Remote work works

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 13, 2017, 11:00 AM | comments: 0

Facebook kindly reminded me recently of my start for my first 100% remote gig, and it occurs to me now that I've been doing it for four of the last five years. The break occurred during my contract year at SeaWorld corporate. That was a fun year, and while I didn't mind the commute, there's no reason I could not have done the same job remotely.

I've had teams composed of people from Seattle to Tampa. The distance has never been a deterrent to getting work done. The technology to collaborate and make things happen is pretty mature, and it has been for a long time. I see my coworkers every single day, even though my current team is spread out all over Florida (plus Atlanta and soon, Oklahoma City). Despite the distance, I feel like I know them pretty well. Colocation may have some benefits, but honestly, they're limited to being able to go out for lunch together.

I still found it weird a couple of years ago when Yahoo decided to end remote work. Think about what that means: Everyone had to live in a more expensive place, Yahoo had to pay for real estate in an expensive market, people who bailed had to be replaced at enormous cost, morale took a hit. The company line was that they wanted higher levels of collaboration, but as someone who has delivered outstanding work with distributed teams, I call nonsense on that one. I think it was based on the desire to command and control. The problem is that there's no truth to that scenario. Physically seeing someone in a seat is not indicative of their ability to do the job. In fact, the thing I've been saying about remote work for years is the opposite: When you're remote, the only thing you really have to show for your work is results (or lack thereof). That's a pretty powerful motivator to do your job well.

There are benefits for the worker that go beyond the basic flexibility of time management. You don't lose literally weeks of your life to time spent commuting. (A half-hour each way commute sucks 7.5 weeks of your year away from you.) Heck, that's good for your employer too, because I think generally one agrees that time not spent commuting ends up being time spent working. You're not using energy to move your car. Even with Diana working part-time and me occasionally going to the office, we scarcely drive 600 miles per month. We could probably get away with one car about 95% of the time.

I'm not opposed to commuting, but remote work makes so much sense.

Now, it's not all perfect. I have two related challenges. First, I don't always respect boundaries in terms of time. I've been that crappy dad who has asked my kid to not bother me at 6, 90 minutes before his bedtime, and I don't like myself for that. Second, I don't move around enough, and I'm making a lot of poor decisions about exercise. Sure, I could go walk a few miles in the morning, but I talk myself into knocking out some email as soon as I get up. That's dumb.

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