The Future of Work: Remote vs. On-site


Journey with me, back to my childhood in the 90s. It was common at my elementary school for teachers to group students into four-desk clumps forming a square. The idea was to foster an environment of open communication and collaboration. This was great for some students and not so great for others. Fast forward a few years and I found that my university courses regularly assigned group projects where the students were expected to be self-organizing and autonomous. This usually resulted in an initial meeting, and then one person doing the lion’s share of the work while the rest lazed about, pretending to contribute. The purpose was (supposedly) to prepare students for a real-life career where we’re all required to work with others on the regular. Unfortunately none of my professors ever came up with a great way for these projects to be anything like the professional workplace.

“New” Concepts

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Many desk, much talk.

Collaboration vs Distraction

The cost benefit equation of “easy collaboration” vs “constant co-worker chatter” is difficult to balance and, like most everything else in life, will vary greatly between people.

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Office Arguments

  • Many people feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they are working while being observed. Recognition can be vital to the success for certain individuals and that should not be discounted.
  • Face-to-face relationships can be much more rewarding than face-to-screen relationships. Communication can be easier with gestures depending on the way people communicate best. This will always vary from person-to-person, but is valuable to many.
  • The feeling that people are actually people. Some argue that an advantage of working together physically is a way to build empathy for coworkers. When you physically interact with people, you can grow to perceive them as real people and not just code in a simulation.
  • Managers might struggle the most when it comes to having employees who are not working in the same location. The whole concept of management is to understand their subordinates as people and how to help them succeed. Managers can achieve this much quicker and more easily when working closely with people every day instead of just over chat or sparingly in meetings.

WFH Distraction

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No distractions here though!

So What’s The Answer Then!?

Wait, so, nothing works!? People get distracted and lose focus either way?! So what the hell can we do!?!? Well I’m glad you asked!

  • Remote communication is a skill like any other. You can improve it and get better over time with practice.
  • If communication begins short and slow, but becomes a bigger topic, get on a call as soon as you realize it or schedule a meeting with the invested parties.

Fight The Open Floor Plan

Lately there’s been a combination of open floor plans and cubicle-esque concepts. Your team usually needs to collaborate regularly but you often will not need to be involving other teams around you. A large room for each team can solve this problem in a reasonable way.

Adjust For Remote-Preferred

If we can improve the productivity for those who want to work remotely, we should accommodate that. Figure out what works best for your team regarding communication platforms and execute and measure.

Think of The Benefit For Prospects

Suddenly the freedom to choose remote vs office work becomes a huge benefit for prospective employees.

My Experience

For me specifically, I prefer to work remotely whenever possible.

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Software developer constantly trying to learn more. Currently developing Android apps using Kotlin.

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