Monday, July 31, 2017

Remote Work is the Future

As previously mentioned in my little note about not missing game development any more, a major factor in my quality of life increase has been the removal of long commutes and heavy overtime from my life. Now comes a Wall Street Journal article about how companies are cutting back on remote work. To my mind, this is movement in precisely the wrong direction.

Speaking for myself, I won't be going back to a long commute unless I'm desperate. The quality of life increase realized by not spending two to four hours trapped in a car is something that mney just can't buy. Meanwhile, tech hubs like San Francisco , Los Angeles, and Seattle keep having their average commutes get longer, sometimes while passing laws that directly make commuters' lives more miserable and expensive.

And what are the main reasons cited for shoving these remote workers back into their cars every day? The near-mythical hallway conversations revered by productivity consultants everywhere, and the far more tangible managerial oversight beloved by insecure control freaks. If only there were some way for groups to have conversations together while in separate locations, and for managers measure productivity without needing to hover over their employees' shoulders!

Oh wait, there are. Slack, Skype for Business, even Discord can provide remote collaboration for groups. To say nothing of email and even that old classic, the telephone. (Remember telephones? And voice calls? They still exist, and still work for people who don't want to type!) Given a few more years, I expect that the HoloLens or other similar Mixed Reality devices will make effective telepresence a much closer reality too.

For managers, the answer is objective, measurable performance indicators. A manager who doesn't know or understand what his workers are doing, needs to fix his ignorance, not pull workers back into the office.

Don't get me wrong, physical presence is nice for some people. Folks who enjoy the social aspects of an office, find the home office too distracting, or simply don't have the space or hardware to work at home need an office location to go to. But for many others, there's just no reason to go into an office location every day.

If I have my way, I'll never work a job that's more than twenty minutes from my house again. I don't mind going to work with a short commute, but if I ever have to leave my current company, it'll have to be for a place that's either local, or offers a remote option.

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