Here is a blog/tweetstorm, just to try it (view on twitter)
Me: Ok, I will give you my opinion on distributed work now vs. before the pandemic, and after.
We’ve been doing remote work for several years now, though I prefer to call it distributed work–I think it is a better way to describe the setup. Since we’ve done this for a while before the pandemic we have a comparison point.
I’ve been an advocate for a while. My top trends from 2017 included distributed work.
(Yes I timestamped this text on the blockchain in 2017)
Some people think offices are dead. I think offices will come back. People I know want to get out of their house. Everyone locked up at home not doing anything is lots of stored potential energy of wanting to go to an office sometimes.
What are the benefits of distributed work? It’s more flexibility.
I think it is important to understand the difference between what distributed work enables vs. the tradeoffs. If you articulate those better I think you create better in-person and distributed work environments.
The best version is distributed work, with hubs. This means people can work from different places, but you do have local offices or coworking spaces to create more community.
Allowing for the possibility of distributed work enables you to have people working in different places, in different timezones, in cities, in various states, and more.
For people who have never worked this way I think it is powerful to realize that it is possible. It also doesn’t mean every aspect of it is good. So a lot of people “discovered” distributed work in 2020.
Pandemic remote work is the bad version of distributed work. So I think many people who are trying this for the first time are getting the wrong idea in lots of ways.
Distributed work doesn’t mean no one ever sees each other in person! But that is the version people are experiencing this year. I don’t think the best distributed companies do this in normal times.
We have lots of comparison points, and have been surveying people in our company before as well.
Pandemic remote work is not sustainable, not because of your remote work setup, but because of the pandemic. We know this because we have this experiment: people had a good setup, then the pandemic happened. It has been worse.
Pandemic remote work ruins the normal social balance with the other things you do.
Strategies that we had to make distributed work work such as in-person meetups, or events or conferences, didn’t happen, and I think it created a noticeable change in the setup.
Again, we still could work this way and did–it’s just worse.
People discovered this year for many jobs that just use a computer you can work from a different location and it all works– we’ve had that for a while, but there are best practices.
In person communication > online communication. Though you can do a lot online! It is sufficient but not best.
In person meetups > never meeting people in person. You can work fully on the internet! But it’s not best.
Meeting customers in person > meeting online. You can meet lots of people online faster, and it will continue. But only-only isn’t best.
A question is: do you go full aysnc or not? You can. We don’t. It depends on your business.
I’ve read the books by Basecamp, we get Remote for everyone at our company and they have great ideas but their way is not The Way. There are Problems to Be Solved. But different ways to solve them.
Questions like: How do you manage tasks? How do you communicate internally? Externally? How do you do email? Chat? What is your product or service? What does the customer need?
We talk to customers who are schools mostly in the US during the work day. So this is just not full asynchronous work. But there is more flexibility.
We can talk to everyone on a video call, and I’m glad more people are learning zoom basics and video call best practices. In the future we should still visit customers in person.
Everything can be done online but it doesn’t all need to be.
So predicting what will people do after the pandemic? Is this the end of the office? No, I don’t think so. Some people will have discovered a new way to work, and move, and change everything. A lot of people will realize that they really liked having an office.
Some people love their setup of working at home and the flexibility it provides them. And others really want to get back to working together with people in an office and see coworkers in person. Distributed work with hubs will let you offer both.