Remote working as a norm
A few weeks ago, I was around the coffee machine at work, looking through the window the usual traffic jam of downtown Lyon in the morning. I was asking myself do people really do this every fucking morning? I mean, I understand we need to go to work every morning, but how many people stuck in the traffic jam every morning have really no other choice?
And by choice I don’t necessarily assert everybody should use a bicycle. What about a scooter? What about public transport?
And what if you just don’t need any commute at all because you can work from home? What would be the global impact if remote working was actually a norm, and not an exception?
This is my personal experience, feel free to challenge me at any point. For a little context, I’m a software developer with 7 years of experience. I had worked remotely during 2 years (2013-2015).
This blog post happens because I was astonished with feedback about this simple tweet. So I believe it deserves a little more explanation than 140 characters.
“What do you mean by remote working?”
I mean, normally not working in your company’s building.
In my personal experience, we worked at home but met together for a full day at least once a week. Also if some of us met a pretty hard issue, we worked together for a full day, either just on hangout, or physically in the same office.
I hope you notice ”not working in your company’s building”, working at home is certainly not an obligation. There are plenty of great co-working spaces out there.
Also we know some great companies like Github (ok it might not be great anymore) who were able to run distributed teams across different countries. A common mistake about remote working is: we assume you won’t be able to communicate with your co-workers.
Communication does not necessarily require two people to be physically in the same room. It’s a matter of tools and culture.
Even if I agree that remote communication may be harder than physical synchronous communication, I believe it’s a question of practice.
Good code requires good practices, the same is true for communication. Distance forces your team to improve its communication skills, to be more efficient.
Now let’s imagine the different impacts if globally, we all try to work remotely (I know you already want to scream: “But every jobs do not fit for remote working!” don’t worry, we’ll speak about that in the limits section)
First of all, imagine the impact on traffic if most people work from home or in co-working spaces nearby. Less traffic Jam, less fossil energy used. Of course it’s really hard to estimate what the impact would exactly be, but a quick search on google confirms that traffic is responsible for more than 25% of the global atmosphere pollution.
Because cars are mostly used to commute to work, It’s easy to imagine how big the impact would be if we avoid using them. And I haven’t even mentioned car accidents and related tragedies we could avoid as well.
It would definitely be great for our planet if we stop using our cars for unnecessary commute.
Some people react to my tweet thinking I’m an introvert. Funnily enough, I think my remote working period was one of the most social I ever had in my professional life. Let me explain why.
When working remotely, when people ask you to come out for a drink or a restaurant after work, you’re pretty happy to go because you are not tired. You are happy to see people and you know you could wake up a little later next morning if you come back home a bit late.
Currently, I work 1 hour from home, I wake up at 7:30am and come back at 7:00pm. I feel pretty tired when I come back, and certainly don’t want to go out. Even when I do, I can’t come back too late or I will be really tired the next day.
Also you know all these places you can never go because they are open when you are at work? Yep, post office, bank etc. Well it’s no longer a problem, you can enjoy going anywhere without the crowd, and without the stress of losing your weekend in endless queues at some administration.
The consequences are: you are less stressed, have more fun and are rarely tired during the day.
Another interesting aspect is that it would also allow to spread population density and revive some rural or semi-rural areas. If we no longer need to commute in the big city where all the offices are, we might have a better population repartition. It would definitely benefit to little local businesses.
Simple personal observation: I’m globally more productive when working remotely by a factor of 1/3. No rocket science here, I use Pomodoro to track my productivity in a day. At work (classic open space) I perform 6 to 7 Pomodoros per day (around 3.5 hours of focus work), unless I’m working in pair or in mob programming.
At home I perform 9 to 10 Pomodoros per day (around 5 hours of focus work). For several reasons I guess. But as I explained, one of the main is that you have to communicate efficiently when working remotely. The rest of the time you can easily focus without being interrupted.
In an open space, communication is often chaotic, unorganized, and inefficient. People walk around, and in the space of one minute you can hear about a birthday, a joke, and a critical bug in production.
Being less tired is probably very important as well, I have more energy which could explain my increased productivity.
Another great point, like explain here is that you are judged with the work you actually do, not by the work you appear to do.
We all know workalcoolhics working very long hours in a very inefficient way and still being often congrats by the management.
In remote, nobody in your team is here to see “how hard” you work. Your only value is the quality and relevance of the code you produce. Maybe a “remote management” would actually lead to better result, at least in the IT industry for this exact reason.
Here we are, I hear you thinking: “But how can a school teacher or a physician work remotely?”
Yes, I agree, not all jobs are a good fit for remote working. Jobs around software (building or using it) are the most suitable for this model I guess. But remember software is eating the world, right? So we could probably find a lot of jobs that actually fit this model.
Even for those who basically don’t fit, we could imagine different models. I agree, some jobs cannot be done remotely, but remember traffic generates 25% of atmosphere pollution. Even if we could find remote alternatives for 10% of all the existing jobs, it would definitely have a visible effect.
If we would consider remote working as a norm, we could look how any job could be performed remotely. I understand it’s not possible for all the jobs, but I’m also sure that our everyday commute to our company’s offices is in part due to unchallenged and useless habits.
If we consider remote alternatives when possible, my feeling is that we could have less pollution, more happy people and more productive companies.
What’s your feeling?
Great thanks to Haikel Guemar, Laurent Caron and Nieve for the review.