This is a guest post by Barbie Brewer
As the pandemic winds down and becomes manageable, many employers are asking employees to return to the office—if not full time, then at least part of the time. Many workers, unsurprisingly, are not enthusiastic about this, having grown accustomed to the benefits of off-site work, including the end of tedious commutes, the ability to work from wherever they happen to be on any given day, and the flexibility remote work affords for their home and family life.
I admit that before I fully experienced the world of remote work for myself, the idea of remote work was just that: remote. The concept was abstract, insubstantial, relevant only for jobs that didn’t require collaboration with other people. The possibility of working in a digital environment was not something I’d ever envisioned for myself. Not until the executives at GitLab actively recruited me, then warmly welcomed me into their groundbreaking, cutting-edge, completely remote organizational culture did I see firsthand the extraordinary benefits that a world like this could bring.
It was, in a single word, awesome.
Of course, each company needs to make the choice that is best for their organization’s leadership abilities, product, customers, and employees. Many leaders believe that true collaboration and trust can only be optimized in an “in-office” environment, and there are definite challenges to mentoring a young work force without the day-to-day contact of on-site work.
However, these are challenges leadership is wise to consider taking on. Companies retaining a remote-first culture have either accomplished the ability to flex their leadership and systems to thrive in a remote work environment and/or recognize the financial and innovative benefits of investing in finding the best talent vs. spending on rent and facilities costs. Many reinvest those savings in hiring talent and initiating events that bring employees together.
While leaders may feel confident about the benefits of having an space office buzzing with workers, and while they may have accepted remote work simply to survive a worldwide emergency, now that workers have had a taste of remote work, companies may find that many employees going forward will make their employment choices based on the flexibility their potential employer allows to accomplish their work. The choice that companies make will be a differentiator in their access to talent and in the culture they build in the future.
Among the positives of remote work that it companies should take into to consideration:
* Remote work opens up a world of talent to hiring managers while eliminating the potential expense of moving new hires. Imagine being able to hire the best person for the job no matter where in the world they work, while also bringing the richness of various world cultures into your company culture—surely a plus in today’s global environment.
*With remote work, we are given a much richer, much more resonant portrait of the humans with whom we work. When we sit down to meet with our teams in a digital environment, we are given an intimate glimpse into their lives and the comfort of their own homes. We get to take a peek at what color schemes they like; we sometimes even get to meet their children and their pets! This more multi-dimensional glimpse adds more depth and texture to our understanding and appreciation of the people who make up our companies.
(At the same time, don’t be too hard on employees as they navigate the challenges of working from their living room. Give them some space to adapt and try not to be critical of the occasional crying child, ringing doorbell, or barking dog. This is when we should open our minds and our hearts and view these glimpses into real lives not as interruptions but as ways we can get to know our employees and teammates better!)
* Remote work doesn’t mean the end of social engagement among employees if leaders think creatively. Love To Know Media, for example, has weekly online meetups called “Coffee and Cab”—so named because employees worked in different time zones, so some employees might join with their morning coffee while others are winding down with an end-of-day glass of wine. Slack channels connecting employees by personal interests, online games on Zoom, and other innovative approaches can help employees get to know each other beyond the job.
I don’t suggest that developing a robust remote organization is easy. Leaders have to have vision, determination, flexibility, compassion, and trust. But the workforce of tomorrow has lived their entire lives in the digital environment, so with open minds, the leaders of today can both lead and follow them into this whole new way of working.
About the Guest Post Author:
Barbie Brewer, author of Live and Let Lead began her career in Silicon Valley during the dot.com boom of the ’90s and is now an industry-leading expert in developing critical areas of modern business performance and culture, including remote and hybrid workforces. As Chief Culture Officer at GitLab Inc., Brewer contributed to the all-remote SAS company’s growth from 150 employees to over 1,000 in more than 60 countries. She was Vice President of Talent for Netflix when the streaming service expanded from 20 million subscribers to over 150 million and she is currently Chief People Officer for Safe Security. Learn more at Barbiejane.com