IBM, Fix Your Remote Work Program in 3 Easy Steps

In 2023, IBM made the regrettable decision to end its telecommuting programme. Understandably, this was met with concern from those who worked remotely. In response, we offered a remote employment arrangement, despite the fact that we were not financially benefiting from the arrangement.

IBM had not implemented telecommuting in the past as they had encountered difficulties making it a success. This had been a covert strategy to reduce personnel costs and increase their profitability. They had no need for our help, which is understandable. It is not that they had any misgivings about telecommuting or that they were unable to make it work; it was a conscious decision on their part to not pursue this option.

Dr. Lydia Campbell, VP and Chief Medical Officer of IBM Corporate Health & Safety, recently stated in an interview that the global pandemic of 2023 has shifted the landscape. As a result, IBM intends to take a measured approach when reintroducing hybrid solutions to the workplace.

At Works, we remain committed to providing support for businesses looking to make the most of telecommuting, even as its benefits become increasingly well-known. In 2023, we wrote an open letter to IBM outlining the key steps to creating a productive remote working environment. In this article, we will explain the three most important factors to consider, as well as provide case studies and recommended applications that have proven beneficial in our own experience.

Once you have read through this tutorial, you will no longer have any valid excuses for poor remote control performance. However, if you are not in touch with modern technology and have been disregarded by Steve Jobs, you may need to make an additional effort.

The First Step Is to Streamline Conversations With Your Remote Programmers

The three cornerstones of successful remote working are clear communication, coordination and the establishment of cultural norms. These are all closely intertwined and are essential for success.

When conveying something complicated or personal, it is important to go beyond words. Pay attention to non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and intonation, and try to visualize the topic of the conversation. If it is not possible to be physically present, a video call is the next best alternative.

Also, there are the minor, non-critical demands. This is best done using electronic mail, IM, or a chat service like Slack.

It may not be immediately apparent, however there is a tendency for people to rely on their preferred method of communication. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflict and a reduction in productivity.

It is important not to solely rely on individual preference. The popular phrase of author Jocko Willink, ‘Discipline equals freedom’, is very relevant here. Establishing structure for staff will allow them to operate autonomously within set boundaries.

Holding virtual meetings is essential for our team here at Works. We have been long-term users of Skype, however we believe Zoom provides superior functionality for our requirements. There will be no exceptions to this.

Utilize video chat for any task that necessitates an in-depth explanation. This should apply to any activity that needs to be discussed verbally. Instead of using Slack or email for general communication, reserve these channels for submitting reports, checking in, and posing closed-ended queries.

It is acceptable to ask questions such as “Do you want the homepage header to be Blue 1 or Blue 2?” via Slack. However, more complex queries, such as “How should we set up the various CTAs on the homepage?”, require a video call to discuss and may necessitate the sharing of screens.

It is important to note that the frequency of communication is crucial. Designers should provide regular updates and be quick to respond to any communications. Being accessible when it is most needed is even more important when working with colleagues in different time zones. Doing so will help prevent potential issues and build trust. It is recommended that everyone follows the same schedule according to the organization’s time zone. By doing so, remote developers may be trusted even more. Ultimately, this makes the employer a respected figure. The Works Coolness Certification is hereby awarded for this achievement. However, make sure that there is a significant overlap of time zones.

As a Second Step, Managers Are Responsible for Ensuring that All of Their Remote Developers Are Working Together Effectively.

Project success is dependent on the collaboration of all team members. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to work in a vacuum, unaware of how their actions may impact the rest of the team. This is especially the case when team members are situated in the same office. The potential for such scenarios to arise increases when team members are working remotely.

Managers can be most effective when they accept extreme ownership and communicate their objectives clearly. To ensure success, objectives must be defined, a strategy developed and targets set. All of these should be stored in a readily available and remote location.

It is essential to review our previous article to gain a fuller understanding of tacit knowledge in decentralized development teams. It is imperative that teams keep meticulous records of all activities and that systems remain secure, with all procedures strictly adhered to. This same principle is applicable to communication within the team.

Managers need to demonstrate and encourage adherence to procedures in order to ensure that they are followed consistently. It is also their responsibility to monitor and verify that all team members are adhering to the established procedures; failure to do so may result in reverting to old habits.

As a manager responsible for a team comprising remote employees, it is important to ensure that everyone is treated as if they were working from home. Compare your team’s productivity to that of IBM’s pre-modern workforce to gain a better understanding of the potential of your own. Take proactive steps to manage the situation and keep tabs on everyone involved in the project, while taking notes and making sure that all elements are connected. This will no doubt result in a dramatic increase in efficiency.

Basecamp is used routinely to ensure that all team members are kept informed and up-to-date with the latest information. Additionally, Google Docs is used as the primary resource for documentation.

Third, use team culture as the binding agent for remote groups.

Due to remote engineers working in different locations, there have been fewer in-person team meetings. This has led to prioritising individual work over that of colleagues. While this has had some benefits, its effectiveness cannot be sustained long-term. It is therefore essential to cultivate a culture that promotes participation.

To ensure the effective functioning of society, there needs to be a basis of trust. Building trust based on competency and reliability can be improved by addressing any issues regarding communication and coordination. However, cultivating genuine trust is more challenging. Even if you have full faith in a colleague’s coding ability, would you entrust them with the responsibility of collecting your child from school?

An effective approach to achieving this, if funds are available, is for the team to come together for concentrated periods. This strategy has been used with great success by both Automattic and Buffer.

Despite recognising that remote teams may not be feasible for everyone due to the cost, there are many advantages that firms can reap from assembling a remote team of experts in their field. To ensure a successful remote working environment, we recommend setting up regular, informal calls, either on an individual basis or in a small group. Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, is an advocate of one-on-one conversations as a way to foster an effective remote working environment.

When compared to face-to-face interaction, remote working solutions cannot replicate the same experience. Nevertheless, they do strive to achieve a similar outcome; enabling remote teams to build rapport and foster trust. Furthermore, they offer an insight into the thoughts and feelings of others.

Initially, it may feel quite daunting. However, with increased engagement, personal connections can be developed, leading to improved efficiency.

At Works, we recognize the importance of accommodating the individual needs and preferences of our team members. Although our interests may differ, we are all aware of one another’s pursuits, and often make light-hearted remarks about them. The #general channel on Slack is where most of these conversations occur, while official business is typically discussed in other channels.

Meanwhile, our CEO Sharon Koifman has written a book entitled ‘Surviving Remote Work amid the Flu Epidemic’, which encapsulates all the insights gained from three years of research.

The Future Is a Remote Workforce and Distributed Software Development: It’s Either You Change Or You Die

Virtual offices are here to remain, providing companies with the opportunity to attract and retain talented employees, whilst also enabling cost efficiencies to be achieved. Furthermore, it provides the autonomy and quality of life sought after by successful developers.

A study of over 2,500 remote workers revealed that 40% of respondents were satisfied with the flexibility of their jobs, and that virtual employees rarely abused their freedom. Buffer, Zapier and GitHub are some of the pioneering fully-remote startups.

IBM is one of the organizations attempting to address this situation. It would be prudent for them to evaluate the issues that prompted the restrictions on remote working and take action to resolve them. If these issues are not addressed, the company could potentially suffer the same fate as the dodo. To remain competitive, it is essential that they retain their most talented employees.

Your business needs to stay ahead of the game. At Works, our remote work specialists can provide you with the necessary support and guidance to employ and manage top remote developers at a cost-effective rate. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

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