Reflections from a Remote Employee
I have worked remotely for the better part of the last ten years of my career – before everyone was doing it. I’ve worked in settings where my entire team was dispersed around the globe and others where I was the outlier. I love every aspect of my work-from-home life – the flexibility, the ability to focus without distraction, AND knowing that on a semi-regular basis, I could gather with my team in the office (or event) to collaborate face-to-face and strengthen relationships with my colleagues.
For others like me, who worked remotely before it was cool, wasn’t it fun when the pandemic allowed everyone to realize how great it was to work at home?
It sure was fun and we were all living our best work-at-home lives…until the inevitable happened. Restrictions are lifted and organizations have a real challenge on their hands. What now?
- Stay remote?
- Call people back to the office?
- Go to a hybrid model?
This is a HUGE challenge that every organization, be it public or private sector, is facing today. I wish I was here to provide answers, alas, I have more questions than answers. What I will do is share my perspectives that reflect conversations that have come up recently in virtually every social or professional setting I’ve been in.
Interestingly, when doing light research for this post, I Googled “Pros and Cons of Remote Working”. The most recent article I found was from early 2022 and, like most articles, focused on the value to the individual. We can all agree that most employees have settled nicely into their remote lifestyle. No commute, improved work/life balance, increased productivity. But what about the organization? There are financial implications like capital costs – what about the office space we own or lease? And more importantly, how will our culture suffer if we’re not side-by-side in the office?
Back to the Office:
There are people who value their time in the office. They thrive on the buzz that an office creates, and they collaborate better when they are face-to-face. Their homes were never designed to include home offices because they never intended to work at home. Many people’s social circles are tied to their work community, and they miss their friends. From an organizational standpoint, this may be the easiest solution, but there is that darned ‘culture’ question again. How will this impact our culture for those people who are thriving in their remote offices and don’t want to come back?
The best of both worlds, right? Everyone is happy because everyone gets what they like, right? I suggest it is not. Conversation after conversation tells me that hybrid has been the most problematic. When the world went remote, organizations were able to hire the BEST person for the job, not the person who happened to be closest to the office. So, when employees are now being told that they need to report to the office a couple of days a week, what does that mean for the team members who were hired on the other side of the country? People sit at their desks, in an office they are mandated to be at, and are still in video meetings with their remote counterparts. Who is this benefiting? And what is it doing to our collective corporate cultures?
We are in the middle of a Corporate Culture Revolution
There is no right answer, but one thing is certain, Pandora’s box is open — there is no going back to the ‘before times’. Employees will show their support (or lack thereof) by either showing up to work or finding work with organizations who reflect their preferred workstyle. The organizations who can figure it out the fastest will reap the reward of attracting and retaining the best people – those with shared values – and see success for the long haul.