As William Gibson famously said:
The future is already here it is just unevenly distributed
Remote work is quietly moving to dominate the workspace.
You may not realize the extent to which it is already here — 20m people across the EU and USA already operate remotely, while that number is projected to grow to 40m people by 2030 — but it’s more difficult to ignore its promise.
At a time when so many people are struggling to find purpose or meaning at work, the answer might be to let people work in there lives instead of living to work. At a foundational level, the time wasted commuting alone is a large enough environmental concern to incentivise the switch. More generally the benefits on both the worker and company side are inescapable.
📉 save 80% on costs
📈 more productive
😆 happier teams
🏭 less pollution
🌍 hire globally
🤗 retain staff
🗓️ more control
❤️ see their family
🚗 zero commuting
💸 lower cost of living
🌞 higher quality of life
The conclusion: remote working is inevitable.
The Truth? It’s already here.
There’s no difference between being remote on different continents than being on different floors of the same office. In both situations, people use slack, email and the phone to communicate. Convenience will always trump proximity.
The reality is that almost everyone is already a remote worker, whether they care to admit it or not. If you are answering emails out of hours, taking your laptop home to work or Bill in accounts calls frequently with ‘quick queries’ you’re operating remote. You just don’t have the trust, flexibility and life control that operating in that manner should give you.
And make no mistake, trust is the gating factor for remote working to explode globally. Too many middle managers are scared of the implications of a distributed workforce they can no longer micromanage to pass the time. Time spent in the office is still the KPI a lot of companies use to judge employee performance. I can’t think of anything which less accurately assesses competence and performance. Similarly, situations where promotion decisions are made by who you drink beer with out of hours, is massively problematic. It stops the most qualified people from progressing and ensures a lack of diversity emerging. Offices have become an excuse to maintain the status quo under the guise of cultural fit.
Which masks what offices have become, the worst possible place to be productive. They were originally conceived to be the best place to focus, providing isolation to do your best work, with the tools you needed to do it. Due to the cost of real estate though, they have been forced to fit more people per sq.ft into each office meaning that rather than everyone having a private office, as was originally the case, everybody operated in a distraction factory open-plan office where it’s impossible to concentrate or get anything done without some distracting or interrupting you.
Worse than that, offices have become adults kids clubs filled with bean bags, beer fridges, games consoles, fooseball and ping pong tables.
People don’t want more playful offices. They want more:
They want to work remotely.
Companies who want to attract and retain world-class talent must offer trust, not toys. Companies who provide this will dominate, those who don’t will lose their best people to their biggest competitors.