Monday, May 13, 2024

It's Not the Remote Part

We're seeing a lot of back and forth about remote work, and office leases, and in person collaboration, and employee loyalty. 
And I think people are confusing remote work issues with things that are not entirely related to remote work.
Although, sometimes they are. I worked for a company where my entire office went remote, and then I got put on a team where other than myself and one other team member, they were not remote. They were getting one telecommute day a week, and were not allowed to have more. It was awkward to say the least. 
As such, we had team meetings where some of their questions were about the physical space, a physical space I had never (and still never) seen. They had contests involving listening to music in the hallways, that I could not participate in. We had large meetings, where a VP would come talk to us, and the VP would have to be reminded not to walk too far away from the phone, since some of us were listening in.
There were programs my co-workers had, that no one knew how to provide to me, or even who I should ask about them. 
I found out there was a group chat when my manager bragged that the team was so connected that we were all on a group chat. (I did get added the next day.)
When they moved to video meetings, another VP stood up and said this office space is the future of our company. Only for them to ask us to explain three months later why so many of us assumed they were planning to remove remote work.
And they posted no new job positions with a remote work option. Zero. 
So yes, as a remote worker I felt disconnected and not always valued. But it wasn't the lack of commute or the relaxed dress code holding me back. It was because I was disconnected. Because the company culture was built around in person collaboration and they did not know how to adapt it for remote, and honestly weren't trying. 
I've worked with other teams since, and plenty of us figured out lots of ways to stay connected across countries and timezones. To have weekly meetings and group chats that included everybody. To answer questions about tech and provide options for people to gather and even meet people not on their direct teams. 
Now certainly, not every job is suited to remote work.  But just like some meetings could be an email, if the only reason for in person gathering is collaboration, then it's time to consider altering the collaboration styles.