Remote work (also known as WFH) is a hot topic in 2022. As pandemic-era mandates and restrictions come to an end, there has been a new battle forming.
In the left corner, we have companies that want their employees to come back into the office, and in the right-hand corner, we have employees who have been allowed to work remotely for the last two years being asked to come back into the office.
Futuristic visionary Elon Musk isn’t a fan of remote work and claims that remote workers are just pretending to work. A few months ago, Musk famously sent an email telling people they must be in the office or get fired, even going as far as receiving absenteeism reports as staff are surveilled. And as a result, Tesla is struggling with its mandate.
While Musk is one of the biggest opponents of remote work, there are many others who are of the same opinion as Musk.
Ironically, all of these companies fighting remote work are doing so during very low unemployment levels. In Australia, the current unemployment rate is 3.5% and companies are struggling to find skilled candidates. In the USA, coincidentally, the unemployment rate is also 3.5%. It’s not historically low, but it is quite low.
You don’t get to complain about a skills shortage if you’re also forcing people to be back in the office. The remote work experiment companies were unwillingly forced to participate in during the pandemic showed that it works and many enjoyed it.
Some of us either worked remotely before the pandemic (like myself) and those who got the taste for it want to continue working remotely. If I did the math on the money I’ve saved in fuel, car maintenance costs, work coffee runs and eating out, it would be a lot of money I’ve saved staying at home.
We need to let go of some misconceptions and ill-informed notions about remote work:
- Remote workers are not lazy
- It’s not difficult to manage a full or part remote team
- Just because someone isn’t in the office doesn’t mean you can’t measure their output
- Remote work won’t open the floodgates for companies to replace their employees with cheaper outsourced workers
- Being in the office doesn’t mean employees won’t waste company time or slack off
We have had the tools to measure output and efficiency on projects for years now. Tools like Jira, Trello and others can provide you with visibility into work. A company that trusts its tools and sets them up correctly has clarity around work.
The only people that stand to gain from forcing people back into the office are commercial landlords that lease office space. The next time you read an anti-remote work article, look deeper into the author because you’ll most likely discover a bias.
While I don’t think everyone should be forced to work remotely, I do believe that companies need to offer a choice. Let people come into the office if they want and if they want to stay home, let them. It shouldn’t be one way or the other.
As for me, why would I want to commute into the office just to Slack the person in the same office? And if you think that’s an exaggeration, ask anyone who works in an office that uses Slack. We’ve been remote for years, just because we’re in the office doesn’t mean we talk to one another.
I too have been remote since before the Pandemic. We had a large project to deliver and even though the Pandemic made us all remote and there were a few teething problems getting everyone set up, we all got on with it and got the job done. I think upper management was surprised how well it worked (we’re a small company about 30 employees) – they were certainly quite resistive about allowing remote work before that. Because at least 2 of us were remote pre-pandemic most of the time anyway, some of our practices were already “remote-friendly” like conducting our dev standups over Skype (now Teams), which partly helped the transition of others. They’re much more accepting of it now.
My initial reason for being remote started was so I could do school runs and school pickups with my kids, which wouldn’t be practical if I was in the office. But since my youngest is now on the verge of completing her VCE, next year I’ll rethink when/if I want to go into the office.
But it’s not likely to be frequently, because I save on petrol, tolls, parking, car wear and tear, frustration, and most importantly my time. I like the fact that I don’t add to congestion or pollution. My employer actually benefits from the latter because it means even if I worked 9 hours on a given day (when circumstances dictate), I’m still ahead compared to driving to and from work.