Remote Work: Why Discussing Its Flaws Is A (Hugely) Positive Sign For Its Future

A laptop — possibly open for remote work. Image; Piqsels.

Open up Medium or LinkedIn or just about any professionally-oriented social network these days, and you’re sure to see plenty of debate taking place about remote work.

Common topics I’ve seen cropping up recently include:

  • The pitfalls of remote work and the fact that while remote may be a sign that an organization is forward-thinking, it doesn’t mean that it’s immune from the kind of toxicity that might pervade in an offline-first organization.
  • Asynchronous vs. synchronous communications and how important getting the communications stack is to making remote work truly work for everybody involved. (Disclaimer: I’m a huge fan of async and recently set up a publication here on Medium to discuss developments in the space).
  • How remote working is the new norm. Yes, this particular line of attack is beyond cliché already. But give your professional contacts just a little bit more time to make the point that remote work isn’t some nice-to-have newfangled toy that startups are playing around with. It’s an entirely viable way for people to come together to make companies work. And it’s happening everywhere.

The debate surrounding remote work might at times feel repetitive.

It sometimes feels as if there’s no online space that hasn’t been touched by it.

And yet I believe the fact that we’re seeing so much of it taking place right now is actually a massively positive barometer for its future.

By Talking About Its Problems, We’re Front-Loading Critical Conversations That Impact Remote Work’s Future

The evolution that we’ve seen taking place in the entire sphere of remote work recently represents a seriously seismic shift forward in terms of how quickly we’re getting used to working in new and improved configurations.

The kind of transition that might have taken the best part of a decade had a pandemic not forced us to figure out the whole remote connectivity thing has been squished into the best part of a couple of years.

As that has happened — and far more of us have been doing it — the discourse around remote work has moved from something of interest to futurists to something that touches upon the working lives of just about everybody.

And so while remote work might have previously been the near exclusive province of tech evangelists and pundits, we’re now seeing the debate about how to do it best taking place at a societal level.

If you were interested enough to click into this article, then there’s a chance that everybody from your mother to that old coworker you’re still friends with on Facebook has mentioning something about it to you. It’s on everybody’s lips in a way that wasn’t true just a few short years ago. We’re way past only geeks and techies talking about it. Everybody’s heard about it — if they’re not already doing it.

And the catalyst for all this? The pandemic.

Due to it, we’ve had to rearchitect our workplaces at a pace that would have probably seemed inconceivable before we had to find a way to work remotely through exigence.

And like most changes that are forced upon humanity by circumstance rather than by choice, the initial attempt at making the change is likely to be buggy. It’s reactionary, after all. And we’re seeing plenty of evidence of that in the war stories that those who have worked in ineffective and sometimes even toxic remote environments relay to the internet.

That’s why I think it’s vital to understand that the remote work environments that we’re currently seeing cropping up around us are rough drafts. They’re V1s of what an ideal remote-first or hybrid working environment might look like. At some point in the future that mightn’t be that far off. And like most drafts, they’ll slowly get better over time. The quicker we can kick them off, the sooner they’ll reach maturity.

Of course, in order to bring drafts closer to the finished product, a feedback loop is necessary. Which is why I think that the conversations we’re seeing cropping up right now are enormously valuable to remote work’s future. Even if they may seem a bit repetitive.

Remote Work Can Get Better Fast — If We Keep Sharing Knowledge About What’s Working And What’s Not

Anybody following the debate online about remote work has probably noticed that the whole topic of synchronous vs. asynchronous communications has been one of the first debates to receive a major online airing.

This is one example of how the widespread practice of remote work — and the availability of online discussion fora — can vastly accelerate how we flag problems in discrete areas of it. Where technical solutions can plug the gap, vendors are never far behind to offer solutions. The result of this loop is that the process of remote working can iteratively improve at a pace that would have been difficult in recent history.

To continue with the async debate as an example:

While the pros and cons of these two different communications modalities has always been important, when virtually everybody is being subjected to often pointless and repetitive Zoom meetings, flagging the issue takes on a whole new level of prioritization.

All it takes is a LinkedIn thread to coalesce support for a viewpoint. Then leave social media to do what it does best — drive virality — and we’re on the fast road to actually bringing about change in how companies approach this aspect of the equation.

This is a great time for remote work to finally — and belatedly — really start coming into its own (belatedly because the tools to make it work have long been ahead of actual adoption rates).

Because the online content sharing ecosystem has rarely been more vibrant.

Ideas about what works–and doesn’t — in the realm of online working can be shared in minutes. Syndication to social networks ensures that critical masses can quickly coalesce around viewpoints that are likely to gain traction. The next step in the process is actually affecting change.

There’s a lot of chatter taking place about remote work on the internet right now. And in bars. And in coffee shops. You can’t escape it. It transcends both the online and physical realms of our existence.

While the topic may feel like it’s already surpassed saturation point, I think it’s enormously important. The more we can discuss what works about this arrangement, the quicker we can mark from remote working V1 to V2.

This is a great time for those interested in remote work. There’s an enormous appetite to explore it on the part of companies.

Those working in remote or remote-first environments can see themselves as more than just remote workers.

They’re vital nodes in a worldwide ecosystem dedicated to helping establish best practices that will make remote work more enjoyable and effective for all involved.

Which is why they shouldn’t be shy about sharing their experience about what’s working, and what’s not, with others. Because it’s that very sharing that can contribute to making the whole project better for everybody.

We’re at a vital juncture in the transition towards remote work. The online discussion surrounding everything remote can be a powerful conduit towards driving that change.

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Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com

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