(updated ) ~9 min (1604 words)

The new fight against remote work

Photo showing a remote work setup

After saving a lot of companies during COVID-19 many companies picked working from home as their new bargaining topic and declare remote work or workers as the reason for bad economics.

Why is remote work bad now?

You probably already heard about it, you might even be affected by it: Companies are eager to get their employees back to the office.

While most of the time the reasoning given by the company's leaders is something like People are more creative in the office or People are less productive when working from home in my opinion there's more to it than what has been communicated.

First of all, to my knowledge, there's no proof for remote work making companies less productive (other studies hint to the opposite). Also, there's evidence that those companies complaining about working from home are handling remote work just wrong, or the remote work setup revealed underlying systemic issues. And yes, in those companies with severe structural and people issues your career will definitely suffer, especially when working remote.

Meme about remote and office work where companies crazily take the exit for the office

There's more to it

For starters, there's this big building called an office where cattle you own can be cooped closely together. Pardon, did I say cattle? I meant talents, of course! Obviously, I'm a little bit exaggerating, here. But it can sure feel that way.

So, back to the topic: What to do with those buildings? You financed them, are renting them, they have pretty furnishings, it's part of the operating costs. So yeah, you want to use them.

And then, what about the people you own? Err, you employ! It's nice to have them around and ensure those little peasants do what they're paid for, right?
Here you go, there's your second reason for getting them back to the office! Trust definitely is a difficult thing to handle.

Still not enough? Yeah, you know, turns out, women might lose social connection and being left alone at home due to traditional role models when not going to the office! Really? While in rare occasions this might be true you should really let the women in question decide about that! But! women! - angry boomer meme

But wait, that's not all! There's that declining rate of productivity, for the first time after WWII. Surely, the reason for that must be the working from home madness every lazy inferior wants to do since COVID-19 hit the globe!

Or does it? The same article from above also mentions two other possible reasons:

  1. Ill-implemented Remote or Hybrid setup, as in the companies are not providing the necessary tools and training
  2. Record high employee churn

Actually it's about power

Who could have guessed that? Firing people and (not) hiring new ones drains on productivity? Or not providing adequate payment or working environment people want to work with, so they quit? Combined with a higher amount of retirements this leads to having to train new people and current employees to handle a possibly much higher workload.

Turns out, people have to be trained on new jobs, they need some time to adjust and learn how the company and their jobs work. Which, I give them that, might take a bit longer via working from home. And, believe it or not, those employees might want a fair payment amongst a fair treatment!

While some of them go into wild explanations of missing out on creativity, even creating things as a whole, at the same time, they confirm offering remote work and having very talented and productive employees working from home.

Either mister GPT got a bit confused here or well, he's just singing from the same hymn sheet as those other CEOs from Amazon, Google, Salesforce and whatnot without any real reason, much less sound arguments. But one: Having more power over employees.

And that's what it really is all about, in my opinion: Getting back control over employees, adding another bargaining chip in the battle for (cheap) talents. In a time of potential recession and having to pay very high salaries for, especially, Software Developers, those companies feel for getting back an edge over their employees. Meaning: Cut back salaries and perceived perks, while threatening with losing the job. Which is greatly emphasized by the recent mass lay-offs.

And, of course, you can make people quit in times you would want to lay off a larger amount of people without signaling too much bad to the shareholders. If you don't take it from me, take it from a larger YouTube channel

Only, remote work might just not be another perk or bargaining chip and those actions could backfire sooner or later. Contradicting voices from the employee's side also put it bluntly: Let me work from home, or I won’t work for you, it’s that simple. And I tend to agree with that sentiment. Meme about remote and office work reverse order

Many employees and employers have found working from home to be a great fit, the former especially for work-life-balance, the latter for gaining access to otherwise not accessible talents. Therefore, I don't think, working from home is going to disappear anytime soon. But it might get a bit harder for a while.

Reasons to work remote

It starts with your stance on remote work. Either you're the type of person who likes to work in a more quiet and sole environment while structuring the daily work well on your own.

Or you're more into working close to other people and/or not good in self-organizing your work.

In my opinion none of these characteristics are better than the other. It's just a different type of personality.

If you're the former, there should be no reason (apart from the obvious like the actual job requires to be on-site) to not work remotely. Of course, there are a few more things to consider and know about working remote like having a quiet place and ergonomic equipment.

Well, or, if you're a bunch of gangsters, pardon me, banksters it might be a way preventing financial misconduct. So, now, if the bank people want to return to the office, you got an idea why!

Reasons not to work remote

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons not to work remote, because there are some!

The obvious reason: The product you're creating or working on requires you to be on-site. Or you're a salesclerk. Or as mentioned before: You're not the type of person who likes it, maybe even feeling lonely, or you're not able to sufficiently self-organize. Totally fine, go on, work in the office.

Why companies should offer remote work

When offering working from home, companies can get access to talents otherwise impossible to reach.

Also, remote work can increase employees' happiness since it often means a better work-life-balance.

Doing it right, meaning having a well-thought-out remote-first approach, can even give you more productivity than working from the office only. Of course, there's never either or! With a (working with remote first approach) hybrid setup you can have both, people working on-site and from home (or whereever). And you can let your employees decide what fits best for them at a given time.

Workplace flexibility, it seems, at least correlates with great revenue performance... Can't be that bad, can it?

Last but not least, I'm not saying, that remote work is the silver bullet. As mentioned before, it's not for everyone and every configuration. That being said, especially in tech, it can be a huge win for companies and employees alike.

Image Attribution
Main remote work setup image from Domenico Loia auf Unsplash
Flame overlay image from Joshua Sukoff auf Unsplash
Memes have been created with imgflip