Suffice to say that when it comes to “remote working,” I’ve done it. So, when the rest of the world suddenly joined me in the practice, back at the start of this long global pandemic, you can assume that, sure, I had an opinion.
There are so many empty buildings around Toronto, where I live, but I’m sure in every major city in the world.
This is what got me thinking about remote work. Not just the health aspects of it, in this current anomaly situation, but the whole feasibility of it as a long-term condition.
Can it really work?
Let’s walk through it, some of the pros and cons.
On the upside…
Yes, you get to work in your pajamas. Or your sweats. Or at least without your shoes on.
There’s also no commute. And you can keep your own schedule, as long as you do keep one. You can take work out at lunch and take a piano lesson by Zoom at the end of the day, all without going anywhere. And there’s nobody swiping your sandwich from the fridge in the kitchen.
There’s also mobility. Maybe you like to travel, and maybe all you need is a laptop and a wifi connection, and you can get into a groove and work from anywhere.
Not everyone can do that.
Then, on the flip side…
Many people are thinking, “It’s strange to think – you might spend as much time working in an office, during the day, as you do hanging out at night with your wife and kids.”
I don’t see this in a negative way, because those work relationships matter. A lot.
Work is, ultimately, not just about a product or a service, but about your relationships with other people. Your colleagues, your customers.
Ideas are also really about people.
Steve Jobs felt relationships were so highly valued, he wanted to put the company bathroom on a different floor, so people would need to cross paths more often, just to use it.
There’s something to that. Not the plumbing decision, but about the value of randomness. Yes, I like working in isolation, some of the time.
But, more importantly, I love being around people, who have their own ideas and opinions, or tidbits of uncirculated information.
Going into the office, at least once in a while, is like treasure hunting. You rarely come away without pages of new notes and ideas.
Life, too, is about the people you share it with.
Like you, I’ve made many friends in an office, and I’ve made memories through those same friends.
So, back to the question — can we remote work forever?
Some think we can. Many companies, for instance, continued to do well. And a lot of people seem a lot happier with the shift.
But honestly, I hope not.
Sure, it’s great that we all now know how to Zoom. And that we’re figuring out how to be more flexible. The extra family time, and lack of impact from stress and commutes, have got to be good things.
But all remote, all the time… or even mostly remote with an occasional nod to office time… isn’t enough.
When you’re young and learning the ropes, you need to be around the people who can teach you incidentally as well as with intention.
When you’re mid-career, you need to be in the thick of the action to see opportunities, and to hold things together.
And when you’re on the other side of that, you need to draw from that pool of new energy, lest you get stale and antiquated in your methods or thinking.
I will, no doubt, always work remotely. After almost 30 years of working this way, it’s too late for me to go back.
But I hope the world gets back, to at least some kind of hybrid setup, that still leans more on in-house learning and collaboration.
Not just because the business needs it, but I genuinely beleive as people, we need it too.
What it boils down to is this; people need other people, especially in a collaborative work environment. We are social animals. However we can get back to that, I’m for it.
I’m always interested in your opinion. Please let me know how you feel about remote working.
Ian Dainty’s Email