Staying engaged in agile while working remotely

I am working for a company that is transitioning to an agile methodology. During a training session co-locating was emphasized which is a concept where an entire team is all sitting side by side in the same room or space to promote collaboration. Since team members work in different offices all around the world, work from home and have alternating schedules, a question was asked how do you engage remote team members to spark collaboration? In this article I will share a few ideas that I find helpful while working remotely 100% of the time.

Use the tools

We use atlassian tool suite and it has amazing collaboration features baked into the products. Keeping discussion in JIRA issues or confluence allow for transparency, ability to find them later and reduce the overall feeling to have a meeting. A few features I find invaluable:

Throw the headset on

Quite often we get into IM typing frenzy and more times than not I will put the head phones on and make a call. It allows for conversation, ability to derive an answer quicker and absorb tone. Selfishly it allows me to have a conversation with somebody other than my dogs! If you don’t have the ability to have an audio conversation, I would encourage you to set it up.

Use video chat

Modern workspaces are adapting to the culture of remote employees. Typically you find conference rooms set up with video and TVs while most laptops have cameras. Again this aides with communication and allows people to be part of the conversation.

Code reviews

Code review tools is a major source of collaboration. I don't mean old school code reviews where you would pull in source, use beyond compare and then send a bulleted point email about the things that should be fixed. I am talking about source code management that have pull requests built in such as bitbucket, github and stash. Code reviews allow for better code quality, the ability to see what is happing in your code and most importantly drive people to have a conversation.