A couple of retros back our PM remarked that he had only seen ‘remote pairing’ as an entry in the sad column, but on our team it featured on the happy column three weeks in a row. Our team is distributed across 3 locations and we have atleast 2 pairs remoting everyday. On typical Labs engagements this would be a pain point or a risk factor but we’ve been managing it very well and don’t really feel the pain of remoting. Here are some things that helped us:
You are going to spend a lot of time with those headphones on, so make sure you get your favourite pair. A lot of frustrations surrounding remote pairing stem from use of bad tooling or bad network connection. We’ve been using Google hangout for audio and video and Mac screen sharing using VNC. We also use HipChat for the team chat rooms.
Speak before doing
Its important to always be on the same page as your pair. This is easier when pairing in person because you can constantly read your pair’s body language and react to various visual cues. Extracting the same information from just listening to your pair can be hard. Lack of visual signs result in both of you trying to move the mouse at the same time or typing together or being unaware that your pair is uncomfortable. Some ways of getting around this:
Involve your pair
Always remember that remoting is difficult for you and your pair. Your pair is removed from the team and misses out on a lot of context and conversations. You can be a proxy between your team and your remote by:
Remote pairing is exhausting and even though your pair doesn’t have the opportunity to challenge you to ping pong, don’t forget to take breaks!
Occasional On-site pairing
This might not always be an option but if possible, try to create situations where your pair can meet the team in person. Even if this is very infrequent, the benefits are tremendous.