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The Wrong Arguments Around Remote Work

The debates around remote work are just so ridiculous. None of these debates asks the right questions, but they go down the route of emotions; "culture" and "team spirit." Let's be honest here: Nobody cares, and none of us are paid for that. If companies were so worried about culture and team spirit, they would fire poor leaders and managers. But they don't because nobody cares. They only pretend to care when it is convenient for them. 

We should be asking two questions: 

  • Can the job be done remotely? (the nature of the job)

  • Can the person work remotely? (productivity) I wrote about it here. 

If the answer to the first question is "yes," the debate on remote work becomes irrelevant. Here is why: We have created millions of jobs that can be done from anywhere, and now we have the technology to accommodate that. 

There are two categories of work: work that cannot be done remotely and work that can be done remotely. Office jobs can be done remotely because this is what the job looks like:

  • Reply to 58 emails

  • Initiate 23 emails

  • Update 12 Excel sheets 

  • Create a 12 slides PPT presentation 

  • Attend 3 meetings 

  • Plan 5 meetings for next week

  • Have a 1:1 check-in with your staff

The shift is over. Office work requires no office time, and employees know that's why they ask for it. They are not unreasonable, but you know that. You also noticed that workers whose presence is mandatory to get the job done, i.e., labourers, nurses, drivers, cleaners, shop assistants, drivers, teachers, etc., don't ever talk about working from home. This is your sign that people are not unreasonable, so you should listen. The nature of their job justifies their argument. 

The problem is manyfold. We want people back in the offices because:

  • Real estate properties are standing empty. Well, rent it out or sell it and make money. This is the employer's problem, not the employees'. 

  • Local economy is impacted around commercial areas. Relocate them to residential areas. We still have coffee, you know? 

  • Managers and leaders don't feel significant enough. Remote work has highlighted that we do not need that many managers and supervisors. As for the leaders, get your significance from success, not from parading around in suits and sitting at the head of that boardroom feeling important a few times a day. 

  • But the biggest problem is this: Organisations have the mentality that they pay you for your time and not for your competence and output. As long as this mindset prevails, the work-from-home debate will not be settled. I made a TikTok video on this, and someone said, "People who don't want to come to the office don't care about work" to which I replied, getting the job done shows care. 

So yes, we have the wrong argument about remote work, which also has a reason. As long as both parties' arguments differ, there is no solution. Employers know they don't have a case when we ask those two questions because productivity and engagement data refute their arguments, so they come with the culture and team spirit narrative. They are convenient because they cannot be measured. 

BOOK: The Blind Leading the Disengaged: From Ignoring Employee's Experiences to Intentionally Designing Them

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