I was wrong. Remote Work is not the Future.
You know that over used phrase “eating your own dog food,” or my personal preference … drinking your own champagne?
Owl Labs is all about better connecting office employees and remote workers, and last March I had the “opportunity” to work remotely for a whole 3 weeks.
It wasn’t my choice, trust me.
I’ll spare you the details, but the short story is that I had a small surgery on my foot that kept me homebound until I could walk again. I had expected that losing my mobility would be the most frustrating part of the experience.
However, the torture from being all … alone … all … day … every … day might have been just as terrible.
You think that being able to work from the comfort of your own home would be nice? Calming maybe? No distractions and plenty of time to focus?
For me, it was my personal hell. I was lonely. I had trouble focusing. I didn’t know when to start working or when to stop working. It was impossible to come up with new ideas or get into my creative space.
At one point I got so down on myself, my extremely compassionate coworker and friend Karen came over with gin and tonics in tow. She gets me.
So here I am, someone who has been shouting from the hilltops about the movement toward remote work, its benefits, and why we should all prepare our businesses to support it. Was I wrong?
We’ve done studies that indicate that people already work remotely at least once per week. We’ve reported that remote work is a great way to accelerate hiring and find better candidates, simply by expanding the candidate pool beyond commutable distance. Our own team at Owl Labs is approximately 50% remote.
But let me tell you, my friend.
If remote work is the future, I’m in deep shit.
Mantra for the Hybrid Team
I think it’s time for some recalibration, and better, to think about what the movement toward remote work has actually been about …
First, if you’ve been doing your best to make remote work possible for your people, you’re on the right track. Of course, it’s important to think through how to include your remote workers and make communication effective.
However, I do think policies intended to improve quality of life for the remote worker can be extremely short sited. Bear with me, but consider the progressive and well-intentioned companies pursuing “remote-first” cultures. (One remote-first practice is to have all teammates jump on a call individually, even if some folks happen to be in the same location.)
Why do we need remove in-person interaction (the very energy that motivates people like me) from those working in the office, in order to support those working out of the office? That’s not a solution. That’s a simplification.
We need to think bigger.
The future isn’t a world where we think about remote workers vs. office workers.
The future isn’t an organization that has in office policies vs. remote work policies.
The future is a world where we are no longer labeled by where we work. And instead we support each person’s work style … whatever that may be (for that week, day, moment) and make location completely irrelevant.
So how do we get there?
Let’s stop thinking about remote workers vs. office workers, and instead start thinking about hybrid teams.
In fact you’re likely part of a hybrid team already. It’s a group of people who need to work together effectively and likely will never be all together in the same room. (Because let’s face it — that’s how the world works.) At any given a point, a teammate might be at home, on the couch, a neighborhood coffee shop, co-working space, Miami Beach and yes, even the office.
By defining the team vs. categorizing the worker, we’re no longer labeling people by where they’re located. We’re not putting people into buckets.
And when a person’s label is removed and location is irrelevant, the way we approach communication, career growth, management, productivity all become a lot bigger. Barriers are removed. We all get a lot smarter.
Each person will be and feel equally effective wherever they are.
And for me? Set me up in a desk in an office, please.