Remote work is the future. Full stop. If you haven’t gathered this by now, you probably aren’t paying attention. Even as offices “reopen” after COVID-19 closures (a frustrating turn of phrase, to be sure, since workers have been logging in daily from home, putting in what were often very long hours throughout), many companies have chosen to go fully remote indefinitely.
This has led to no shortage of outcry. These responses have come largely from higher-ups at traditional, physical-office-based companies, who insist workers can’t be trusted, and that a lack of in-person collaboration will be the death of progress and efficiency. While these viewpoints are valid, and they are based in reality to a degree, such outcomes are really symptoms of other diseases.
Micromanagement Doesn’t Work
Your workers can’t be trusted? Then you have the wrong team. If you think you have the right team, but your workers can’t be trusted, then the problem is your management style, period. Left to their own devices, the right team will rise to the occasion and produce work according to your expectations. This is true both in a traditional, in-person office and under the conditions of a remote workplace. If an employee does not do this, they aren’t a good fit, whether they’re working from their desk at home or in the cubicle next to you.
There is no magic to being located directly over the shoulder of a worker while they finalize a report. In fact, micromanagement has been shown, time and time again, to actually decrease efficiency and reduce workplace satisfaction. If you are micromanaging your team, you are almost certainly inhibiting their ability to do their job.
Micromanagement breeds a lack of trust in the workplace and sends the message that you know better than your team. This is an ignorant and antiquated way of running a company. You bring on employees to encourage growth through diverse viewpoints, up-to-date educational backgrounds, and unique experiences. We grow when we learn from each other. Managers are not immune to this growth, if they are willing to listen.
Collaboration, Meet Technology
The argument that in-person collaboration must occur to ensure a company’s progress is not without its merits, but it simply isn’t true most of the time. Yes, there is a time and place for in-person meetings and group work. Some things must be accomplished this way. Some people thrive in these environments. Not every worker does, and not every company does.
For those who are able to work remotely, technology enables collaboration in every conceivable form. From phone calls to video chats to Slack channels to email to Asana and Monday and Trello, there are methods of communication and collaboration platforms for every possible workplace scenario. These resources are useful for workers with many learning styles and creative processes. They are not as effective for others, which is why I again emphasize that not every person in every company will thrive remotely.
However, for the vast majority of people who want to work remotely, who work for companies that can operate without a physical office, the technology exists to support it.
The Changing Face of Business
The argument has been made repeatedly that workers (mostly younger workers, per the accusers) simply don’t understand “business” and the way the “business world” operates. While there is merit to that argument, I would counter by saying that most “traditional business” types don’t actually understand the way business is being conducted in 2021 and the way it will almost certainly continue to be conducted going forward.
Sure, CEOs of established Fortune-500 companies will continue to make deals over golf games and on yachts. Junior workers will continue to work 12-hour days and on weekends to gain a foothold in industries traditionally touted as having “great jobs” that are “worth working for.”
But if you look around and really pay attention, new companies are not operating that way anymore. Everywhere you look, those who have rejected that way of thinking or were rejected by it have found ways to innovate. The service industry is booming with remote teams who can offer clients competitive pricing due to low overhead, and whose employees and consultants are superior because management can find the best workers, regardless of physical location.
The modern workplace prioritizes flexibility, mental health, and that ubiquitous work-life balance. It is more sustainable, increasingly global, and it rejects the notion that companies exist solely for the benefit of profits. The up-and-comers of 2021 value social responsibility, diversity, green business practices, and continual improvement of the old-world order.
There are flaws in the system, for sure. Nothing is perfect, and remote work and all that comes with it are new to the game. But the processes are becoming refined very quickly, and workplace flexibility is going to be something younger employees expect going forward.
There’s been a lot of hate toward Millennials and Generation Z for their job-hopping and the death of the work-for-the-gold-watch mentality. I would argue that company loyalty will once again be on the rise as businesses realize they need to step up. Unfortunately for those who don’t, they’re likely to be left behind.
Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency with a focus on the importance of content and SEO.
We have been fully remote since our start in 2017. Our team is ten times larger than it was at inception, and we remain committed to being fully remote. Remote work allows us to: -Partner with the best employees and contractors, regardless of physical location. This benefits us as a company and benefits the work product we deliver to our clients. -Respect the work-life balance of our team by allowing them to work whenever they choose, wherever they choose. As long as the work gets done by its deadline and is of the quality our clients expect, there's no reason we need to be in the same room while we do it. With the technology available in 2021, there's really no reason a team working remotely can't achieve everything an in-person team can. (And then some.) -Prove the theory that remote workers are happier because they enjoy flexibility, respect, and autonomy. If you feel the need to micromanage your team, you don't have the right team (or you aren't in the right role yourself). -Work towards a global and sustainable future with low overhead costs, less commuter-driven pollution, improved mental health, and greater efficiency. Can every company work remotely? Of course not. Can every company work remotely all of the time? Certainly not. But it's time to take a hard look at the real reasons some businesses are resistant to virtual work.