In meetings, if anyone is remote, everyone is remote.
6 December, 2017
Before becoming VP of Engineering at FogCreek, I was the team lead of that company. At the time, it was run by a COO and the founders, who were still very present, and who were working on other project companies (Trello being one of them). I would still frequently interact with them during meetings. I have always worked remotely and da meetings would be me on the video conference system and the COO and founders all together in one conference room. During a one-on-one, I asked the COO, who I reported to, what the founders thought of me and my work. He replied they thought I was too quiet and did not give enough input.
I thought about this for a while and figured out that it might have been because I was working remotely. When having a meeting in person, communication is done without a delay. But when done remotely, you have that split second delay that makes it very hard to start talking in a fast paced conversation. Due to that inevitable delay, when people are done talking, at the moment you want to start talking, someone in the conference room has already reacted live, preventing you from successfully reacting without feeling like you are interrupting. Consequently, you talk less. I talked about this with the COO and we decided to try it out. We decided on a policy of "If anyone is remote, everyone is remote", meaning that regardless of people being in the same location, they would stay in their own offices and jump on the video call individually.
With the same handicap, everyone was given the same chance to interact during meetings. And it worked well. In fact, so well that the rule was passed on to Trello later on, and is part of the company culture now.
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