Remote workers and how to keep them

I’ve been working as a remote software developer for over five years now. I gather that some outfits do this better than others. In case they’re useful/inspirational for anyone else, I want to highlight the key things that have made this workable for so long. The key idea: Treat your remote workers as first-class, full-fledged members of the team.

  • Have a chat server which everyone is connected to whenever they are working. IRC, Slack, whatever. Logging into this server is effectively showing up at work. If your group is big, give each small team its own channel, but have a common one too. Make it OK to have random chitchat there, just like people do in the break room or hallway.
  • Ask of every meeting or group event: How do remote workers participate? Encourage this mindset in all managers and anybody who arranges meetings of any sort. Stream video for presentations. Solicit questions from remotes.
  • Don’t keep critical information on a tackboard, whiteboard, fridge, or other physical thing that only in-office employees can see (and change).
  • If you do something fun for in-office employees, match it for the remotes. (My employer took on-site employees to see the new Star Wars when it came out; they sent $50 Fandango cards to us remotes.)
  • If you can afford it, fly everybody to work together at the same location for one week a year. (If your main office is suitable, great. If not, rent, or take everybody to Hawaii or something.) My employer has done this and I consider it a crucial part of my long-term enjoyment of the job. I know the people I work with not just as nicks and avatars and work product, but as people I’ve hung out with (and worked next to) also.