Working From Home (WFH) is an amazing thing. I have done it for years, off and on, and I really like it. Studies have repeatedly shown that people are more motivated, more focused, and more productive when working from home than when working at the office. Another major benefit is for people who face long daily commutes. Not only do they not have to spend two or more hours of utterly unproductive time driving to and from the office, people working from home also reduce traffic volume and air pollution, both major concerns where I live on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
But how does one accommodate WFH within a Scrum team? I have coached a few teams that wrestled with this issue. It is tempting to say “everyone needs to be here, every day.” And indeed, that is the only way to ensure the highest-possible bandwidth communication within a team. Given my own affinity for WFH, however, I decided the dogmatic approach would be neither effective nor realistic.
The approach I have adopted consistently — and successfully — is to work with the team to make sure everyone understands the importance of the principle of face-to-face communication and then recommend a few WFH ground rules for the team’s consideration:
- During the first Sprint or two, everyone needs to be physically present while we learn how to apply the rules of Scrum in practice
- When the team decides it is ready to run a WFH experiment, I suggest the following ground rules:
- Everyone is present for Sprint Planning, Story Time, Sprint Review, and Retrospective, which generally works out to be three days in each two-week Sprint
- Use Skype or other video conferencing technology to facilitate the Daily Scrum — voice-only dial-in may suffice temporarily, but is not adequate over the long-term
- The team needs to adopt a standard, high-bandwidth communication medium/technology, such as Skype with video, that all team members commit to use for daily collaboration
- The Daily Scrum rules: if team members decide pairing or other face-to-face contact is needed, the necessary team members must be physically present even if it means driving to the office after the Daily Scrum, although we try to avoid the latter whenever possible
- Try to give people as much predictability as possible, but the team’s needs trump all else
This is just a basic set of ground rules that I recommend and that teams I’ve coached have successfully adopted to accommodate WFH. Teams always refine, change, and adapt the initial WFH ground rules, of course, but this list serves as a good starting point.
Let me know if you find these suggestions reasonable, useful — or not.
All for now….