Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn’t So Great After All
Wall Street Journal, 2020-07-25
Your mileage may vary. It’s far from impossible to organize remote work for jobs with low-to-medium uncertainty in their structure.
Rose Glasses: ON
In the first couple of months employees were able to juggle home duties, childcare and work – without detriment to any of the three.
Let’s all work from home (safety first) and save on real estate.
When the Music Stopped
Initial productivity gains have long levelled off (people are less scared of the unknown now). Fear-driven productivity is not sustainable.
Hiring and integrating new employees is harder [more team and management time commitments].
Professional development of young employees is not as rapid as in the pre-COVID era. No apprenticeship/peeking over a more experienced colleague’s shoulder. Less questions being asked – less knowledge and culture transfer. Slower promotion pathway.
Remote collaboration is more challenging when everyone’s remote. Logistically more complex.
In certain areas product quality goes down [MK: actually sounds like process failure more than anything].
Spontaneous interactions are gone [MK: on a bright side – not all of them are useful, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater]; scheduling calls for random (but useful) things doesn’t work.
Some companies find that their staff are finishing up with the old projects (low uncertainty), but are struggling to find new projects to work on.
After the Dust Settles
Remote work is here to stay. But many face-to-face jobs still require presence in person. [MK: this also applies to effective Board meetings]
Looks like the solid middle ground is hybrid work, with some days/hours in the office for team collaboration and the rest of the time – elsewhere.
Getting children to school / daycare is a very important factor for remote work productivity.
Many companies want their staff back in the office; will the staff want it, too?
[MK] Looks like an emergence of a competitive advantage: whatever company can accommodate staff in their offices and ensure safety wins.
[MK] End of office campus megalomania.