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As you may also know, I’ve been doing writing for the Indy Chamber’s publication Indy Forward. My latest piece there is on the future of remote work in the post-coronavirus world. Here’s an excerpt:
While remote work can initially be exhilarating, those workers who find themselves cut off from these networks can suffer in their career long term. It’s also the case that without real social interaction with colleagues, it will be harder to keep employees engaged over the longer term. This will especially come into play as ordinary turnover changes over the employee’s peer and supervisors group. It’s one thing to start working remotely when your colleagues are people you formerly worked with in-person everyday. It’s quite another when it’s a group of people you don’t have pre-existing personal relationships with. For work-from-home arrangements that are still local to the physical office, in-person events and office days can help, but this is much harder when working remote over long distances.
Click through to read the whole thing.
So, place matters. The concentration of capital and highly-skilled labor in certain cities is not a self-serving game played by the ‘cool kids.’ It’s an meaningful organization of economic activity built on actual skills, networks, and knowledge.
My employer has moved us to remote work. Sitting at the kitchen table all day can be a little lonely, to be honest. Zoom and similar ilk helps, but…
Can’t say I am a big fan except there is a tacit understanding that hours are more flexible. I can indulge in my recreational cycling passion, for instance. But I also find myself answering or sending emails at night or on weekends. 🙂 (Cycling (solo) is one of the few things I am allowed to do during these virus-benighted times)
Frank the Tank says
I’ve been splitting most weeks 50/50 between commuting to the office and working from home for the past several years. That has been a good balance in terms of being able to continue having direct social connections at the office while also having the flexibility to work from home that cuts out the commute time and, as a result, maximizes the time that I have with my family.
During the pandemic, I definitely miss being able to see my office mates in person. However, having worked in environments previously where in-office face time was effectively mandated (e.g. large law firms), if I had to choose between being 100% in the office again or 100% work from home, there’s no question that I’d take the latter. The flexibility matters to me more than anything at this point in my life and, honestly, it’s a huge negative to me if an employer doesn’t trust its employees to use that flexibility wisely.
It’s quite ironic that some of the firms that are at the forefront of creating the technology that makes remote working and communication possible, such as Google, Apple and Facebook, are actually very old school in terms of wanting their employees to largely be physically in the office all of the time. I talked to one of those firms about jobs before and was quite shocked that they didn’t allow working from home as a general matter. It will be interesting to see how much those firms’ attitudes toward telecommuting will change (along with other notorious “office face time” environments like law firms and investment banks) when they have been forced to be almost completely remote workforces during this pandemic (and they largely have work that can be done anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection). I think they’re going to find more employees will like working remotely (at least partially) more than not, so they may need to adjust if they want to retain their talent.
Is the heartland commitment to place necessarily an asset? Isn’t it just evidence of how heartland metros are disconnected from various kinds of valuable networks?
Chris B says
My wife took a job in a distant metro just before the Pandemic. She had intended to supercommute weekly for 3-6 months until she was comfortable with a 50-50 remote working setup (as Frank described above). She says it’s a lot easier to work with folks remotely when she knows their style and mannerisms. However, that came to a screeching halt in early March and she has exclusively worked from home.
She has long worked with teleconferencing since hers is a worldwide industry, and she is very comfortable with it.
I should add that she has an excellent reputation in her field, and has no problem networking from the Heartland. She had several opportunities with US and Euro companies, and none had a problem with her commitment to living and working from a Heartland metro as long as she was willing to travel as necessary.
Couldn’t be happier with work from home…finally have privacy to do my job and work on projects with less office politics