Can an #Agile team mate #telecommute?

When Yahoo released the memo about employees not being able to work from home any more, there was the expected backlash against something which has become more and more common. It was especially unexpected given that Yahoo’s new CEO recently had a child and might be expected as someone who would find value in being able to work from home.

If you haven’t seen the story. Here is a link to one of the many articles on the subject:

Yahoo Reaction

Individual versus Team

My thoughts on this matter revolve around the concept of individual versus team performance. In fact, the link to the article provides a perfect quote:

“They didn’t lose my productivity,”

As someone who has a 6 and 7-year-old, I can’t see how someone who works from home could be as effective by working the same amount of time. Little questions and requests have context switches inherent in them. We always talk about the impact of task switching at work. We have to be consistent and also recognize the impact of task switching at home. So let’s assume that the person in question puts in the extra time to be as productive at home as they were at work.

OK.

What about the Team?

But what about team productivity? Unless you are working on a solitary project, having a remote member has to affect the team productivity. People work around the missing person. Instead of an immediate in-person discussion they have to make a phone call, instead of white-boarding they either create an electronic diagram or set up a video-conference. Now what happens when the remote person may not be available due to an urgent issue on their side? Technology can help, but the experience isn’t the same and there is an effect on the team.

But what about remote Agile teams?

My opinion, and it is only my opinion, is that I would prefer to not have to deal with a remote team. Now this isn’t possible in some circumstances, but we can’t pretend a remote team will be as efficient as a co-located team. The only question is how bad it will be.

I’d prefer Agile teams to always be co-located in one room. I don’t want to be in a separate room in one building, never mind some people being at home or across the continent.

Summary

I think Yahoo is correct. The company and teams work best when everyone is together. The collaboration and innovation that happens when people are together can’t be replicated.

I understand that are complexities that make everyone co-located a challenge. But if you gave me the choice, I’d choose everyone in same room every single time.

Every quote I had seen on this topic also had the individual aspect as the primary focus. The quotes proposed that “I” was still as productive. No one ever stated that the “team” was still as productive.

One thought on “Can an #Agile team mate #telecommute?

  1. Well said. I think Yahoo made the move as a way to start cleaning house. They will probably allow some telecommuting (one day a week or when needed, but no longer allow people to never show up to work) once those that abused the privilege have been dealt with or leave.

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