Written before about working remotely, and this will be a bit more of that. Remote work is the tide of history, and we’re about to hit some examples on that too.
Let’s be clear upfront, though: first-world, white-collar work is very tied to technology now. Everyone is always looking for a “tech solution” to solve “pain points” from a “vendor.” Those words are probably said 10,000+ times per day in most offices.
What we all seem to miss is this, however: more tech means more flexibility. If Harry and David both need Google Drive to do their work, well, Harry can be in the office — or on a beach, so long as he can access G-Drive from the beach. (He probably can.) David can be anywhere too. It really doesn’t matter. What should matter are the results.
So, what I just said is logical, but logic has absolutely no place in how we build workplaces. People want to see their subordinates around them so they can “know what they’re doing.” In reality, most managers barely speak to or care about their direct reports, yet they still use this argument. It’s one of the great ironies of the modern managerial age.
Now throw kids into this pie. You got kids? Aging parents? Well, flexible work arrangements would be a nice thing. You could even argue flex work is a vital aspect of modern work. Hell, I’d argue that.
The big picture is this: it makes perfect sense for more employees to embrace remote work, but for a host of bullshit reasons, companies seem to either (a) not get it or (b) create backwards policies around it. And now … examples!
But of course tech giants will get remote work, right?
Let’s start with this Fast Company article.
Example 1 that everyone knows: Yahoo. They had a remote work / flex work program, rolled it back, stood by the rollback, and were ultimately sold for literal pennies on the dollar. Is that the reason? No. There were other reasons. But killing remote work didn’t help them.
Example 2, happening now: IBM. IBM had about 40% of its workforce as remote work a decade ago; some even call them a “pioneer” in the space. In March, they started rolling it back. They’re directing people to HQs now. Last week, they went HAM on it: end remote work or leave the damn company.
The greatest irony of the IBM remote work debacle is this: IBM itself wrote a white paper in 2014 discussing the benefits of remote work. HA! Oh, and a month or so ago, they hosted a panel about the effectiveness of remote work. But now it’s gone, baby!
Quickly: the elephant in the remote work room
A lot of times, companies do this because it’s an easy way to layoff people without actually laying them off. So it’s taking money off the books without the perceived awkwardness, even though the awkwardness is most assuredly still there — just in a different form.
Let’s not even get going on the Gig Economy
Work sucks, then you die? Naw. Doesn’t have to be that way. But we need new ways to think about work, and that’s what I do in a newsletter each week. Holler!
And let’s think for a second on how we got to people wanting to do this. Let’s say you’ve got two options, right? In Option A (“the green pill”), you can go into an office everyday, have insanely unclear priorities, possibly not even understand your own job role, and get dressed down by a moron every day because hierarchy allows him to do that.
Or you can work at your own pace, when you’re most productive (that’s 3am for some people), benefit the company/client/owner, and sometimes go see a movie at 1pm or play with your dog. Or get lit up if you want. Heck, I’ve done all three.
The tide of history is moving towards the latter, because mobile-first, on-demand societies don’t want people tethered to desks and airport lounges chasing nickels for the man. Remote work is where it’s at. But will companies ever truly “get” this, or hide behind HR memos about innovative togetherness?
What’s your take on remote work?