— November 22, 2017
Everyone has an opinion about remote work. They’re for it. They’re against it. They’re for it until they are against it. And, so the conversation keeps on ticking. The debate kicked back into high gear this year when IBM decided to pull all workers from their homes and cafes back into the office.
But, all the debate is kind of bullshit when you think about the amount of work that is done outside of the office regardless of the company’s policies about where employees should work. Nearly every company, across every industry, has some experience with 24/7 remote work, and they celebrate it. All too often, remote working is expected by CEOs and business leaders when they want an answer at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night. Or on a Sunday evening when they are just “getting organized for the week.” Or during bad weather that forces people to stay home. Or during a citywide event that keeps people away from the office, or when an employee’s kid is too sick to go to school and there is no babysitter to be found.
How many times have you heard a mother say, “I’ll log on after the kids have gone to bed and finish this project,”? And business executives embrace this idea. Because companies care so much about their team. And parents. So, they say, “Go ahead and work all day and leave early. Put the kids to bed and get back online at 9 p.m. to finish your day.” Then the day ends, and it’s back to the same bullshit routine of slogging into the office to work together. Because “proximity matters” and “my team can only be creative sitting right next to each other”. There’s no denying the power of chemistry and the team, but it doesn’t have to be because we are physically next to each other.
The trouble is, at too many companies, under-the-radar remote working is happening all the time whether management demands it or not. But when employees ask for the real deal, it’s all lies and misconceptions like, “Won’t you be distracted during the day working from home?” or, “I couldn’t work from home because I care too much about being a part of a team.” Or, “I can’t lead a team if I’m not in the office with them physically everyday.” While this may be true for teams that should be working together (perhaps engineers or scientists in labs environments), it’s not true for knowledge workers.
Now, this topic is starting to seriously damage my calm. It just keeps coming up. I reread this article recently in Adweek: “Has Agency Work-Life Balance Reached a Crisis Point?” And it floored me. Companies that expect “all work, no life” make me curious about other things. If you don’t offer remote flexibility, I start to judge your technology stack. Your benefits. Your VC financing. Your commitment to your employees. Why? Because so many amazing companies are killing it and aren’t tethered to these old and lame excuses for not offering this flexibility to grown adults.
If we didn’t offer real, during the day, not at night or during emergencies only, remote work at my company, we wouldn’t have had teammates stay with us when they moved to San Francisco. Manhattan. Nashville. We would have never met some of our amazing team members whom we hired without meeting them face-to-face. I would have missed out on working at a beautiful coffeehouse or beachside cafe in another country. I would have had to live with the guilt of not being closer to my family, who used to live miles and miles away from me until I made a decision to move closer to them and still own and run a business remotely.
I’m not going to espouse the benefits of remote working. All of the companies below do a much better job of it. Folks like Know Your Company. And Buffer. And Basecamp. And Litmus. And Help Scout. And InVision. Sidebar: I don’t think it’s a reach AT ALL to also note that all of these companies have kickass marketing, customer service, products, culture and loyal customers who love them.