Unremote Working

Dilbert - unremote working

While “remote” working is getting lots of airtime with the pandemic lock-downs, the emerging new normal distinction between “remote” and “flexible” (or “dynamic”) remains important. “Remote” working refers to being away from the main office space, but that is not the objective for dynamic work. Instead, finding the *best* place to work is the key. And that might just be at a conventional office space for certain activities. Or people.

When I first introduced flexible working at Microsoft and Red Bee Piero, I expected everyone to jump on the opportunity to avoid the dreaded commute and stay in the comfort of their own homes. But in both cases, several staff still came in regularly as if nothing had changed. A recent Dilbert cartoon (see above) humorously illustrated a very real and respectable notion that some people simply *want* to commute for extended periods of time to sit in fluorescent lit white-collar factories.

As a result of this experience, I identified a number of reasons why sometimes the best place to work is, indeed, the office itself:

  • HABIT – Some people just have gotten into their routine and are content to keep in their routine. One team member commuted a long distance, but he had gotten into the habit of reading books during his train journey and looked forward to the couple of hours of quite time to read every day (he was convinced that his house would not have provided him the peace and quiet or lack of distraction to enable an extended reading session)
  • CHANGE OF SCENERY – As the pandemic has unscored, we do everything at our homes – eating, sleeping, entertaining, relaxing. If we do our working there to, it can become effectively a guided cage. Going into a workplace can provide a welcome change of scenery to one’s life.
  • NON-OPTIMAL HOME ENVIRONMENT – Sometimes home is not as sweet as the saying says. People have shared living arrangements, limited privacy, no common space, problematic Internet connectivity, ambient noise and a whole host of other issues which make their home a non-optimal place to work and conduct video-conferences.
  • ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT – While less and less of an issue in our increasingly digital world, some roles do require access to specialised equipment which cannot be transported to one’s home because it is too big, too expensive, too sensitive and too many other things.

While some over-ambitious workplace plans strive achieve bean-counting cost cutting by jettisoning all staff from the office space to save on rent and other bricks-and-mortar overhead, such expected savings are short-sighted. Right-spacing the work space to the staff who need or want to be there is a critical component to dynamic working.