Remote Work: Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far?

Business & Entrepreneurship

Remote Work: Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far?

Jun 5, 2023

I’m going to be direct about my opinion on a topic that can be controversial: remote work.

I personally believe that being physically together in an office is critical for a healthy work culture. In-person connections are so valuable, and this is complicated by the post-Covid era of remote work. Businesses had to adapt to Covid and take steps to ensure productive virtual working environments. I’m not here to say there shouldn’t be flexibility in the workplace or suggest that community cannot exist in remote scenarios through Slack and other digital forums. It definitely can, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Team size, scope of work, and what business function the person supports are key considerations. I worry though about how far the pendulum has swung against working in the office and the value that comes with in-person connections.

As a result, I’ve seen the way business supports the core value of Team Member Happiness shift significantly. Happiness has become less about creating a supportive and loving workplace environment where Team Members feel valued and appreciated as sources of innovation, creativity, and productivity, and more about whether or not a job is remote.

In my opinion, there’s really no substitution that adequately captures the value of being in a room together. Community is instrumental in cultivating a strong work culture, and being physically together is a necessary component. It’s so valuable for building relationships, providing organic exposure to workstreams of different teams, and strengthening team dynamics. Working physically together supports spontaneous innovation and authentic connections that are difficult to mimic in a remote work setting. You miss out on the opportunity for impromptu conversations that often generate new ideas. It’s also harder to recognize subtle non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language. These small moments may seem trivial, but they are an integral element of human nature designed to establish trust and form genuine connections with others.

I want to be clear: I am not opposed to remote work, but I am opposed to it as the primary form of work. Strong work cultures lead to happy team members, and happy team members lead to higher productivity, which feeds into the larger stakeholder model. One of the challenges that leaders face today is how to ensure that the prioritization of stakeholder needs stays balanced and that culture remains intact.

Leaders – how are you approaching this challenge?