Remote Workers Just Don't Work

Remote Workers Just Don't Work

Or at least that’s what all the big companies are thinking. Every direction I turn I end up hearing about another company closing down a remote office or getting rid of remote workers and it always end’s up getting blown out of proportion.

First let’s level set on a few terms here.

  • Work from Home – To me this means you have an employee that normally works at a physical office that the company owns. That employee has the perk of being able to work from home either on a full time, part time, or day-by-day basis.
  • Remote Worker – This is an employee who does not have a physical office to go to. Their home is their office. One perfect example of this is Scott Hanselman. He works for Microsoft but out of his house in Portland, Oregon.
  • Remote Office – When a big corporation, which has a big headquarters, has a smaller office in another location. For the last 4+ years while working for Nokia/Microsoft I would consider my work to be done in a remote office. I was not working in the headquarters where most things were being done.

Now that we are level set on definitions let’s dig in a bit. Over the last year it seems like there has been a theory that if you are not “on-site” you are not as valuable or work as hard. The big news story that started all of this was back in the beginning of 2013 when Yahoo said they were looking for employee’s to be in the office in order to foster better communication and collaboration. They did go on to say if you have to be at home one afternoon to wait for the cable guy just use your best judgement, so they didn’t completely get rid of work from home privileges.

At first everyone in the tech field was appalled by the decision. Telecommuting has become a way of life for most IT professionals and now it was being ripped away. When you settle down a little bit and think about it though you can understand the point, at least I did. I have had the opportunity to work with colleagues around the world and most times everything just works out. But every so often when we have the opportunity to travel and be face to face the amount of real work that get’s done goes through the roof. Maybe that was just my perception but I know I had a great time, both personally and professionally, and I think it was well worth the travel cost.

I recently read a book called Remote: Office Not Required. The overarching theme through out the book was this, remote workers are great as long as they can prove their worth. While this makes sense for all employees it’s especially true for remote employees. You shouldn’t be able to just sit at home with no accountability and collect a pay check. Your there to do a job, step up and do it.

Fast forward to a few days ago. Reddit just announced that they got $50 million in new funding and that all employee’s are to move to San Fransisco by the end of the year. Wait, what?!? The company that has been built up over the last nine years from a staff that is, what I believe, at least 1/4 remote is getting rid of it’s remote workers. If this was a case that Reddit’s service was experience issues and they needed all hands on deck I would understand. But Reddit has been in growth mode for a number of years and the community behind it is amazing.

Is killing off remote workers the answer to helping company performance? I don’t know and I would venture a guess that a lot of it depends on the situation. I see the pro’s and con’s of each side but realistically if it’s not broken why “fix” it?

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