Higher 2 Fly

Theodore Mathioudakis

© 2024 Theodoros Mathioudakis

About Remote Work

Posted at # thoughs # long-read

I am lucky enough to work in the software industry for many years, which means that I am exposed to remote work for more than a decade. Either by working remotely and collaborating on various projects, or by reading, listening and discuss about it.

Many people love it and many others(mainly your boss actually) are saying they that they all should go back to the office. From the latter, I hear a lot that “going to office help people stay more connected, have more genuine interpersonal connections and better communication”, which somehow makes sense. It really does. The thing is that all these years there was something inside me that was contradicting this argument and I couldn’t realise what was that.

Yesterday, I saw this, and I did…

Let’s take the things from the beginning.

Human scale: At first people from same (small) towns started working in same place.

Initially people working in their local businesses. Their work could not be done remotely due to lack of means back then. So, they woke up everyday, eat their breakfast with their families and walk to the local office (or farm, factories etc). The waste was the minimum possible. Again, there was waste while working, since they had to be physically in their “work”, but this was something that couldn’t be solved back then.

Eventually stuff started to scale. And fast forward to the present (around latest 2010s) the norm has change.

OUT of human scale: People are moving to big cities to catch the great opportunities and work in much bigger companies with greater impact.

Working for a company in a big city is a totally different thing than doing it in a small town. You have to travel to the office and back every single day! Given an average of 45mins on each route it adds about 1.5 hours each day. Which is almost one extra day per week. This is actually unpaid time given from the person to the company, right;

This is a something that gradually summed up so nobody seemed to realize that. Everyone is accepting it as the norm. “It is what it is! What we can do?”

Also, it’s obvious to every efficient/productive person that being in the office is at least counter-productive. First of all, it’s not humanly possible to be productive 8 straight hours (with just 30 mins for lunch — :rolling eyes:). So, you deliver something like 6 (best case) hours of actual work, BUT you are forced to provide your full-time 8-hours(at least) presence there (without adding also the fade out time you need after your work). Using the words of Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify: ‘There are 5 creative hours in everyone’s day’

So, doing the simple maths here…

We spend at least 9.5 hours/day for delivering maximum 6 hours of productive work. That’s a lot… Has anyone really agreed on that?

Are we really aware?

Considering all the above, everything we think as normal, end up being a big lie. The hours we work (≠ the hours we spend for work), our salary based on time we work (≠ the salary based on actual time spend for work), the conception that people who “work” more hours are more productive

Back to human scale: Remote work

Switch to remote working and automatically all these things are solved. Instantly. From day #1!

You eat your breakfast and 5 mins later you actually start working.

You are taking a 5’ break and actually do something for yourself instead of walking around in the office and trying to clean your mind. You can actually do something important and useful for you in that time (see your kids for example or properly rest…). You can fill all these meaningless and useless(while in office) time-gaps with important stuff in your life.

You finish and 5 mins later you are ready to do whatever is important for you!

The days are much bigger now and the waste is actually eliminated. I know that there will be many disagreements about all the above, probably for each one line there will be someone that will find a negative on that. So… I’ll go first:

Q: ‘Yeah but how should I know if people are actually working if I don’t see them?”

A: “How do you know now? Really? If you see someone always on time+overtime sitting in his seat, but never delivers, does he/she actually working?”

Q: “Yeah what about the relations between people? People want to see their colleagues and interact with them in person.”

A: “Do they really want it? Do they really prefer to exchange, their time with their actual friends and family, with their interaction with their colleagues? I don’t think so. How many collegues have you meet outside of the working hours? With how many of them are keep seeing each other after you switch jobs? So, in reality, it’s good to meet them once in a while. So… arrange a day for that, once in a while. No office needed”

Q: “Yeah, but what about the efficient communication that is taking place in the office and in person?”

A: “You mean endless, synchronous, useless meetings on random times inside the day, with people who don’t always are the proper ones to join, and ending with abstract decisions and the arrangement of another follow-up meeting?

Have you ever try proper asynchronous communication, with proper tools?”