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Adapting to challenges of telecommuting on projects

When taking on the challenge of telecommuting on projects, there are three areas that are most affected.  Being able to communicate effectively becomes much more challenging often relying on software.  Access to physical resources can deeply hinder the progress of projects especially when it comes to proprietary technology required to work on the project.  Being able to work effectively on a team project requires to be in sync with coworkers, which becomes much more difficult if you are working with one or more persons in a different time zone.

Communications – When telecommuting, you can’t just walk over to someone’s office or cubicle.  Keeping an online presence where you can be reached any time during the work day is a necessity.  This can be facilitated through communication technologies like instant messaging software (Slack, MS Teams, etc.), video conference software (Slack, MS Teams, Zoom, etc.) and online document sharing (google drive, Atlassian products, etc.) for approval/discussion purposes.  Additionally, since you will be meeting in person less, you will likely be having longer meetings online and much more often to sync with team members.  This is usually due to waiting for team members to arrive, people talking over one another and technical issues.

Physical Resources – When working on a project, there will be times that you need access to physical equipment.  For instance, if you are working on an embedded device, you will need that device and should something go wrong with it, it might need to be repaired or replaced.  All of this is much more difficult when working remotely.  Some needs to be contacted for a new device or repair, the new and old device must be shipped which can take time depending on the shipping speed as well as the speed of replacement process.  Not having access to a repository of equipment (i.e. cables, attachments, accessories) means that the process of development will be slowed down.

Syncing with coworkers – One of the more complicated aspects of working remotely is the human factor.  If you are working on a project with team mates from different time zones or even different countries there will be a different in work schedules.  Occasionally there will be little to no overlap in hours worked, so any hours of overlap are very important and can’t be wasted rehashing old conversations.  Prepare for any meetings with textual written communications (document sharing, emails, IMs) before the video meeting so no time is wasted.  It is also important to keep a watchful eye on communication software to make sure no notifications are missed, if they are this can lead to a large gap in conversations that will slow things down.

The most important aspect of telecommuting on projects is communication.  Being persistent in chats or calls is a necessity so that there are no miscommunications on the project and that common goals are understood.  Be aware and upfront about equipment needs, to ensure that there will be as little interference with project development as possible.


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