Working remotely has been becoming more important as an option for prospective employees when searching for their next venture. If I have kids that sometimes fall ill, will I be able to attend meetings virtually and still take care of my business from home? If my car breaks down on the way to work, can I make progress on my presentation from the repair shop?
These kinds of questions are running through the minds of current and future employees, especially in the tech space. Granted, most jobs in the tech industry can be done remotely. Software engineering, design, QA, and even product management, can all be as successful as a distributed team as a colocated one.
I have a feeling that more and more we will see companies not just allowing X number of work from home days a week or month, and more of all the team is remote on Wednesdays, or something similar.
Right now, I have about a 45 minute commute from my house to my office. As I’ve gotten used to the drive, along with the fact that I listen to audiobooks or podcasts on the way, it has become less and less of a big deal. Of course, I’d like to have a shorter commute, but for right now it could definitely be worse. I’ve spoken to people who have commutes extending over an hour each way, which I find ridiculous.
Of course, there is a case for a bit of a commute, as for many people it’s the only time in the day where we are completely alone with our thoughts, listening to music, a book, the news, or appreciating a bit of silence. I enjoy listening to an audio book while driving, but would I rather have two hours of my day back if I didn’t have to commute? Absolutely.
The reason for remote working is not just about time in our day lost by driving or taking the train. When it comes to hiring, you really can’t beat the fact that you can hire anyone in the world, rather than those just in your area code.
As rent prices in the Bay Area have reached astronomical prices, as well as cities like New York, Seattle, and Chicago, it just makes the most logical sense to have employees than can live anywhere rather than forcing them to be in one of those places.
Another common theme I’ve noticed, especially among designers, is that when they need dedicated time to get some work done, they choose to work from home. With most companies opting for open offices, with all the pros and cons that they come with, it’s no surprise that to be the most productive, employees can have a difficult time concentrating at the office and need to work from home to be uninterrupted. Ambient noise, meetings, getting pulled here and there by coworkers, etc. are all things that have an effect on employee productivity, when dealing with work that requires uninterrupted “flow” state concentration to be the most effective.
It’s easy to walk into any newer office and think, “Wow, all this is such a waste of money.” The physical perks, furniture, office space, and many other things contribute to this opinion.
While I enjoy going into an office, seeing my coworkers and spending face-time with them, there is no doubt that, from a productivity and financial standpoint, remote working trumps working in an office. If I were starting my own company tomorrow, while trying at first to find workers locally, I would keep my search open, and allow remote employees from anywhere in the world.
There are, of course, things that become an issue when working remotely, such as communication, transparency, and collaboration. But all these things can be overcome with good organizational design, effective tools, and a good on-boarding process.
I don’t want to say that it’s as black and white as good and bad, because, especially at this point in my career, I appreciate being in close proximity to my coworkers, learning from them in person, and feeling like I am a part of a physical group.
It’s difficult to argue the fact that a long commute, sometimes unnecessary office perks, and all the extra costs that fall under the physical office space, are not the best use of funds in all situations. I feel that hybrid working is the future, and starting today, most companies can stand to allow remote working when the employees deem needed, without compromising any productivity.
Something to think about: Do you have a long commute to work every day? Are you able to work remotely if possible? If not, see if your company is willing to implement a program to allow for more flexible working.