The pros and cons of remote office work
Eighteen months on I’m still thinking about remote work. The grumblings in the mainstream news media are full of extreme views: ‘Remote is the future!’, ‘Remote work is abhorrent!’. As usual, it’s more subtle than that. I think the future of office work will be as dynamic as the past 18 months. I’m not one for the binary view of the working world – either remote or not – but here’s where I’m up to with my thinking.
TL;DR: I think remote office work is more accessible and results in more diverse teams.
Remote desk-bound work is more accessible for:
- Disabled people.
- Chronically ill people.
- People who live outside of metro centres due to other family commitments (close to relatives, children in school etc).
- People who choose to live elsewhere for a better quality of life.
- Those people who prefer not to spend hours a day commuting.
- A global workforce or team. Broaden the net and you could be working in a team that spans the globe. Being remote – with a daytime schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate their needs – works for everyone.
- Those with introvert preferences when under pressure to deliver or collaborate. Acknowledging that people are unique and complex, and that introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum, modern work places, methods, and habits – especially in tech (especially in UX and design!) – are built around extrovert preferences. Workshops, meetings, co-creation, 1-1 meetings, co-design…
In-office desk bound work maybe more preferable for:
- Intensive, collaborative work.
- Sensitive and direct conversations. My experience is this is difficult to do through a screen no matter how hard you may try.
- Those with extrovert preferences. See above!
- The hiring pool is suddenly much bigger. It’s true that everyone who is talented does not live in San Francisco, London, or Amsterdam. They live everywhere.
- This is less risk. But requires more work and near constant monitoring of team health as it relates to productivity.
- For some, this work is too much work. The ebb and flow of how work is done in an office is all too familiar, comfortable, and controllable.
- For remote work to be productive, managers need to be supportive, available, and trusting. This sounds way easier than it actually is.
- In some ways it’s cheaper: lower financial overheads.
- In other ways, it’s more expensive: more time dedicated to communication and the tools to support the business.