Reimagine the water cooler
The great flippening
For many, remote work has been around for years. Remote engineers, virtual assistants and digital nomads all pre-date covid by a long way. They were, however, seen more as a fringe group who had to accommodate around the centralized structure of the core business. You play by our rules and methods and work our hours.
Not any more. Two years since the start of the pandemic and a structural shift in work has taken place, with remote now the core structure of many (winning) organisations and the permanent office workers/ 3-day hybrid set as the fringe. Yes, you can work in an office if you wish, but it will be aligned with our remote first principles and practices.
That's a big difference and a huge mental shift. And, honestly, it ain't shifting back.
All change has consequence and paradigm shifts like we have just experienced have consequences on their consequences.
Clear Advantages of Remote First model we can all agree on
- Broader talent base (both within country and globally)
- Potential talent pricing arbitrage
- Reduced commute times and more time with family (freedom)
- Asynch working enables more deep thinking time and contribution delta
- Enables more people to work in their true passion and domain not just in something tangential to where they live.
- Broader diversity of opinion, cultures and views
- Less control by managers and compliance structures
All of these are game changing and will bring genuine progress and benefit to society. We do need to balance carefully against some very real concerns and ultimately business opportunities that will need solving.
Cost of a Remote First model
With no formal office environment it is harder for people to meet, learn, share, discover and gossip. As social creatures, these are very real human needs and do weave together to create culture, mission, serendipity and opportunity.
These can and are being replicated in a remote world but challenges do remain and those challenges are not evenly distributed.
Challenges that come to mind:
- Onboarding - how to ensure everyone, wherever they are located, gets to understand not just the team they have joined, but the wider Organisation and how they will fit into it.
- Mentoring and training of young staff - it is the young professionals who face the greatest challenge here. Without the prior experience of office life, etiquette and process they are at a distinct disadvantage in adapting to the inside track and flow of a more mature business. This will be especially true for young people from less advantaged backgrounds, who perhaps have never had any learnt professional experience from their parents or peers.
- Cultural understanding - with diversity of talent comes diversity of culture. Transparency, understanding and context are critical for everyone to understand their colleagues and ensure positive working relationships can form
- Utilizing skills - without broader day to day interaction outside of your core team it is hard to ensure everyone's skills are fully maximized and wider opportunities outside of core working responsibilities arise. This impacts on professional development and mentoring/learning new skills
- Attrition Risk - it is all well and good hiring globally, but a company needs to retain globally too. Ensuring all staff are recognized and fully utilized is essential.
All these problems are real but can - and will - be solved as we navigate into this new future of work. We may not have a water cooler to anchor our conversations and serendipitous interactions but as long as we proceed mindfully and with care to all employees the advantages of remote first are clear.
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