The Remote Worker's Bill of Rights 💂♀️
You've surely heard of Jeff Atwood. If not, he's the co-founder of StackOverflow, StackExchange, Discourse and runs a super popular blog by the name 'Coding Horror'. Long story short, he's well-known in the programming world.
I love reading his posts occasionally (if you're interested, here's a handpicked list) and the one on programmer's bill of rights (published long back, in 2006) particularly inspired me to write a similar one on remote work. Of course, there's no better time to do this than now, given we are witnessing a major turning point in the history of remote work.
Setting the context right
The Bill of Rights, as the name suggests, is a list of essentials every remote worker should possess. And it is the collective responsibility of the company and its employees to ensure that these rights are met. So if your company doesn't mandate and provide for it, you should surely take it up with your manager. At the same time, if you lead a team or run your own company, you should ensure these rights are met for every single employee.
What happens if you do so? Better remote working conditions ⇒ Improved productivity ⇒ Happier employees and success at work!
A quick disclaimer though - There are always exceptions (triggered in exceptional situations 😉) and it is fine as long as they occur rarely. For example, having an emergency or war-room meeting at an untimely hour in one or more timezones is alright on rare occasions (say, your primary service faces a sudden outage).
The Remote Worker's Bill of Rights
1. Every remote worker shall have a fast and reliable internet connection
Most of us already have a decent, working internet connection at home. However, individuals must have access to business-class internet and employers must provide for this. Fiber connection with minimal outages is ideal.
2. Every remote worker shall have an alternative or backup internet connection
It is naive to assume that there will no interruptions in your internet connection, even if it is the best in class. Hence, every individual must have a fallback, arranged on his/ her own.
3. Every remote worker shall have a workstation of their choice at home
Again, employers must provide for this. Bonus points for trendy or creative workstations e.g. treadmill desks. Also, having a comfortable chair is as important as a well thought out desk.
4. Every remote worker shall have quiet working conditions
To achieve peak productivity, every individual needs focussed concentration and at least one bout of deep work in a day. At an individual level, having a dedicated workstation in a quiet corner of the house helps achieve this. At the same time, remote teams must have protocols in place for individuals to achieve this e.g. ability to snooze off all notifications or indicate in some other way that you are busy right now.
5. Every remote worker shall have the option to turn down a meeting at an untimely hour in their timezone
Ideally, meetings should be scheduled such that they align during the working hours across all timezones (of employees). However, this might get tricky at times. So, it is best to have red zones (of time ranges) to never schedule a meeting. For example, meetings between 10PM-6AM in any timezone can be made optional.
6. Every remote worker shall have an agenda shared (or distributed) before every meeting
Bonus points for also mandating MoMs or action points after every meeting.
7. Every remote worker shall have a stipend associated with social interaction
Be it a pass for a nearby co-working space or a conference happening in the town or even a quarterly meet-up with your team, companies must provide for such perks. This actively encourages human interaction and tackles the most pertinent problem of remote working - loneliness or social isolation.
8. Every remote worker must be made capable of finding and effectively using emojis, memes and GIFs (bonus points for associating rewards with this)
You will find lots and lots of people vouching for the fact that use of emojis leads to better communication and overall, sets the right mood in remote communication. We, of course abide by that too.
Do you have a proposal for any amendment to this bill? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall look into it right away 😎