When Will 100% Remote Be an Accepted Norm?
When Will 100% Remote Be an Accepted Norm?
After participating in a conversation about fully remote work, a Zone Leaders wonders how long it will take for corporations to adopt this sought-after benefit.
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I am a member of a few different Slack channels. Recently, one of those channels featured the topic of working remote and how the idea of being 100% remote is still a foreign concept to so many corporations across America. I thought I would spend some time trying to understand why so many places of employment are still against providing a 100% remote opportunity for Information Technology resources.
How We Got Here
Like so many other learning opportunities, it might help to take a step back and reflect on the history of Information Technology.
Picture yourself graduating from college in the 1980s or 1990s, ready to change the world with your college degree and your freshly polished programming skills. Depending on the year you started working in the industry, you might have to share a terminal to write the program code required to complete your job. The idea of having a computer at your desk wasn't a reality. For those starting a little later, you might have a computer at your desk, but it is merely a client to a host system housing your program logic and processing power.
The system you programmed on was in near proximity to you. Later, that idea was broken into an application server and some type of data store or database. There wasn't a cloud option to host your system, but some did have custom connectivity to align data centers across private corporate networks. Remember, the internet wasn't a "thing" we could rely on, yet.
There was a fleet of programmers who grew up in this reality. Wake up each day, put on some nice clothes (most of the time wearing a suit and tie), make the commute into the office, and start the workday. Notice - I didn't enintoh start working because there were quite a few distractions back in those days:
Greeting co-workers before settling in to work.
Getting coffee/water and engaging in some non-work-related conversations.
Eating breakfast or glancing at the newspaper.
Throughout the day, meetings would be scheduled. The process of attending a meeting caused team members to halt their work, relocate to a meeting room, participate in a meeting that was longer than it needed to be. Then, close out the meeting, relocate back to a workspace and try to get back up to speed on the task that was being attempted before the meeting started. In my experience, the majority of meetings I attended were 2 - 4 times longer than needed, with an invitation list that was at least twice as large as required to meet the needs on the agenda.
Now, what can be measured as decades later, these individuals are now in some senior-level role - making the decisions the current fleet of programmers work within. Most likely, they are advocates of keeping the workforce in the building - because that is how things were when they performed technical roles.
When asking one of those who are not in favor of 100% remote opportunities, one or more of the following myths are often provided:
There are too many temptations that will distract you at home.
You need to be in the office, because:
We are on an agile team and everyone must be in the same room.
I might have a question and need your immediate response.
Our experience is that face-to-face communication is the best approach.
We have meetings and you must attend them, in person.
It is important to our customer to see you working in the office.
What Year Is This?
When I hear these reasons, I must work hard to avoid showing my response via facial expressions that make it clear I don't understand. Addressing each of the myths:
The distractions at the office far outweigh any distraction in my remote office. I recall being on an agile team and having to resort to pushing earbuds deep into my ears and cranking my music up to drown out the conversations of others. When individuals would arrive and leave the room, it also would cause me to lose my focus and then must race back to figure out where I was with my current task.
As a part of needing to be in the office:
I have personally experienced working on fully remote agile teams with extremely positive results. Instead of reaching out to bother someone, because they were in the same room, I took a few moments to make sure I really needed that person before sending a chat message to them. Turns out, most of the time, I did not need to waste their time.
Questions can be answered via chat tools or even a quick video conference. This beats face-to-face communication because there is a documented response - making it easier to reflect on down the road.
Face-to-face communication works great over remote conferences. In fact, shortly after joining DZone, we had monthly Google Hangouts, which were great - since every Zone Leader is located in a different part of the world. Those calls allowed me to establish face-to-face communications and relationships with people I would have never been able to meet if a true in-person "face-to-face" requirement was the only option.
Again, with conferencing tools and technologies, there is really no reason to have everyone in the same physical location. My last three projects personally have had team members scattered across the United States and we were very successful in delivering a solid product to our customers.
I am not sure I get this thought process. The customer that development teams are working for should be focused on meeting the needs of his/her customers. If they are focused on the physical location of the development team, I wonder just how dedicated they are toward making sure the best type of product is being delivered from their perspective.
As I take, yet another, step back and examine the myths provided above, I wonder if there is an underlying trust (or lack of trust) issue between the employer and the employees. When I frame my thoughts in that direction, the myths almost become excuses more than they are valid reasons ... to supplement a lack of trust.
In cases where there is a trust issue, I am not sure I have the best insight toward resolving the situation ... other than, give employees an opportunity to prove themselves. While some may argue that there is a subset of employees who would abuse the opportunity, I believe that same segment would abuse their employment in some other manner if required to work in the office. Honestly, those are the exceptions more than the norm.
What's interesting is that, as Information Technology professionals, we are taught to focus on hitting the 80% rule - also, known as the Pareto Principle. Yet, I believe corporations avoiding allowing the 100% remote concept are doing just that, focusing on the exceptions at the sacrifice of providing a worthwhile benefit to those who would yield more productivity working 100% remote.
Going back to that Slack channel conversion. As individuals talked about switching jobs, the idea of 100% remote was at the top of the requirements list. If it is not there, most are not willing to change careers without the ability to work remotely. As more corporations begin to realize the benefits to 100% remote, those fighting it will likely be left with sub-par team members - since they are failing to meet the needs of developers who wish to work remotely and provide extremely productive results to their initiatives.
Does your corporation really want to be on the trailing edge of that trend?
Have a really great day!
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