the only one on the project.