Remote workers think that they have found the cure to all diseases. And they (we) are quick to let you know about how remote work will solve all your problems.
- Too many meetings? It should have been a document; remote work would have made you do that more often.
- Tired all the time? Probably because of your commute. Remote work would have solved that.
- Seasonal depression? Well, I take a sunlit walk every single day, because I can work from home, so the time change doesn't affect me: I don't spend all the daylight hours in a cubicle.
- Don't have enough time for family? Ah, you need to try remote work. You will be around more and it will make you a better parent.
- Acne? Eating out too much? Not tall enough? Obviously, remote work will provide time for skincare, home cooking, and to apply the latest advances in genetic engineering.
This attitude tracks as arrogance and separates us from what we want: for more people to work remotely; for it to become more normal.
There are two audiences that hear all this remote-work bragging: the skeptic and the curious.
For the curious, they want to know when and how it works, and what benefits are real. Can you really have more time for your family without your work suffering? Can you really build a career this way? The last thing they want to hear is that the remote community is condescending, elitist, or somehow tied to a specific situation. Being honest about what it makes harder and easier helps more for those that are interested. You don't have to be a digital nomad or travel the world to work from where you wish, you don't have to be a freelancer or own your own small business to do it. You don't have to be an expert in your field to do it.
For the skeptical audience, many of the arrogant messages are simply ammunition to help them dismiss the practice as unprofessional. Let's say you post about how you can hang out by the pool and work for a few hours, but don't talk about how you only do this a few days a month or about how you do it to get sunshine because you are struggling with working too much and not going outdoors. Someone from a more traditional work environment couldn't take a video call from beside a pool without getting fired, so its hard for them to imagine a workplace that would allow it. Instead, talk about how your workplace transitioned and/or runs a results-oriented environment, and what happens if you were just tanning all day and not actually working. To implement remote work a company needs a way to track how much is getting done that does not rely on the traditional methods. Be honest with both sides.
I personally think that remote work can be effective in a very large majority of industries and experiences. I start my book about how to work from home effectively by saying that anyone that does all their work on a computer owes it themselves to try it, because of how powerful it can be. Yet I understand why starting out your career you might prefer a drive to a large busy office so you can establish a lot of social relationships, or why as a manager you might want your people to be physically present so you can install a certain work culture quickly.
Don't we all just want remote work to be an option, at least part-time, for a larger number of people? If so let's be empathetic to the fact that to make remote work happen more companies and more workers need to know what they are doing, and we need to help them learn how.
To make sure I'm not (just) a blowhard, here is what I'm trying to do.
- Discuss the real challenges and obstacles honestly and openly.
- Explain why it is so important to us personally; explain where the passion for remote work comes from.
- Provide resources that help, for all parties, rather than dismiss those who are trying to work remotely but currently can't.
- Be cheerleaders for those that are new to it, rather than competitive or arrogant.