Can an #Agile team mate #telecommute?

When Yahoo released the memo about employees not being able to work from home any more, there was the expected backlash against something which has become more and more common. It was especially unexpected given that Yahoo’s new CEO recently had a child and might be expected as someone who would find value in being able to work from home.

If you haven’t seen the story. Here is a link to one of the many articles on the subject:

Yahoo Reaction

Individual versus Team

My thoughts on this matter revolve around the concept of individual versus team performance. In fact, the link to the article provides a perfect quote:

“They didn’t lose my productivity,”

As someone who has a 6 and 7-year-old, I can’t see how someone who works from home could be as effective by working the same amount of time. Little questions and requests have context switches inherent in them. We always talk about the impact of task switching at work. We have to be consistent and also recognize the impact of task switching at home. So let’s assume that the person in question puts in the extra time to be as productive at home as they were at work.


What about the Team?

But what about team productivity? Unless you are working on a solitary project, having a remote member has to affect the team productivity. People work around the missing person. Instead of an immediate in-person discussion they have to make a phone call, instead of white-boarding they either create an electronic diagram or set up a video-conference. Now what happens when the remote person may not be available due to an urgent issue on their side? Technology can help, but the experience isn’t the same and there is an effect on the team.

But what about remote Agile teams?

My opinion, and it is only my opinion, is that I would prefer to not have to deal with a remote team. Now this isn’t possible in some circumstances, but we can’t pretend a remote team will be as efficient as a co-located team. The only question is how bad it will be.

I’d prefer Agile teams to always be co-located in one room. I don’t want to be in a separate room in one building, never mind some people being at home or across the continent.


I think Yahoo is correct. The company and teams work best when everyone is together. The collaboration and innovation that happens when people are together can’t be replicated.

I understand that are complexities that make everyone co-located a challenge. But if you gave me the choice, I’d choose everyone in same room every single time.

Every quote I had seen on this topic also had the individual aspect as the primary focus. The quotes proposed that “I” was still as productive. No one ever stated that the “team” was still as productive.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

One thought on “Can an #Agile team mate #telecommute?”

  1. Well said. I think Yahoo made the move as a way to start cleaning house. They will probably allow some telecommuting (one day a week or when needed, but no longer allow people to never show up to work) once those that abused the privilege have been dealt with or leave.


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