Porting Office Work, A Really Bad Idea

I hate open space offices. I don’t particularly like meetings. I do like seeing people at the office from time to time, not every single day. I work better when I’m isolated. Disruption is a productivity killer. Does the work from home works for me? You bet. I don’t have young children. The house is mostly quiet. My home office is great for work. I’m hyper-productive. I like the idea of my employer trusting me.

Recently, my manager asked our group about our feelings about returning to the office after the pandemic. To his dismay, all of us said that we would prefer to stay working from home. He won’t have a choice or people will quit and go work for somebody else. In times of talent scarcity, employees have more control over the rules at work. Employers know it but won’t say it. Employers must abide or else.

In a few weeks, it will be the one-year anniversary of when things flipped over for so many workers. I intend to continue to work from home until I retire. I hope companies will adapt and use this pandemic to change their way of thinking about the workplace. Done are open spaces. Done are downtown offices. On that subject, I really love Jason Fried’s reference to the concept of “software porting” from one platform to the other as a comparison about reinventing the office work in his post “Remote work is not local work at a distance”.

The enlightened companies coming out of this pandemic will be the ones that figured out the right way to work remotely. They’ll have stopped trying to make remote look like local. They’ll have discovered that remote work means more autonomy, more trust, more uninterrupted stretches of time, smaller teams, more independent, concurrent work (and less dependent, sequenced work).

Transposing the old way of working to the work from home environment is not going to do it. Companies and workers will have to think harder to come up with new ways of working. We’re not done yet, and for the sake of being more environment friendly, it will take a long-lasting new way of working together. The pandemic is nothing compared to the environmental crisis that we are in, but refuse to acknowledge with long-lasting behaviour changes.

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