I think many would agree that 2020 has been a terrible year on multiple fronts. One of the biggest dampers on 2020 was COVID-19, which has changed how we live, interact, work and go about our daily lives.
Perhaps the biggest positive and upside to COVID-19 is the remote work revolution that was forced upon everyone. For some of us, we were ready for it and either already remote working or wanting too. Companies had a choice, allow their employees to work remotely or not work at all.
You’ll find articles arguing for both sides. However, there are more upsides than downsides for remote work, which makes it the clear choice for those who want it.
The biggest benefit of remote working is how much money you will save. It’s not until you’re no longer in a conventional office environment that you realise you spend more than you know on incidentals like coffee, lunches and other little pocket picking expenses. Then you have transport costs (public transport, fuel) as well as things like parking, it all adds up.
And it’s not only employees saving money, it’s the businesses themselves. If you require less office space, you are saving on leasing fees, utilities like electricity and internet, in-office server space and redundancy solutions. Reducing overheads, especially in uncertain times is a win-win for everyone.
Offices are distracting. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in an open-plan office or you have your own cubicle, distractions in the office are rampant and they will always find a way to hunt you down.
Either someone is constantly coming up to your desk (even with noise cancelling headphones on) and asking you for something, or loud phone calls and conversations are embedding themselves into the deepest parts of your ears.
Impromptu meetings are also another distraction that will derail productivity faster than an air raid siren in a library.
Remote Teams Get More Shit Done
More flexibility leads to better productivity. Combined with reduced distractions, remote teams are less distracted and more productive: remote teams get more shit done.
A traditional office is a 9-5 thing, some places offer “flexible” working hours, but what they really mean is, a majority of your office working hours still need to align with everyone else. Instead of starting at 9, some places might let you start at 10 instead.
Everyone, especially in the development/programming industries works on different time cycles. I do some of my best work in the afternoons, so I tend to start later. Some do their best work early in the morning.
We Were Already “Sort of” Working Remotely
Step into any tech office of developers and designers prior to the pandemic and the first thing you would have noticed is everyone is wearing noise cancelling headphones (a large majority anyway). When you realise that we were already working remotely, your perspective changes.
If you are in an office and you’re talking to John who is a few meters away from you over Slack instead of an in-person conversation, that’s basically working remotely in the office.
Many of my interactions before working remotely were done over Slack. In-person conversations in open offices are kind of frowned upon because of their destructive impact on those around them.
A Wider Talent Pool
Here is the often understated benefit of remote working, you’re not limited to your local city to find new talent. Hiring can be hard at the best of times, finding someone suitable for the position is tricky business. With remote work, you can hire someone from the other side of the world.
This works both ways, once again. Companies have a wider hiring pool, but job seekers also are afforded the same benefit. This means you no longer have to pin your hopes on somewhere local, spin the globe and throw a dart and see where it lands.
Employees Are Just Happier
Whenever I would tell people I spend the majority of my working week working from home (this was prior to the pandemic), people were in awe and surprised. While many companies have been slowly adapting and offering some form of remote work, many do not.
Even as some parts of the world return to normal, companies were itching to get people back into the office as quick as they could. This in part comes down to trust issues from management and bosses of the company too scared to trust their employees working remotely.
It’s a good feeling knowing that company you work for trusts you to do work even when not in an office, that they are affording you the flexibility to choose your start and finish times, and to get your work done. Trust makes everyone happy.
When you work remotely, you get the sense you’ve got the best job in the world.
Everyone Should Get A Choice
Unless you’re knowingly applying for a 100% remote work company, some people don’t want to work remotely or work remotely all of the time. Everyone should get a choice. For companies who are not already permanent remote, they should offer employees the option of an office or remote.