Answering Joshua Millsapps Question: Is remote work, too remote?
Joshua, in your recent blog you asked for response to the question, “Is remote work, too remote?” You accurately detailed many of challenges that are faced during the transition from a physical office to some form of remote work.
After having spent more than a decade as a remote worker, my answer to your question is, “been there, have overcome that.”
Frankly, I can’t imagine going back to physical office life. I remember well all the time and personal productivity wasted during those long morning commutes and facing the seemingly endless traffic jams trying to get home at reasonable hour. I mentally reminisce about the familiar faces I’d see each day who too were part the 2.2 million strong army of other Massachusetts commuters who also each day drove their cars alone to their offices. I don’t miss the constant interruptions from office background noise, the smells of others leftover meals wafting across the shared space from the microwave next to the coffee machine and the endless meetings in conference rooms that seemed to always drag out to fill the time allotted whether business was concluded or not.
I do appreciate that I did not have to buy the two automobiles that would have been necessary to cover the more than 201,000 miles it would have taken me to accomplish my 70 mile round-trip each of the 335 work days per year. I am so glad to have not had to burn the 11,725 gallons of gasoline that at an average price of $3 per gallon would have costs my family $31,175. I feel good that my vehicle did not emit the 48 metric tons CO2E into the atmosphere in just these past ten years.
There’s also a bigger picture story to be told about organizational resiliency, broader environmental impacts and the positive impacts that remote work is having on our personal health and national security. I wrote about these topics some time ago in my blog, Many Things Have Changed: The 2.0 Organization .
Have I had to make concession to my home life? Yes. Do I work more hours? Yes. Have I had to learn new skills to separate work from family? For sure. When I supervised people, did I need to learn new skills? Unquestionably.
Has it all been worth the effort? Undoubtedly.
You also make a good point about the loss of, “esprit de corps and sense of community that comes from sharing a physical space.” It was a challenge in the early days to stay connected to the social pulse of the organization.
Today, however, enterprise optimized social networking technologies, easy to use desktop and mobile video conferencing applications, virtual total immersion meeting spaces, mobility and mobile apps have erased most of those former boundaries. As the remote worker trend has hit critical mass and as mobility has increased, I am much more likely to interact with a customer or coworker through technology than I am to spend the time, money and energy to meet face to face. That’s what FedEx Kinkos offices and airport courtesy lounges are for.
Today when people ask me, “Where’s your office?” I say, “You’re looking at it.”
Whether I am at my desk in my home office, working from a hotel room in a distant city, borrowing a desk from a customer or using what before may have been unproductive time in taxi cabs and airport shuttles, I’m always on.
Technology has replaced real estate and the cubical has been replaced with immediacy not before possible.
Joshua, thank you for making this dialogue possible. You asked a great topical question and I look forward to what other will have to say!