Remote (Micro) Exclusion
"Remote exclusion" happens when remote developers are treated as less equal than on-site developers. This usually isn't intentional, but is instead a result of group dynamics.
Some behaviors, such as not including remote workers in decisions because it's "too much of a bother" to contact them, are obvious when pointed out. But there are other actions that seem innocuous, yet contribute to the problem. These are"remote micro-exclusions"
Consider the daily standup meeting where the bulk of the team is on site, and a few are remote. Here are two practices that can unconsciously devalue the remote team.
There are three basic ways to communicate with the remote team in a live meeting.
- Audio Only
- One-Way Video
- Two-Way Video
The first two ways are a problem.
- Audio Only: Unless someone on the remote team is vociferous, they'll be ghosts, rarely seen nor heard.
- One-Way Video: To my mind, this is worse than audio-only. The implication is, "they can see us, be we don't need to see them." The on-site team only see their avatars, at best.
What's critically missing without two-way video is the visual cues. How is the remote team reacting? What are they seeing at the main site? What is everyone communicating physically?
Two-Way Video is a must because, "if words and body language disagree, one tends to believe the body language"1 And in those cases, body language can be 55% of communication.
Remote Team Last
If the remote team always goes last, it's likely they'll always have less time. Unless a daily standup is being run really strictly, there's going to be conversation about whatever each developer is working on. If there's no two-way video it's worse. The "main" team will tend to dominate the conversation because they can see each other. Consider that for a team of eight, a fifteen minute standup gives each person two minutes. That's honestly plenty of time to report what happened yesterday, what's being worked on today, what's blocking, getting quick answers, and setting up follow ups on issues that take too long for the meeting.
Yes, this is a standup management problem. "I'll email you to schedule a talk" should be said frequently. But the remote team is still devalued by going consistently last.
- Everyone must be visible on video. Work as if everyone is remote.
- Start standups with the remote team for a week or two, to remind everyone they're equally important. Then, randomize the order people go in.
Remote work can benefit many companies and employees. It takes effort, but is a worthwhile practice to learn.
- What are the keys to successful remote team relationships?
- 12 Essential Remote Work Tools We're Using at Buffer Every Day
Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication It should be noted that these oft-quoted ratios have their limitations and critics.↩