Remote work is in the news again. Oh, boy.
Cisco saves $490 million by implementing flexi timings for employees
Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (approx. 70%) in both cases, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.
Why do we continually re-learn this lesson? It’s not like we have little data bemoaning the still-popular trend of “Open Office Plans”.
Surprise! Open-offices, primarily designed and implemented by men, are especially terrible for women, too:
It is high time that we consider how the open-plan offices might remove an element of control for the female worker who struggles to extricate herself from a predatory colleague or boss, to include the inability to shut the door on a harasser. Certainly the open space has proven for many women not to be the visibility-protected place many had intuitively assumed it might be. As Jillian Richardson notes, “…while replacing traditional offices may offer greater flexibility and opportunities to collaborate outside your specific field, they also offer few of the same protections associated with the traditional model.”
I’ll do the uncouth thing and quote my own post that I wrote back in 2012:
I interviewed at a company that had a giant office (imagine a hundred folks in one room) and one of their engineers proudly said: “We have a generous work from home policy. I love it because I can never get any work done around here!”
I think it’s because most managers – and more founders – lack any particular background in management fundamentals (no, not a MBA). And there’s no real ongoing requirement for a manager to continually “grow” like they expect their individual contributor reports to. When was the last time you saw a manager’s KPI or OKR focused on “do management research” or “read a Deming book”? Yet, we expect – nay, force – programmers to continually learn, participate in open-source on their own time, and generally jump when we say jump. So, we get a lot of managerial superstition and intuition not borne out by the data.
But that’s a story for another day – I’ve been working remotely, in some fashion, since 2011, and in fully-distributed companies since 2014. Remote work has been growing in popularity in the last decade, and I came across The Remote Only Manifesto (posted to Hacker News).
There are a lot of really good reasons for a remote-only company. Of course, I don’t begrudge people that like working in an office. If that floats your boat, great! I just question the current superstition of “we must organize all companies this way, by default”.
I’m more productive at home: I can setup my workspace however I want for optimal productivity without loud conversations constantly disrupting me. I don’t waste hours a day, 52 weeks a year, driving (side effect: less miles/depreciation on our cars!). Whenever I take a meeting downtown and sit in the 30-60 minutes of traffic (each way) I silently say to myself: Never Again.
I also get my weekends back – I can mow the lawn whenever it’s the best time (that might be on a Tuesday at 10am). I can do laundry throughout the week. I can go grocery shopping when almost nobody else is, and get out of there in far less time than during the rush. My weekends are free of common household chores that most other people don’t get to during the week.
These reasons pale in comparison to the biggest reason why I work remotely – that would take a significant pay multiple for me to work 9-5 M-F in an office again: family. I can pop downstairs, whenever I want, and engage with my spouse/kids. I can have lunch with them. I can play with them. My relationship with my kids has vastly improved and grown since I stopped working in an office.
That? That I wouldn’t give up for almost any amount of money. Not everything is – or should be – about increased productivity. We work to live, not the other way around. In 50 years, I hope we look back at the 9-5 “everyone must be in the office” trend as inhumane.