Google Hangouts™ is a Contender to Solving Remote Team Members

Everyone’s been talking about how remote working is important and how we should be embracing it as a coding culture, but few people have outlined the problems and solutions to fix them.
We’ve begun using a persistent Google Hangout as a means of connecting remote people to our office. The effect has been extraordinary and has really bridged a gap we had all felt in our team.

Some of the problems we’ve faced:

  • People use work from home/remote as vacation
  • Managers unable to verify if people are fully utilized
  • Lack of communication between team members

I’ve chosen these three because they stood out in the company I work for. I’ve been denied work from home requests due to the lack of oversight, and the abuse by people on my team. Honestly, I feel like it’s the output that matters and if we’re pushing things out on time in high quality, we should worry less about hours in front of a computer and effort spent. Convincing other people of that, however is an impossible task and won’t be discussed here, especially since I think we’ve found an excellent compromise.

Some of the facets that make this solution better than things we’ve tried before:

  • Google Hangouts are more like a room where people can meet, not a phone call people occasionally make
  • Remote people can hear what’s going on in the room while they’re out and chime in as though they were present.
  • They also can mute themselves if they don’t want to have home noise affect others.

This has had some unexpected results. People who enter our office say hello to our remote workers when they see they’re Google Hanging out. I feel that the perception of remote working as bad comes from a barrier to communication. If four people are in a room and the boss wants to notify them of something, the boss walks in, says it, and off they go. If the whole team is remote, you send an email, but who knows if they read it or when. If the whole team is on a persistent Google Hangout, the boss can join, say their piece, and be off. No problem. There’s no chance of thinking that our remote worker is slacking off because they’re there, working all the time. Whether they’re looking at Facebook or watching March Madness without us knowing is irrelevant, and isn’t solved by putting people in an office.

Is this a perfect solution for our team? It’s pretty close! We’ve got a good team to begin with, so remote work has never been an issue—the easier communication is just an added bonus. Given that, as someone who occasionally wants to work remotely, the ability to do so with more confidence, happiness from my managers, and being better able to support my team make it something definitely worthwhile.

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