One of the things our current pandemic situation has created is a lot more understanding of just how well much of our work can get done away from the office. Those of us who are continuing to work while our office locations are off-limits have, for the most part, figured out how to continue getting work done, and we’ve even reached a point where only the true curmudgeons are bothered by the site of the family pet, or noise of kids playing, on conference calls.
In fact, it’s become rather endearing.
On the other hand, I’ve seen article after article also talking about how hard it is, how disconnected we are from our colleagues, how we’ve lost the ability to focus, there are so many distractions at home, etc.
To that I say, that’s bunk.
Yes, right now working from home is a challenge because the kids are home all day too, we really never leave the house, we’re all stressed over, well, everything that is happening in the world, etc. We don’t want this, we want to go back to normal.
But, normal was never all that great for many of us when it came to work.
Let me give you a bit of a roundup of other ways to look at this.
In The New Normal Isn’t Remote Work. It’s Better, Lara Farrer writes about the 3 things that need to be adjusted in order to make remote work, work. Once we have made those adjustments, then it’s not so much about working from our home office:
In 2019, OwlLabs promoted a tagline for their annual Work from Anywhere campaign that summarized the true telework advocacy goals best: “Location is Irrelevant.” We don’t need to be anywhere specific to fulfill our scope of work. Some days we might choose to go to the office, others we might go to a coworking space, library, or just our living room. The point is that no matter where we are, we’re trusted and enabled to do our best work. Period. For knowledge workers whose roles rely on mobile tools (such as computers, software, and internet connections), location should be a daily choice, not a lifestyle commitment.
For me, this is really where the idea of working from home goes from lonely and boring, to something much more interesting. If we are able to truly measure someone’s work in meaningful ways, by the quality and quantity of the output, then what difference does it make where that work gets done? If I can work from the office, home, a beach house, the airport, another country, and still maintain the same quality, then does it matter? As someone who works from home normally, the real question is, if, instead of being at home, I’m working from a hotel room in another state because I’m visiting family, and you can’t tell by the output, then why shouldn’t I be wherever I want to be on a given day?
When people start complaining about how disconnected they feel from other people, this is one of the things I like to point out, by giving you the freedom to be “anywhere” and continue working, you actually have the opportunity to visit and stay connected to many, many people outside of the workplace. The fact that so many of us have no one outside the office to be connected to, is really an indictment of what we’ve allowed work to become in our lives, a never-ending time suck that gets in the way of our lives far too often. Remote work gives you some of that back by letting you be elsewhere when you need to be.
Let me give you an example. Early in 2019, I worked in an office. When my mom passed away, I had gone up to Ohio early to help with cleaning out her apartment and if needed, to help my brothers with funeral arrangements as well. The funeral itself wound up being several days later, days that I mostly spent hanging around the hotel, maybe meeting up with a friend after work, etc. In essence, if I could work remotely, I could have easily put in a solid 8 hour day instead of having to take 3 extra days off because I was in a different state. Those were the kinds of experiences that convinced me I wanted to work remotely. Not because I enjoy staying in my house, but because it opened up the possibility of being somewhere else, without having to use up what little vacation time we get in order to spend time with people who are important to me.
Or, let’s look at it another way:
Maybe, we don’t all have to live in some of the most expensive, and yet unhealthy, cities in the country?
“They all say the same thing, they want to get the hell out of where they’re at,” Ken Bednar of Lake Tahoe Communities/Chase International told the Daily Tribune. “I had 19 new clients just sign up in the last three days interested in moving up here.”
With a new generation of younger buyers who are getting used to working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of living out of the city and on an alpine lake while maintaining a career is appealing.
“We have a lot of millennial buyers who are already used to working remotely. They don’t know how long this (pandemic) is going to last, and they’d rather be here,” Bednar told the Tribune, “The people I’m talking to are looking for a simpler life, a close community. They want the outdoors and don’t want to be stuck in places where there’s a health problem.”
I believe I’ve mentioned before that I work for a company based in Seattle, right? And while I mean no offense to Seattle, I know living in Louisiana is a lot cheaper, and a lot closer to family. They get me, at probably a cheaper salary than someone equal in Seattle, and I get to live where I want. Win/Win.
But, don’t just take my word for it:
Now, granted that last headline was a Twitter poll, so hardly scientific, but we are seeing an increase in the number of people willing to trade a high salary for some flexibility. They could move someplace with a lower cost of living, by not having to commute back and forth every day they have a lot more time to their day, they have flexibility to be anywhere and just get their work done, etc.)
Are the other 56% just extroverts who need to be around other people all day? I kind of doubt it, I tend to think that if your job could be done from anywhere, and we know a lot of jobs cannot, one of the biggest reasons people would not choose that flexibility is because they are afraid of what that would look like for their career. It’s hard to charm your way to the top when everyone is remote and there are definite measures to judge employee performance. Some folks are not going to look so good if we can get to good measurements. They’d rather go back to hanging out in the office with everyone because they know how to succeed there. They don’t know how to succeed from home.
But, if they can get past that and figure out how to succeed from not just home, but anywhere? Look out, we may need a lot less office space in the future, and have a higher quality relationships outside of the workplace, because we wont spend 12 hours a day getting ready, going to, and coming from, our work. We’ll just do it, then do something else immediately after.
What we’ve experienced the last few months is work from home under the worst possible circumstances, and it’s still worked out pretty well. Imagine when the kids are in school, or we can travel, and Starbucks is open, again. How nice will it be to have location flexibility instead of just waiting to use your vacation time?
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