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Remote Work - Intro

A look into remote work.

Mar 14, 2020

16 min read

This part 1 of a series on remote work. Check out part 2 for my guide on remote work.

Intro

This is a special on remote work, nothing fancy, but hear me out.

In the last few years there has been a sharper adoption of remote work and work from home policies, inside AND outside the tech industry.

You can categorise companies by fully remote, part-remote, and fully on-site. I’ve worked under every of these policies and I can tell you two or three things:

  1. They’re all valid policies;
  2. Transitioning between policies is your biggest challenge;
  3. My whistling and singing are not nearly as disruptive when I’m remote.

Each policy has its subjective and objective pros and cons. With a remote company you’ve got access to a massive and potentially cheaper workforce, but collaboration tools and face-to-face onboarding can make-or-break the work relationship. With a fully on-site company, it’s oftentimes easier to separate work from personal life, but quality of life often suffers due to commuting and living in expensive big city hubs.

Transitioning from an on-site to a fully remote company, however, is extremely hard, mainly because you’re changing processes and tools that people have internalised and automated over many years, and to be honest, it may feel you’re driving into the unknown, it can be scary. It’s also not an overnight change, you have to make two very different company cultures coexist for a while and that can make process a conscious effort for both sides of the field. For example, a good practice for a part-remote company is for meetings to be held online if any of the attendees is remote, so you can end up having 5 people in the office “zooming in” because 1 person is working remotely.

So.

The reason I got off my ass on a Sunday and ended up spending hours throughout the week writing this, is not because of my preference for any of these policies, but because of the cultural shock COVID-19 has caused for companies, event organisers, and health services. For years remote work been this aspirational, long-term goal, that may or may not “work for us”, with comments like “meetings are just not the same when you’re remote” (but never identifying why or how to make them the same), or “it might work for developers, but not for the upper levels”. But after a few weeks of what you may or may not call “The Next Big Scare on the News™️”, conferences are cancelled or turned remote, hiring is now done fully remotely, doctor’s appointments are now remote-first, and it’s suddenly possible to conduct business remotely for all levels of the company.

So let’s look at what I’ve come across just this week, and I will follow this up with a remote work guide, and possible later interviews on how people experience remote work.

Events

Cancelled: Google IO, Mobile World Congress, SXSW, London Book Fair, F8, and many other events and meetings.

What will the impact be? Would you delay or go ahead? How will live streaming fare?

Many of these are crucial networking and sales events. Despite their importance, the odds of disruption aren’t high enough to justify investing into a plan b. Compound with the traditional face-to-face nature of networking and sales, and lack of examples where people have deviated from this model. This is a bit of a brave new world for sales and marketing.

It’s a pandemic, not the zombie apocalypse, so we’ll get back to normal. But COVID-19 is forcing us to run experiments many would rather not.

Economy

Experiences

Overall, if you’re transitioning into remote, there will be a period of adaptation before you find out if you can do it or not. Part-remote companies will struggle the most. Some people won’t adapt to remote working, some won’t have the option even if they could adapt. Remote isn’t necessarily the future of work, but it can become the default for a lot more people than it is today, with great productivity, health, and cost-saving benefits.

Policies

Who and how are people deploying their remote policies?

Education

Tech

Environment

I would assume pollution would go down as remote work increases, especially in the US where most commute by car (85%) an average of 79 minutes.

Stats

Buffer: State of Remote

NYTimes: Out of the Office: More People Are Working Remotely, Survey Finds

GitLab: The Remote Work Report by GitLab: The Future of Work is Remote

OWL Labs: State of Remote Work

I, for one, become so focussed at home I completely miss my Apple Watch stand notifications (1/hour is healthy).

Sources

(non-comprehensive list)

latest articles

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latest work

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