We at Distant Job are firm believers in the advantages of remote work. That’s why our whole company is Remote. People are welcome to join up and work together if they want to. But our structure is such that anyone can work remotely.
This has several advantages. One is that it ensures that our remote programmers are the best. Why is this so? The remote work style helps reduce one of the biggest issues a programmer can face.
That is: distractions.
You can call it “being in the zone”. Some have called it “flow”. A programmer needs to establish a rhythm before he starts producing awesome code. But distractions break this flow immediately and for long periods.
I’m not even talking about dragging a programmer to an hour-long meeting where she’ll have little to no input. Small things, such as a short Skype call or even a Slack ping, will be enough to throw her off her game. Research suggests that an interruption as small as 2 seconds – two seconds! – can break concentration for up to 15 minutes. And if you double the interruption to 4 seconds, the recovery can be even longer.
This is a very big deal. Studies have shown that a task, once interrupted, will take twice as long to finish. And worse: it will contain twice as many errors as if it had remained uninterrupted.
And this problem is prevalent in our offices and work culture! Some papers estimate that about 57% of any task suffers an interruption. A programmer can only expect to get a single 2-hour uninterrupted session per day.
A remote programmer has an edge here. He can choose and design his working environment to cut distractions. But you, as a manager, have a part to play, too.
At Distant Job, we say that remote employees need to follow the same rules as your other employees. This does not mean that your rules and workflow can't enjoy a bit of fine-tuning. This will benefit both your remote and our co-located employees.
How can you optimize your workflow thus?
Protect your programmers from distractions
Set the expectation that communication can flow during coding breaks.
Set a moratorium on communications at coding times.
Incentivize your programmers to set coding time goals and schedule them. Then the rest of the team will know when it’s OK to ping them for something.
Make them understand that it’s ok to have notifications turned off while handling code.
Schedule meetings days in advance, make them short and sweet.
There is no reason on earth for a meeting to last more than 45 minutes. Ours at Distant Job often last longer, but we recognize the extra time for what it is: friendly banter, not work.
And make sure someone is essential to the discussion before inviting them to a meeting.
These principles aren't the easiest to integrate into an established company culture. But if you do, you’ll reap a fantastic increase in productivity.