The rise of a global pandemic accelerated certain trends by over 10 years. Remote work, in particular, has been forced upon millions of workers who have now experienced the tremendous benefits first-hand.
Fortunately for people whose companies would never have considered remote working prior to COVID, they now know the pro’s massively outweigh the cons. This practice will be far more efficient in the long run and mean we’ll never return to office-first working in the future.
I had the good fortune of being a remote worker prior to COVID. I evangelized the benefits widely due to the massive quality of life increase I received as a result of it. The vast majority of people are looking forward to continuing to work remotely after COVID due to how successful it has been. Every leader I talk to suggests they have not seen any reduction in productivity.
The appeal of the office.
“Communication will always be better in person!”. According to some, not going into the office means that communication suffers. Zoom meetings mean you lose the nuance of human connection.
What people have realized while working remotely is that although in person may be better than remote communication, it’s only marginally better. While not having to commute 2 hours for a 30-minute meeting outweighs the benefits of in-person meetings. Better communication is overblown.
Office workers chastize the loss of ‘water cooler moments’ or reflect fondly on the times they solved world hunger in the corridor having accidentally stumbled into a colleague where the planets aligned and the solution coalesced instantly.
The reality is that if your company solves all its problems by luck — ‘by accident’ — its processes are broken.
It’s not competitive.
The real estate cost for a company to provide an office space is $20,000 — $50,000 per year, PER WORKER. The cost to provide the best remote work experience on the planet is $2,000 per year, PER WORKER.
Extrapolate that to a 1,000 person organization and the real estate cost balloons to $20–50m a year which can be slashed by working remotely. This is a sum of capital that has a material impact on every business. It is the difference between a company being economically viable and not.
Arguments to the contrary don’t understand the economics of how businesses work or why remote work had not emerged before. The risk to go remote before companies knew it worked was too high. Now they know it works the risk of going back to the office is existential. Companies that have no competitors today that go back to the office full-time will have remote competitors that are far more talented and cost-efficient than them tomorrow.
Every office-first company will be replaced by a remote-first competitor.
Getting a remote worker set up at home is expensive, time-consuming, and risk. We built Firstbase to let companies develop a remote strategy at the touch of a button. Companies can now fully provision a remote worker with all the tools and equipment they need to be as safe comfortable and productive at home as in an office instantly.
The second part of that problem is the available space at home. Some workers do not have space for a full remote work setup. This is mitigated by the fact that workers will no longer have to live in high-cost of living cities with relatively low-disposable income. The superpower of remote is the freedom to live wherever you want and operate whatever suits your lifestyle. Remote doesn’t mean WFH it means work anywhere that suits your needs.
Your closest social contact should not be dictated by your boss's hiring policy. The societal issues caused by office working — where you have to sacrifice your life for work — are massive. It leads to shallow, superficial relationships that lack depth, breath, or meaning.
Since ‘going remote’ I now live closer to my family, spend more time with my friend, have the opportunity to develop my hobbies with people who have shared interest where I can forge deeper bonds with them.
All while doing the best work I’ve ever done in my life. Remote work enabled lifework balance where you organize work around your life rather than sacrificing your life for work.
Real-Time Collaboration & Productivity
If your company can’t work remotely I’d be incredibly concerned about the other things that it won’t be able to do across the next 10 years An ability to work remotely is a leading indicator that a company will be able to navigate disruption and that it’s capable of innovation.
The truth is, companies have enabled disruption, distraction, and waste to proliferate while executing a lack of productivity as ‘collaboration’. The instantaneous gratification of the open-plan office where everyone is always available makes it impossible to do deep focussed work.
Synchronous working is less feasible in a virtual setting and can lead to slower response times. This is a feature not a bug. Asynchronous working will be deployed by the most productive companies in the planet to produce better more efficient work than has ever been produced before. As knowledge work becomes ever more important, the isolation to do deep focussed work free from the distraction factory adult kids club conditions that offices demand is the smartest strategic decision companies will make this decade.
On the productivity front, remote workers are far more productive. They no longer have to pad out an eight hour day to appease middle management's desire to see you sat in a seat for 8 hours. You can work when you want, recharge when you need to, and produce the best work that you’ve ever done in your life.
People scared of managing remotely aren’t fearful of the quality or quantity of work suffering. They’re concerned about losing control. The fact is offices are a great place to work if you’re a certain age, gender… and they are terrible for others. Remote teams will become flatter by default and the most diverse organization in history will emerge rapidly. They will solve problems far more efficiently and be inspired by participating in a less directorial system. Those most scared of remote working are those who perceive it to destroy the advantages they have by the office being the predominant workplace.
As States open, and going ‘back to work’ becomes an option expect a backlash from workers. Having experienced such massive quality of life gains, while having others quashed by lockdown eroding freedom, the reluctance to return for health and safety concerns will be huge. The desire to avoid wasting 10 hours a week needlessly traveling to a fixed location to use technology they have been using at home for months will be enormous.
Companies that shifted to remote work will shift not back over time. They will likely experiment with a blended approach that sees them massacre real estate by 40–70% while allowing workers to work from home 2–4 days a week.
We are about to live through the highest period of turnover inside companies in history. Companies who go back to the office full-time will lose their best people to their fiercest competitors who provide remote opportunities. Companies who go remote will be able to hire the best person on the planet for every role, rather than the best in a 30-mile radius of the office.
The genie is out of the bottle. The longer we stay out of the office, the more habits and behaviors calcify. Office work was a terrible proposition before we’d experienced all the life benefits of working remotely.
Now? It would be like expecting us to go back to the stone age.
The office is dead. Long live remote.