Remote, anyone?

Well, I don’t know about you, but the last year brought an incredible amount of changes for me and those around me. Like most people, we watched the world turn remote as COVID-19 dominated news channels.

One thing that it did bring, was a new understanding of remote work. I’ve always thought, that in an information-centric world, the push for companies to oversee their employees physically was outdated and bad stewardship; a waste of time, talent, and natural resources.

Time, because it requires employees to spend time traveling to work; meetings get held in person, requiring people to take time to walk down the hall or travel to them; and because it takes people a certain amount of time to get focused to do their job once at their desks. This, of course, doesn’t take into account the time spent dealing with colleagues or clients who “just have a quick question.” Don’t get me wrong, distractions can be welcome, especially if one is engaged in repetitive work, but by and large, they are not efficient.

Why talent? Well, talent because the best and the brightest tend to look for new positions if they are either overworked or under-utilized. Both can be a result of unconscious bias. Learning new things and blocking time for “sharpening the saw” goes out the window if the commute is too long; the stress too high, and the motivation from senior leadership is lacking. It’s especially troubling in tech-related companies whose livelihoods rely on their employees at least keeping up with the technology they support.

Waste of natural resources should be obvious. If I don’t have to travel, I’m not spending precious resources on energy to get me to work and back. And, if I’m working from my house, I can control the climate locally in my own house including opening the windows instead of turning on the air conditioning when it’s feasible. We also tend to keep our house cooler than most people and use renewable resources for heat.

For me, the shift to remote work became a permanent situation. It has been incredibly freeing and welcome. I find I am far more productive, probably because gained an hour of time with no commute. Time, as it is blocked out more readily, allows for focusing on projects with minimal interruptions. While my work uses Microsoft Teams, and we are in pretty constant contact via chat, people are respectful of focused time.

What I love most, though, is that my team spreads from Utah to Florida, Virginia to New Mexico, and beyond. We are or can be, almost anywhere. When my family had a medical emergency, I had the flexibility to pick up and help take care of them in Kentucky without needing to take family leave or vacation; that was priceless. It’s also incredibly freeing to be trusted to do the work without the fear of having to worry about “clocking in” and having your time tracked or being docked if you were even a minute or two late due to traffic.

What about you? Were you remote and now are back in the office? Or, have you switched to permanently being remote? What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced?

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