Remote Work is the Future.

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.