Remote Work Is NOT Working The Remote
The vast majority of employers have been fiercely against the idea of remote work for ages. Before the pandemic hit, most companies lacked the trust and flexibility (and imagination, apparently) to believe it would benefit themselves and their employees.
Luckily, the past 20 months have proven most of these companies dead wrong.
Sure, for some professions, it simply isn't possible to work from any location other than the “traditional” work location (i.e., assembly lines, restaurants, or health care jobs). But for the 45-percent(!) of employees with remote-compatible jobs, the pandemic has shown that it is absolutely possible to create productive and fun remote work environments.
Plus, there's a lot to be gained in terms of motivation, health, and fun.
As various parts of the world plan for a return to (some sort of) normalcy, the big question is now:
How will employers respond?
Will the world of work go back to normal, and will most companies force their people to come back to the office full-time? Or have the valuable lessons we have learned indeed caught on to create vastly better workplaces as we move forward?
In this post, I'd like to share one of the main lessons we learned from the 150+ workplace pioneers we have researched, especially from those who have worked remotely way longer than just the last two years.
Remote work is NOT working the remote
During the pandemic, companies supplying surveillance software have seen demand explode. And it’s disgusting.
As I wrote at the beginning of the pandemic:
"Companies like Time Doctor, Teramind, VeriClock, innerActiv, ActivTrak, Hubstaff, and InterGuard benefit from the massive lack of trust that characterizes today's workplaces.
Their websites proudly boast the many possibilities for employee monitoring (a.k.a. micro-management gone wild).
Take a deep breath—this stuff will make you sick.
- Track login/logoff times
- Track number of emails sent
- Track active and idle time
- Continuous screenshots
- Screenshots when specific words are typed (like “job search”)
- Identify frequently used unproductive apps or websites
- GPS location tracker
- Social media activity reports
- “Anomaly detection” (i.e., when a person sends more/fewer emails than usually)
- Keystroke logging
For fuck's sake, people."
Clearly, such workplaces are poised with a lack of trust.
Trust beats tracking
Even though some sort of micro-management might be a standard corporate reflex, pioneers show time and time again that trust is a much more powerful way to create a productive and engaging environment.
Some important lessons can be learned from these approaches, especially now as companies seek the best way to combine remote work and office work.
Look beyond #days-at-the-office discussion
While companies are defining their new working arrangements, many seem to make an understandable yet painful mistake. Most of the “hybrid work” discussed is focusing way too much on the number of days people will be working from specific locations. You know, the good old “20/80, 60/40, 50/50” discussion.
While the intentions are mostly good, this isn't the discussion we should be having. At all.
After seeing with my own eyes how the world's most progressive companies organize, I'm convinced that if you need to track the number of hours or days people spend at the office, your performance management system is broken.
You hire people to do a particular job, not to be present at a specific location. Try focusing on the results of people’s work, not when and where they decide to do it.
Leave it up to the teams and individuals themselves to figure out how many days they want (and need) to be in the office. We’re adults. Stop (once again) trying to find a shitty one-size-fits-all solution.
Stop having discussions around presenteeism. We've been doing that for ages, and we all know that it hasn't worked.
Fix the real problem
If you don't know how to properly assess the performance of people and teams, you better focus your time and effort on solving that problem. Avoid coming up with symbolic fixes such as one-size-fits-all “hybrid work” arrangements.
More on how to get better at assessing performance is coming soon!