The future of how we will work is uncertain. Every time I read something or talk to someone, I hear different thoughts and experiences, which influence how I feel. Actually, I’m not sure how I feel. Some companies are pushing back their office openings (Google, Microsoft) to a future time, while others are bringing people back part or full time. I had lunch with some friends working at a financial institution, and they are allowed to work at home a day or two a week, but otherwise, they’re in the office every week. I know some other people that are back in the office five days a week.
There are mixed feelings among many people. While I don’t know many technology people that want to be in the office every day, some do want the option to go periodically to the office. Depending on your commute, you might feel differently, as there are plenty of data pros that want to remain at home full time. Both groups, however, feel that we can be effective at our jobs while working remotely.
Not all management feels thtat same way, for various reasons. I ran across this piece that speculates that poor management is more likely to fear remote work than embrace it. The example in the piece, from Cathy Merill, certainly seems to indicate this is the case. While I’ve seen some great managers, I feel many managers aren’t good at adapting to dramatic changes and struggle to change their own view of how to do their job.
I do think culture suffers when we can’t get together in person. Hallway conversations and chats over coffee aren’t as easy remotely, and we don’t build the same bond we get in the office. Working separately at home can work, and we’ve had a lot of success at Redgate, but I also feel more separate from lots of co-workers and miss the chance to get together and catch up. The remote meetings are not the same, and scheduling a quick call is much more of an intrusion than being able to walk by someone’s desk or stop for a minute when I see them in the hall.
Perhaps it’s the energy from being around lots of people that CEOs and other management miss. It can be invigorating and exciting when lots of people are working together towards a common goal and succeeding. Perhaps management prefers to look someone in the eye and put pressure on them for a lack of performance. That is harder to do virtually, and I know lots of managers that work through intimidation.
There’s also the investment made in offices. Over the years I’ve seen various configurations and amenities in offices, often to encourage more work and comfort away from home. I know plenty of CEOs and leaders that feel this investment needs to be used by staff for lots of hours each week because of the cost, which seems like a poor excuse to me. That money is spent. These days I suspect more employees push back on longer hours, as they should, and find comfort at home, which might also bother management.
This issue is complex, but I do know that whether we’re remote or in an office, we can be effective and get work done in teams. Management should know that and use it to try and build an environment that gets the most out of all their staff, whether in the office or remote.