The Office is Dead – Long Live Remote Working
Jul 1, 2020
The office is dead. I realize that may not be immediately apparent but it's indisputable. The 2008 financial collapse killed the vanity office and marked the rise of co-working spaces. The why is as obvious as the when – real escape costs had risen to a point where companies could no longer justify paying them. In order to cope, companies shoehorned more people into less space. In return, the devolution from what the office was originally designed to be was complete. What began as the optimum place to do deep focussed work now survives as open-plan everything where disruption and distraction are impossible to escape.
We are now in the ludicrous position where workers commute to the office to use technology that is functional and available almost anywhere on the planet. When the office was devised it was the only place you could access the technology you needed to do your job – which explains why we traveled to them. With that no longer being true it has no purpose.
Here are 7 reasons why the office is dead and why remote work is inevitable:
1. 💰 Cost's too high
One company I recently spoke to spends $4,000+ per month, per desk for workers to be in San Francisco. Bundle the exorbitant salaries it takes to attract talent in such geographies and the costs of doing business become uneconomic.
Companies who do not go remote will cost themselves in talent as well. Office-based companies can only hire the best talent in a 30-mile radius of the office, disqualifying themselves from 99.9% of the world's most talented people. Decentralized companies won't just be more talented on average, they will also be more diverse.
2. 📢 Focus impossible
Sitting in an open-plan office right now, stand up and look around. How many people do you see with headphones in? The noise-canceling headphone has become the office worker's only defense against the worst possible working environment.
3. 🤡 Disruption's default
Instantaneous gratification is the default setting of the modern world. This has permeated every part of our lives and the workplace is no exception.
Got a problem? Workers brazenly interrupt their colleagues to get an answer. Never mind that it will take that person 30 minutes to get back into the flow they were knocked out of. Collaboration is used interchangeably as an excuse for disruption. Teamwork is necessary, instantaneous access or responses are not for 99.99% of situations.
4. 🏠 Workers want remote
5. 🚘 Commuting 25 days a year
I became a remote worker because I didn't want to waste my life sitting in a pollution emitting steel coffin every day on my way to work. Having founded my first business we started out with the intention of being fully distributed. It was a revelation.
Nothing has delivered a higher quality of life than this. I now workout, read and eat with my family every morning in less time than my previous commute. Commuting is a tax you pay on your quality of life daily while harming the environment and it is insane.
6. ⏰ Time in office KPI is bullshit
We've all had bad managers whose only metric for measuring performance is how much time you sat in your seat every day. They lack the skills and tools which enable them to measure it by your output instead.
Remote work necessitates companies that understand performance in a more tangible way than time. It's telling that the people most against remote working are these same middle managers. Reluctance is a mask for the implications of the office environment.
7. 🏓 Adult kids clubs
Bean bags, beer fridges, games consoles and ping pong tables. People don't want more playful offices, they want more, trust, balance, control, flexibility and autonomy to do the best work they have ever done.
They want to work remotely. Companies that want to attract and retain world-class talent need to offer trust, not toys
What's holding back the rise of remote?
In 2019, Doist received 9,249 applications across all their openings and only added 9 people to their team (or 0.1% of all applicants). There is a lot of demand for remote jobs, but not enough supply. The bottom line is we need more remote companies, especially remote-first.
- not enough jobs to go round
- huge demand for remote roles
- remote = access to great talent
- exponential growth is inevitable
There is a huge first-mover advantage for remote companies to increase the talent level way beyond office-first companies. Every company that refuses to offer remote work will be replaced by a remote-first company eventually.
- attract talent
- retain best people
- maintain engagement
- expand talent pool globally
It’s not enough to ‘go remote’
Companies need to understand how to do it, becoming more effective and productive. It's not enough to begin with a desire to do something without a fundamental understanding of the requirements to make the change. A huge number of companies stand at the edge of the cliff ready commit hoping to build a plane on the way down before they hit the ground.
They need to leverage the benefits of remote working not replicate the bad parts of office work because it’s familiar. They need to understand asynchronous over synchronous working otherwise their transition to remote working will not lead to the productivity increases that it should.
A bad remote working experience could be as deadibly for companies as not making the transition at all.
Everyone is coming to the conclusion at the same time
- Remote work's inevitable
- regulatory compliance is imperative
- a great experience is key to retention
- remote workers should be safer, more comfortable and productive at home than they would be in an office, letting them do the best work they ever have
- human connection and culture will be incredibly important.
There is no easy way to guarantee these things
It's why we built Firstbase. Having built a previous startup we realized how broken remote work setup is. We wanted our workers to have a great experience and establish the best remote work culture on the planet. Nothing existed to make it easy to do that, so we built it.
Having mentioned it to a few friends building remote teams we saw it was a problem for them as well. I’d supplied these types of goods to the most remote environments on the planet, Oil rigs off the coast of Ghana. Our co-founder and CTO had done cybersecurity for the most remote teams. We knew we were the best team on the planet to do this.