Does Remote Work Make It Obvious Who is Getting Work Done?

Ed Zitron, writing in the Atlantic, seems to think so:

Remote work makes who does and doesn’t actually do work way more obvious.

He goes on to talk about the various ways that remote work is upsetting the typical middle manager and possibly making it clear that there are a lot of people who “manage” but don’t actually contribute anything to the bottom line, and the likelihood that they don’t even manage well. That goes away in a remote world where everyone can just hit “send” on their work.

Regarding technology flattening the organization, I would agree with Ed. Where I’m going to disagree is in assuming every workplace has figured that out and taken advantage of it.

Bad managers are still bad managers, even if they are remote. If the management style at your company is to measure work by, what Ed calls, the “appearance of work”, you’ve probably struggled with remote work. Or, you’ve got everyone in meetings, or at least available online all day, every day. On the other hand, if you’ve switched to remote work and also switched the way you measure your directs, you’ve probably been very successful and might even be willing to accept remote work permanently. It’s all about understanding that what we do with teams when they work in-person doesn’t work with remote teams and adjusting.

Remote work isn’t compatible with management that measures workers by the hours they spend at their desks or how many people like you. Those measurements kind of go out the window. So it would be best if you had new, better measurements. I’d argue that you need the measurement you should have always been using, but I digress.

When you start measuring the actual work people do, communicating clear expectations around that work, and create a culture (yes, you absolutely still have a culture remotely, whether you think you do or not) where everyone knows what is expected of them, the physical location of your employees becomes less relevant. There is no need to watch them, nag them, walk by their desk, etc. The work either gets done, or it doesn’t. That’s your measurement. That is all. The problem is that far too many companies screaming for everyone to go back to working in the office haven’t made any adjustments in measuring people, so they need to go back to seeing you at your desk and approaching you to demand things instead. They can’t figure out how to function in a world that doesn’t reward long hours in the office and office politics.

Is it any wonder that they will also struggle to retain employees? We’ve seen a better workplace; why settle for this?

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