Going Remote or Back to the Office is an Intelligence Test for Managers Everywhere
The media would have you believe it’s almost 50/50 whether people want to return to the office or continuing to work remotely after Covid-19.
The reality is far clearer
- 90% of people never want to work in an office again full-time
- 50% of people never want to work in an office ever again
The dissonance around this is huge
People who love offices love offices and think everyone else feels the same way as them. The problem is that clearly they don’t.
The office is broken and always has been.
It’s great if you belong to a very specific demographic. It discriminates against or disqualifies a huge number of people who find it almost impossible to work from there full-time.
- single parents
- those caring for family
- people with health conditions/impairments
Remote work should enable the most diverse and inclusive workplaces in history. This is the most important thing about it yet it’s almost universally washed over by old white dudes. They dictate that we need to return to offices due to ‘improved collaboration’, ‘water cooler moments’, ‘how lonely and isolating remote working is’, or whatever other bullshit they spout that day.
The reason they want to return to the office is that they are scared and don’t trust their teams. They;re concerned that if we move to a system that measures outcome rather than just the time you spend sitting in a chair they will be detrimentally impacted. It turns out that when you work remotely who you drink with after work or chew the fat with has little bearing on your ultimate success and progress within a business.
That’s the way it should be. Progress should be dictated by performance.
The most dangerous we do is accept what’s happened before because it’s the way things have always been. The office is a by-product of the industrial revolution where we transplanted factory line workdays onto knowledge workers for no better reason than it was familiar. Then the office became the only place we could access the technology we needed to do our work.
Now we travel to a grey building in a city center to work on technology designed to be used anywhere on the planet. When two workers are on different floors of the same building they communicate by picking up the phone, Slacking one another, or sending an email.
We’ve already been working remotely for at least a decade while continuing to pay the tax on our quality of life that the office extracts. This is the definition of insanity.
As that’s happened the amount of time it occupies within our life has been elongated by transparent measures to squeeze as many hours — not productivity or outcomes — out of workers as possible. Food on-premise, masseuses, games consoles, ping pong tables. Offices have become distraction factory adult kids clubs which are the worst place imaginable to do deep focussed work. They actively destroy productivity while expecting longer hours to do the same amount of work. I’d rather do a higher quality of work more quickly.
We work to live the life we want.
We seem to have lost that.
At the same time, the office became the anchor of our social life. The people we spend the most time with are selected by our employer’s HR team. The deepest common bond we share is a dependence on the continued economic success of that business. If that ends the relationship typically does. Our most frequent social contact has become our most fragile.
The office increasingly contributes to the shallow superficial relationships that plague modern life. We don’t need more relationships that never go below the surface. We need space to spend more time with the people we care about most doing the things we love. Friends, family, and hobbies.
Remote isn’t even about a new way of working. It’s a shift in human patterns of living and access to opportunity. The final critique typically posits that younger people suffer from a shift to remote work.
- ‘They don’t have space in their cramped homes’.
- ‘They need the mentorship of the office’.
- ‘They must learn Professionalism’.
Nonsense peddled by Office Saviors with misaligned incentives. The young people they are trying to defend want remote working. They don’t need old people to save them by telling them what they need.
- Remote work doesn’t mean that you never meet in person.
- Cramped living is an implication of big cities and the need to live close enough to only have to commute for an hour or two each day.
- Millennials & younger generations are used to building relationships online. We learn in ways these white-haired have no idea about.
The final piece, that irks me most, is the most wrong
‘What about vulnerable jobs and the losses they will suffer’ at the expiration of the ‘Office Economy?’.
Do they not understand economics?
- This is typically suggested by people who don’t give a shit about the people losing their jobs (hello Deutsche bank and their moronic suggestion of a 5% tax on remote workers)
- It assumes that these roles won’t move to wherever remote workers end up working from. I still buy coffee and lunch. Actually, I buy a lot more of both. The difference being I buy it locally, not from a faceless chain on the high street.
The roles they are referring to — due to them not being the highest-paid — expect workers to commute hours a day. This extracts a massive toll in terms of the high cost of living and leaves relatively little disposable income. Remote work is a potential route to increasing that and leads to a renaissance of commuter towns that sit abandoned during the week killing local commerce.
That’s not to be naive to the fact there will be issues.
But to succumb to the suggestion of bag holding commercial real estate holders isn’t right nor should we accept their idiotic arguments for a continuation of a way of life that taxes our quality of life so much.
People love remote work and ultimately employees will vote with their feet. The only companies that can afford to go back to an office full-time are monopolies. Even they’ll be forced to pay even higher wages to compete for talent that wants to work remotely.
Companies that go back to being office-first lose all their best people to their biggest competitors. They will then be killed slowly then suddenly. They will bleed talent while becoming less cost-efficient. Every office first company will lose to a remote-first competitor.
This is a replay of brick and mortar retail vs. eCommerce. Initially, everyone thought stores would win because nobody would buy things online.
When they did it destroyed brick and mortar.
This is about to happen to office working.
By 2030, there will be 128m+ roles done remotely a majority of the time.
Modern life has become digital.
Work must become digital as well.
This has the potential to provide access to better opportunities to billions of people globally. It will uncouple opportunity from location, letting people leave expensive cities, with low disposable income.
The office should be dead.
Killed by remote work and living
The biggest quality of life upgrade in a generation
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