Coming to Work Sick

San Francisco has just required that most business offer paid sick leave. According to 43% of all American workers have no paid sick leave benefit.

Dev Room

Our development team spends most of it’s time in a group room around pairing stations.

Per Alistair Cockburn, commons allow for highly efficient warm modes of communication. Unfortunately, commons spread disease like a daycare center. One cold can easily work through three or four team members. Plentiful supplies of tissue, wipes and hand sanitizer are standard operating procedure.

As is strong encouragement that sick team members stay home. Ironically enough, with a performing agile team this is a hard message to communicate because they simply don’t want to let their team down.

Modern technology to the rescue! Our office is in Manhattan and we have workers who live in New Jersey and Long Island. In a city that manages to be shut down at least once a year for tragic or trivial reasons, we are setup to telecommute. We equip our team with laptops, headsets, a secure tunnel, skype and vnc. We’ve found that the developers work so closely and interchangeably together when in the office, they know each other well enough to overcome many of the disadvantages of short-term separation and cold modes of communication.

It’s typical to have a team member e-mail “I’m not feeling well but I’ll sleep through the morning and try to pair up in the afternoon.”

How closely we work together facilitates the ease with which we can remote. This mitigates how easily colds spread because we work so closely together. A beautiful symmetry in offsetting, unintended consequences.

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.

One thought on “Coming to Work Sick

  1. I couldn’t agree with this more. I’ve been sick more in the last year than in the last 10 🙁 No one wants to stay home!!!

    Oksana and I are dedicating a few minutes to this point at our pairing talk at code camp on Sat 🙂

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