Remote Work is the next Operating System for Capitalism
May 1, 2020
Remote work means the unbundling of city life
To understand ‘why now?’ it’s not enough to reflect on the historical precedent of what’s occurred previously. You need to inject modern technology and analyze what’s possible now that wasn’t before.
To continue doing anything because it is the way things have always been done is insane.
That feels like office work and city living today
Cities are broken
High wages only subsidize the cost of living. Once you detach yourself from salary and understand that quality of life is affected most by your disposable income after all expenses have been deducted it becomes necessary to question why you are in a city in the first place?
Egotistically, people are driven to measure their self-worth by the number on the top line, not on the bottom line. This is shortsighted and it causes us to sacrifice happiness in search of more money. When the gratification that a few thousand more is supplanted by the expense of city living we should be asking more questions. Today, on average, each of us sacrifices 25 days a year to commute to a place that is no better suited for work than our home.
We sacrifice time with our families for social contact with people selected by our boss. When you consider the main societal ills we are facing a lack of meaning and connection is near or at the top of that list. Office relationships are typically superficial and lack depth, breadth or meaning. Every time I say that people argue back about that time that one person they met became their best friend. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m saying the conditions within companies for relationships are not conducive to the types of relationships people most need to feel content and happy.
The Rise of Remote
There are numerous studies that show diminishing returns on happiness above a salary of $77,000 dollars. Above that, you are just keeping up with the Jones’s Disposable income stays the same, your expenses grow as you purchase more expensive versions of shit you already have. A simple and somewhat arbitrary example of this:
Live in NYC Salary = $100k
Apartment = $6k
Commutining = $2k
Disposable = $26k
Live in midwest Salary = $70k
Apartment = $2k
Commuting = $0
Disposable = $46k
It’s arbitrary, it’s simple, but it’s true
Tech has reached a point where an unshackling from fixed locations is possible. To do that we needed the internet, communication, collaboration, and cloud software. Critically we needed the bandwidth and latency of network to make remote synchronous remote work possible. It is.
Productivity loss has been masked by the evolution of tech
Moores law meant that for half a century computation advances masked a diminishing time spent working. People do more work more quickly than ever before, but output remains the same.
Offices began as the optimum space to get work done. Everyone had a private office and with it came the isolation to focus and get shit done. Real estate costs rose so much that the only viable way for offices to continue was to shift to open plan working.
Open-plan offices are distraction factory adult kids clubs where it’s impossible to work. We have grown to expect instantaneous gratification synchronous work conditions even though distraction is the default mode.
“Hey, how are you?”
“So busy, how are you”
“The same, you know how it is”
Mostly bullshit. It’s never been easier to pad out a day with busy work in a location filled with other people doing the same. Anecdotally I hear remote teams being 40–50% more productive in terms of output, working fewer hours.
The companies and people that understand this and sprint toward this future will prosper. They will flourish by attracting the best person on the planet for each job irrespective of national boundaries.
Some people won’t be convinced
They’ll watch as the world changes beneath them
The smartest people I know personally ALL plan to work remotely in the next decade.
The remote workers I know would NEVER work for a company that wasn’t remote again.
The flywheel of talent leaking from office-first companies is only beginning. My belief is that this goes exponentially in 3 years. This is being driven by the most talented people negotiating this into contracts at the time of employment. Soon it will become an expectation for everyone.
The smartest companies I know personally ALL plan to hire remotely in the next decade.
The remote companies I know would NEVER hire a worker that didn’t have the discipline to be remote.
These complimentary outcomes mean that remote-first companies will dominate this decade.