Why You'll Become a Remote Worker in the 2020s
Jul 12, 2020
Remote work is the biggest workplace revolution in history, and it's coming for almost every desk job globally in the next decade. Of the 255m desk jobs globally, a majority will be done remotely a majority of the time by 2030. That doesn't mean that 128m people will be operating remotely by the close of the decade but it does mean there will be 128m people working remotely 3 days+ a week by them.
In order for that to occur a transition must occur that enables companies to facilitate remote working at the touch of a button. Today, remote work is possible due to the rise of technology. Also today, the remote working experience is inferior to operating from an office. Quickly though this will change.
The office used to be the only place you could access the technology you needed to do your job – which explains why we traveled to them
Now we commute to the office to use tech that is functional and available almost anywhere on the planet
In short, the office no longer exists for the purpose which it was devised
Workers having more flexibility to decide their work schedule, able to operate when they are most productive rather than a fixed time, enables a far better future of work than the one we currently experience. Organizing work around your life is a huge transition with major implications. Gone is the requirement to beg your bosses permission to go to an appointment, you're freed to drop and pick your child up from work every day with time in the afternoon to go for a run. As such a new way of working is required.
The below is not designed to be a set of commandments.
It's a starting point that will be improved as remote work grows. If you think anything can be improved or altered, let me know. The Remote Work Manifesto will evolve over time. Much like the Agile Manifesto from which I have taken inspiration it is a framework rather than a fixed set of rules that are to be followed word for word. What follows is a framework for companies who are about to make the jump to remote work.
We are uncovering better ways of working remotely by doing it and helping others do it as well.
Through this work we have come to value:
1. 🤝 Trust over surveillance culture
Remote assumes trust rather than expecting people to earn it.
2. 🎮 Control your life over living to work
Remote is about organizing work around your life rather than the other way around.
3. 📅 Flexibility of time over set schedules
Remote gives you the freedom to work when you're most productive to do your best work
4. 🚀 Autonomy in tasks over fixed processes
Remote gives you control over how you complete your tasks. Open objectives give you the autonomy to decide how to do them.
While there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Principles behind the Remote Manifesto
- The highest priority is to improve workers quality of life concerns by addressing their life-work balance
- Encourage the transition from a time-based work culture to one that is judged by measurable output performance
- A deep willingness to share and learn from the best practices of other remote teams
- Office and remote based staff must work together in order for the future of work to benefit everyone
- Embrace asynchronous working styles over the instantaneous gratification of synchronous working
- Seek diversity of everything. The less homogenous a team is the more capable it will become
- Remote work is the opportunity to do your best work with the fewest distractions
- Great work is the measure of success
- Issolation if a feature, not a bug
- Great written communication and documentation are table stakes for success. The willingness to read then respond thoughtfully critical to your continued success
- Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly
The 2020s will be the Remote Work Decade
Being handcuffed to an office and expected to live in a high cost of living city with a low quality of life is a remnant of the industrial revolution. The devolution of offices into almost factory-like conditions as distraction factory adult kids clubs is complete. The office has literally become the worst place on the planet to get the issolation and focus you need to do deep work.
That said, there are a few things that are standing in the way of some workers and companies embracing the revolution.
Remote Work Myths
The criticism of remote work is largely wrong and driven by people who have never worked this way. If someone has not worked remotely, their criticisms can be largely dismissed. That doesn’t mean there are no challenges, there are.
In order to better understand the challenges we need to address whether, and to what extent these are true. As the office begins to fade from relevance, a vocal minority fight for it's continued domination as the default location of work. Not only does that miss the point of why remote work is inevitable, it argues in favor of a form of working that is wasteful in every single way. The reason remote work will replace office working is that it is 10X better. The benefits on every side – worker, company, environmental – are so significant that it can't be ignored.
In truth, the office has last longer than it should have already. Technology that enables the remote work revolution has existed for the best part of half a decade. The requisite communication, collaboration, and documentation tools have existed for so long many have them have already made it to the public markets. At the same time super fast internet connections being widely available ensure those softwares work the way they were meant to in any remote location that has access.
1. 🗣 Face to face is always better
Reality: Less office drama as it takes more work to Zoom/write someone to gossip vs meeting someone at the water cooler
Illness is reduced massively as germs don’t spread in an office. Face to face interaction is redistributed from idle gossip to focus on getting work done.
2. 🤝 Some people’s main social contact comes at work
Reality: Your boss selecting your closest social contact is a very bad situation.
Remote work lets you develop deeper relationships with friends/family, more freedom for hobbies to meet like-minded people.
3. ✋ But I made some of my best friends in the office
How do you know you wouldn’t have made those friends remotely?
Gamers meet some of their closest friends online — they have more in common because they have a greater influence on who’s on the other side
4. 👥 collaboration suffers
Reality: collaboration changes
Asynchronous allow more focussed communication while giving people the issolation they need to do deep work. People still come together when they choose to, not every five minutes when they are interrupted
5. 🌐 How can I trust them to work
Reality: remote workers often work too much
If you don’t trust workers to do their professional duty, you shouldn’t have hired them
6. ☕️ Most of our problems are solved in breakout areas
Reality: this rarely happens
Instead, a culture of wasted time to pad out an 8 hour day is explained away by this platitude
7. ☹️ What about the loneliness?
