Ed Zitron has a lot to say on the subject, and I don’t know that I agree with all of it, but I do believe the challenge that many of us are facing when it comes to remote work is this.
“The issue at its core is that bosses hiring people “full-time” often do so, as dramatic as it sounds, to capture their soul. Within the hours of 9 to 5 (but let’s be real, it’s more than that), they expect to own the time, attention and energy of that person. The nebulous badge of “full-time” brings with it a level of ownership of the person – they cannot go elsewhere, what they create is yours, on some level they are yours, because you have deigned them worthy of a salary and benefits and whatever other crumbs you pass their way. In return, you expect them to dedicate their existence to you – on levels of dramatic ranging from “I need to see you in the office” to “I want to make sure I can text you at 10PM and badger you about some shit that bothers me.””
As Ed mentions, and quotes Jeremiah Owyang, the real fear is that a company is paying someone “full-time” who is working from home and doing something other than work during those work hours. Because you can’t see them all day long and can’t pop in on them to see what they are really doing, you just assume you aren’t getting your money’s worth, but that’s also kind of a false equivalency outside of actual hourly work. In the knowledge economy, you’re not paying for time. You’re paying for knowledge and finished work. So, if I get the amount of work assigned to me completed in 7 hours instead of 9-10 hours, why do you care what I do with the spare time? Why do you reward the people who work 9-10 hours but get less done? You’re getting the work you paid for.
Frankly, if you’re so hung up on the hours someone works, don’t be surprised when what you get from them is hours worked, and nothing more. They will absolutely be at the office when they are supposed to be, they’ll get all their work done, and they’ll be gone right at 5, never to spend a spare moment thinking about their work after that. (More than likely spending their evenings and lunch hours searching for a new job instead of going out of their way to contribute to your business.)
As Ed points out though, there’s always a large number of managers who are more interested in owning you. That’s why it matters that you’re in the office where they can see you, why they’ll convince you to be “passionate” about the work, to find a true calling in the work. To not think of it as just a 9-5 job, but your “career path”, to set your goals on being a manager and giving you fancier titles and power as a reward for all those hours you spent working to make the company money.
When you all work from home and it’s clear who’s doing the work, and who is just spending hours “at” work, the game is up. Bad managers never want the game to be up. Unfortunately, there are way too many bad managers. Mostly people who were rewarded with the power of management simply for working a lot of hours, who’ve never been taught how to manage. They only know one career path, the one they followed, and now that 2020 has forced many of the people who work for them to have a rethink about what they truly want out of their lives, they’re unable to adapt. So they fall back on what they know, get everyone back in the office!
In 2021, the game is up. Adapt or die.
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