The rise of public announcements has been rapid. Almost daily we see a large tech company or global organization share that going forward that will be a “remote” company. The reality is that their actions will speak far louder than words ever could.
Some companies are paying lip service to something new in hopes of being rewarded for the clout that inevitably comes with it. Others are following through on what they’ve announced.
This brings us to the most important point around this transition to remote.
Whatever the leadership of a company does sets the culture of the company.
Leaders all in office? You’re an office first-culture
Leaders all remote? You’re a remote-first culture
If management runs back to the office, an organization will remain centralized. This is inevitable and unavoidable. The most advantageous situation for each individual in terms of career development will be to attend that place as frequently as possible in order to get rewarded and recognized by management.
The problem is that career progress is dictated by proximity to leadership.
Similarly, people operating remotely as a minority are cut out of the loop in decision-making. Off the cuff decisions not adequately recorded end up being implemented because the majority of people have consented.
All in office makes this easy.
All in remote makes this easy.
The only difference is that a remote-first company defaults to transparency, documentation, and written communication which doesn’t cut office-based employees out of the loop — and therefore is the mode of communication and decision making that has to be adopted in order to make it equitable.
Hybrid working where you have people operating full-time either remotely or in the office is the worst of both worlds. These organization will unknowingly discriminate and disqualify access to opportunity. These organizations become homogenous incredibly quickly as women are generally repressed.
This is unacceptable.
Fortunately, the remote work dilemma dictates that these organizations will perish. Hiring the best person you can afford in a 30-mile radius of an office while disqualifying almost every demographic cuts down on access to talent dramatically. Paying for office space in major cities comes with a bill of $15,000-$50,000 per worker each year. These organizations' refusal to understand why 90% of people never want to work in an office again full-time will be their downfall.
Remote organization will be the most accessible, diverse, and inclusive in history as a result — if they take the time to focus on why that is so important. Others won’t and the organization will reflect that.
This is not some panacea that will emerge without effort. Sure, remote work is a bridge to a higher quality of life. It can help single parents, people caring for other people, those more introverted, anyone with health conditions or impairments which makes working in an office incredibly difficult if not impossible, access opportunity.
But if the leadership of a company goes back to the office full-time it never will. If organizations replicate the office remotely, enforcing the industrial revolution expectation of one-size-fits-all 9–5 working, it never will. If companies insist on the surveillance culture of screen tracking, mouse clicks, and sitting in a zoom room all day on video, it never will.
Remote work has the potential to deliver the biggest quality of life upgrade of this generation. It has the potential to act as a bridge to a better future of living than the one we currently inhabit. It could liberate people from having to leave behind family and friends for big-city opportunities, which typically lead to a massive cost of living leaving little disposable income. But will it?
So, you think you’re a remote company? Are you really willing to be?
For almost every company the answer to that question remains to be seen.