I’m a proponent of distributed work, and I’m not threatened by folks who challenge this way of working. It’s as exciting to me as the internet itself. Plus, most of the time the concerns are elementary, like the belief that designers can’t design if they’re not together physically, or assorted presenteeism-based fears about control. Most people just want to be trusted to do good work, and not be lonely.
Anywho, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been filing away lots of observations (smile). The very valid concerns people speak up about are nuanced, multi-variate, cultural, and changing. Which makes it harder to problem-solve, or make generalizations about, sure. But ultimately, this is a good thing. It means that things aren’t immutable, systems can be taken apart, and things can be fixed. At the core of these concerns is the reality that there are certain aspects of human society that seep their way into any place people spend time and work together. It’s the not acknowledging that these things exist or will arrive–that for some reason your organization is immune–that does you in, makes the problems harder to fix, and hurts people.
Compound that with the other realities of human society that we have had to face in a very raw way lately. It makes sense that this article would piss off advocates and critics of distributed work alike:
“Our remote work future is going to suck” on Sean Blanda’s blog.
This is my third year of working 100% distributed, in addition to 3 years where I was one of a small minority of employees who were not allowed to work distributed but everyone else was, and a few more years where different roles and teams had different options in a massive and old tech company. And a few years in an office where working from home was not okay. Lots of variation, and my working take on it all is that if you’re going to “go remote” your best bet is to bite the bullet and go fully distributed. (Ever met someone who said they were gonna go part-time keto and then felt both hangry all the time and didn’t lose weight? It’s sort of like that.) The “mixed methods” approach…might seem to provide ways to give yourself a break to ease in or change your mind…but in my observation it provides more loopholes for the problematic stuff in that blog post to fester.
I did not have the concerns going into my first fully-distributed gig that are referenced in this post. Now I do. Yet they weren’t enough to get me back into an office locally or to move to SF. I now know I can do quality work this way and from an office. But I’m much wiser about spotting the things that will prevent me and others from doing good work in a distributed organization, and pushing back against flawed claims that if one has these concerns, it means one is not fit for distributed work. These issues really often are a reflection of a conflict between upholding an idea or tradition over the needs of a business or its people. There is so much room in there for privilege and marginalization, with the added ease of never having to look people in the eye. So the more businesses and people work distributed, the easier it will become to call out the things that should not be the way they are.
(PS, I tend to write on the curt side, so I’m not throwing shade here. Just blogging….Con mucho mucho….amorrrrrr.)