Which Work Is Suited for In-Person?

In this article on flexible working plans, number four makes a good point. What work is suited for live, in-person interaction? Which aspects of your job benefit from seeing others face-to-face?

Today I’m asking data professionals to think about it. I know we can do all our jobs remotely, after all, many of us have been doing that for at least a couple of years, and some for far longer. I can’t remember the last time I actually needed to look at a physical server I wrote code for? Probably when I self-hosted SQL Server Central back in 2002-2003 and went to reboot a machine or add a disk drive. Even then, those weren’t DBA or developer jobs, but really Operations hardware tasks.

These days many companies are trying to decide how to handle office and workers. I don’t know I’ve seen anyone come up with a good plan other than leaving everyone remote and figure out how to make things work. Every day in the office doesn’t seem great, and I’m not sure I’ve seen a good company hybrid plan. I see some groups deciding to meet once a week or once a month and that works well, but I think that’s more a reason to have some social time than it is a need for productivity.

Not that allocating some amount of time specifically to bond socially is a bad idea. I am in favor of this. We used to do this when we were in offices every day, so why not schedule this periodically now?

While you can do your job remotely, I wonder if there are not some aspects of development or operations that are better done in person. Or maybe, sometimes in-person. I can see brainstorming and planning as being smoother in person. Being focused and closely collaborating always feel stilted and confusing online. I prefer being in person. Perhaps pair programming or a similar arrangement is better in person at times. I know we can share a screen and code together, but doing this in the same room periodically builds a bond that I think would make remote sessions more productive.

The only other thing that I think matters is cross-team bonding, perhaps doing some debate and discussion of how teams work together or how their work affects others is better done in person. Perhaps not every day/week/month but once a quarter or a few times a year I can see this building better relationships between people, much like in-person pair programming.

If you have other ideas or experiences, let us know. If you think there isn’t a reason to ever go in the office, that’s something worth sharing as well.

Steve Jones


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