Reality: you spend more time with your friends and family and develop deeper more meaningful relationships
The office leads to shallow/narrow relationships which don’t typically defeat loneliness
8. 👨👩👧👦 Our office and colleague are like a family
Reality: it’s not. The office is a cult designed to make you voluntarily sacrifice your time for the machine
9. ⏰ Timezones are so hard
Reality: timezones take work
The synchronous working conditions within the instantaneous gratification distraction factories that offices have become have led us to believe that immediate answers are required.
This is a failure of planning/process
10. 💪 Teamwork is our Superpower
Reality: meetings and bureaucratic nonsense stands in the way of teams constantly
Communication and collaboration software is now so good it’s comparable.
Not equivalent, but very good
11. 🎼 Our culture is what differentiates us
Reality: culture is largely homogeneous and lacks diversity.
The office is a great environment for some people — everyone is like them, hiring decisions made on the strength of social bonds formed out of hours — terrible for everyone else
12. 🤝 Nothing beats synchronous working
Reality: An excuse for wasting time.
More meetings, more email to make people feel productive. Time is the main KPI.
Output should be the only thing that matters. That is what remote is.
13. 🍺 Advancement is more difficult
Reality: the office makes it easier for certain demographics because promotions are decided not just on the quality of work you do.
Remote work only cares about how you perform. The office still works on politics and who you drink with out of hours
14. 🔥 Our Culture sets us apart
Reality: It is largely homogeneous and prevents you being as diverse as you should be
More diverse teams breed better cultures, offices self-select for more of the same people because you want it to stay the same
15. 👨👩👧👦 We are a family
Reality: This is the cult of office speaking. You might spend most time with your colleagues but when things hit the fan you see that family only sticks together as long as things are up and to the right and you are performing
16. 🥘 We offer food
Reality: You use tools which elongate the time spent at the office to extract a surplus of hours from workers voluntarily
This typically leads to burn out and is a reason why workers end up feeling a lack of purpose from their work
17. 🏓 The office environment is better
Reality: It is if you prefer an adult kids club type of atmosphere dominated by table tennis and foosball
Most workers want to do their work and enjoy doing that. Gimmicks for entertainment are a distraction
18. 🌃 The city is better
Reality: Being in the city forces your workers to have a high cost of living.
This makes it more difficult for them to have a high quality of life. It demand that they are in a specific geographic location rather than where they want to be
Those are the issues before seeing negatives of office working
There are a huge number of those but I'm going to focus on the 5 most important which will mean companies who don't go remote will be replaced by companies who do very quicky
1. 🌍 Local Talent
The office means you can only hire the best person you can afford in a 30 mile radius around it – remote work means you can hire the best person in the world.
Which company do you think wins with everything else being equal
2. 💥 Distraction as default
The office is a distraction factory, instantaneous gratification of synchronous work makes it impossible to do deep work.
Asynchronous working should be default for every knowledge worker. That’s remote work
3. 🚘 The Commute
On average, office workers waste 22 days of their life a year sitting in a metal coffin travelling to work
This is your time, you never get it back. In that time I now read, eat with family and workout. Health and well-being become important because I have time for them again.
4. 🙋Retention is a huge problem
It is expensive and takes a long time to train each replacement
Companies that don’t go remote will lose their best people to their biggest competitors who offer remote work first.
5. 💰 Real estate costs will be a major red flag for investors
It will be seen as a wasteful, egotistical, capital expense and tell investors you don’t have the best talent possible
Fear of Remote Work Will Kill Companies
You can see it happening already. Scared to act, leading to a paralysis of progress. Innovation is inevitable and those who move to embrace and understand it benefit from a deeper understanding more quickly. Office-first companies will lose most of their best people to their remote-first competitors. As the most talented go remote, the talent gap will increase rapidly. Companies who don't go remote will die slowly as they bleed their best talent, then quickly as they can't compete.
Hiring best talent in a 30-mile radius of an office disqualifies you from 99.9% of world's talent. Each hire lowers the average ability of office-first compared to remote competitor.
Some Statistics to Back up the argument?
🍪3 in 5 knowledge workers (57 percent) say the option to work remotely is one of the perks they'd most prefer to be offered by an employer.
- free daily lunch (42%)
- unlimited vacation time (39%)
- recreational activities, e.g. ping pong/foosball (25%)
🏡42% of knowledge workers believe they are most productive working from home.
🏢32 % feel they get more done in an office.
👴52% of Baby Boomers say home is where they are most productive, only 38% of Millennials.
🧶 only 11% of Baby Boomers work remotely full time, as opposed to 31% of Millennials.
👩Women are more likely to say they are more productive when working from home (50% vs. 37% of men)
👨Men are more likely to say they're more productive in the office (35% vs. 27% of women).
❤️ Full-time remote knowledge workers spend more hours, on average, each workday doing meaningful work (i.e., work that has significance/purpose) compared to their ofice worker counterparts.
6.2 hours for remote workers
5.7 hours for office-bound ones
💥 66% of knowledge workers think the office will disappear by 2030.
⚡️ 71% Millennials believe the traditional office will be replaced with most positions being done remotely
🏡 84% of remote workers work from home
- coworking spaces (8%)
- coffee shops (4%)
- libraries (0.5%)
- other places (3%)
✈️ 44% of remote workers travel while working between one week and one month per year
🌎 25% do this more than one month of the year.