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Episode Info: Shifting to 100% Remote Work Sumbry, Head of Reliability Engineering at AirBnb, and George discuss tips for the current challenge many of us in the software industry are facing: how we communicate with our coworkers remotely. We consider lessons learned from managing globally distributed teams and compare those to what we’re learning now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lessons from managing globally distributed teams Having managed engineering teams at Twilio, Uber, and now AirBnb, Sumbry shares a bit about the timezone madness from being globally distributed. Some teams orient their schedules around the timezone at their “default” location. That doesn’t do the team in the default location any favors when it comes to thinking about their remote peers. “When most of the people on the same video conference are in the same room, there’s an ebb and flow to the conversation. Add in a couple of remote folks and they feel like they’re interrupting the conversation when they interject.” Remote work vs. working from home George overlooks Sumbry’s past experience being a solo entrepreneur working from his living room. They discuss the differences between “working from home” and being a distributed team that needs to communicate, aka “remote work.” “When there’s a center of gravity around a particular physical location, it’s very easy to be excluded if you’re not physically there.” Debunking a myth about working remotely You gotta wear pants, people. Or rather, it’s tough to work from home in your pajamas. Working from home doesn’t mean ignoring your usual routine. “Staying in my pajamas all day was the key signal that my work days and my overall well-being were suffering.” Building relationships with remote teams when you’re new Sumby just started his new role at AirBnb. Many companies with distributed teams fly new teammates into a central office for onboarding because they think it’s easier to build relationships in person than it is over video conferencing. But not meeting someone can have unexpected results. “We started our interactions over video conferencing and got to know each other. When we finally met in person, I realized they were about 7 feet tall. I didn’t notice until then how my perceptions and how my interactions might have changed if we’d started out getting to know each other in person.” Making clear rules of engagement Remote work means turning communication into documentation. It helps to document team “norms” so that anyone can easily get up to speed. Make it clear how much communication over which mediums are expected because everything needs to be more explicit when you’re distributed. “Correctly set up expectations, develop this routine and cadence, and it helps a lot.” Distractions when working from home The reality is that when working from home, our personal lives can sometimes work their way into our workdays and distractions can appear unprofes...
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