The future of remote work is not inevitable, it is a choice

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By Cevat Yerli, CEO and Founder, ROOM

Remote work gets nowhere. Sadly, the conversation around him doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either.

There has been a fair amount of resistance to accelerating remote work structures among top CEOs. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase has announced that he plans to cancel all of his Zoom meetings and bring his business back to the office; Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has confirmed that he “doesn’t see any bright spots” about remote working. In May, fury erupted over the misguided editorial written by the Washingtonian CEO who suggested remote workers could potentially be demoted to entrepreneur status. Likewise, there is also the endless stream of articles and columns of advice on pontificating work on “the new normal”, which assumes that this way of doing business is the logical conclusion of the next era of the world. professional life.

I’m more interested in conversations about this coming era of working life that treat the future as something we create rather than a place we’ll inevitably end up. Remote working is not “here to stay” just because everyone agrees that we have been doing a lot of it lately. Its continued role in our professional life is a choice we will or will not make.

Remote working is an integral part of the post-pandemic perspective only because entire groups of employees are actually forcing the problem. If the writing is on the wall, then the employees put it there. 73% of workers polled by Microsoft said they want flexible remote working options to remain in place after the pandemic. And 41% of that same survey group are considering a major career change to prove it. The so-called “war for talent” is over. He was won – by talent.

Who’s the problem anyway?

Opponents of remote working claim that it kills the possibility of chance meetings that occur when we pass each other, the kind that spawns unexpected collaborations and new ideas. But a recent article in the New York Times reported that there is no strong, data-based evidence that this type of spontaneity actually breeds productivity.

Remote working, the article continues, could actually spawn innovation by giving more people a seat at the table. People who aren’t comfortable speaking out in in-person brainstorming meetings may be comfortable sharing ideas in virtual environments rather than asynchronous environments.

Employees may also experience these “spontaneous meetings” differently – just one more thing to add to the list and an aggravating break from concentration, coming at a time when there are already enough distractions, emails, discussions. and meetings to keep track of. To that end, I’m generally wary of conversations that focus on employee responsibility and motivations, while failing to understand why the downsides of technology allowing remote working exist in the first place.

Very often, the downsides of remote working – videoconferencing fatigue and blurring the lines between work and personal life, for example – are presented as unfortunate facts of life that can only be eliminated by giving up the job. videoconferencing and going back to the office full time, as if these are problems caused by employees and therefore their responsibility or, to put it bluntly, sort of their problem. This is a passive approach to the future of work and a wrong approach.

The puzzle of office culture

The question of office culture is inescapable, which is probably why it comes up so often. Yes, remote working puts a hatchet on some of the more superfluous elements of office culture that cannot be replicated online. And yes, there will always be trade-offs, even if they aren’t the type that will lead to demotion to entrepreneurial position or loss of benefits. Office culture is an aspect of professional life in itself and a subjective aspect that is a little difficult to pin down.

Being what it is, office culture requires, to some extent, people in the office. It doesn’t require everyone to be in the office all the time. The oft-mentioned “flexible” office strategies, where employees can come and go as they please, effectively solve this problem and make time spent together in the office even more intentional and thought-provoking.

And I find it hard to believe that this is the death knell for the spontaneous drink tour at the place around the corner. Never underestimate the power of this kind of informal suggestion as your formal three-hour brainstorming meeting ends around 6:30 p.m. Employees want to work remotely and use the office when needed. They haven’t become automatons who never want to chill out or blow some post-productivity steam.

Loosen the grip of leadership

Part of it is control. If we are to achieve a future of work where people can and work remotely in a way that keeps them productive and balanced, business leaders will need to take the lead in making the remote working situation comfortable for employees. but productive for the company. This will involve voluntarily relinquishing part of the control that office work provides, namely the ability to better monitor the daily working lives of employees.

It sounds intimidating. But you hired your employees for a reason: trust them. Keeping remote working structures in place shows employees that you value their jobs, trust their judgment, and respect their boundaries.

Remote structures, it should be mentioned, can also transform your recruiting pool and, in turn, globalize your business in unexpected ways. When the industry’s leading real estate market, Zillow, announced a remote-only option to potential candidates, their hiring pool exploded. Around 56,000 people filled out a Zillow application in the first quarter of 2021, a 50% increase over the same period last year (when there were more open positions). Human Resources Director Dan Spaulding said VoxTechnology’s vertical recode that he was a hard-earned game changer in terms of role-filling: “We do this, and it’s always difficult – but I think we’ve found an advantage.”

Good leadership is not only smart, it is also kind and fair

To say it’s been a tough year is an understatement. It is wise that business leaders continue to err on the side of empathy, even now that the Western world appears to have weathered the heaviest waves of the pandemic. The simple truth is that very few countries are even three quarters vaccinated. The pandemic is not over, and the heartache and trauma it caused to countless people did not go away overnight.

Remote working is fundamentally valuable, and employees who choose it do so because it is the best way for them to balance their work style for maximum productivity and the demands of their personal lives. And its continued presence in our professional lives is not inevitable. Senior management has to get there, which means it comes from the top down. And again, it’s a choice. Leaders will either choose to give up some control over the working lives of their employees or they won’t.

I suggest that each leader ask themselves three difficult questions. First of all, at what level of control am I willing to give up? How asynchronous is my internal communication already and how can I improve it? How can I facilitate truly meaningful virtual gatherings, not just routine, we-do-this-because-we-always-have-meetings?

The best way to mess up the paradigm shift from a distance is to assume that it will happen on its own. Instead, let’s now create structures for its continuation. Let’s tackle the technological issues and have some faith. We have made it this far. No turning back now.

About Cevat

Cevat Yerli is the Founder and CEO of ROOM, an AI-powered video communications platform that transforms and entertains meetings in business and technology spaces. A globally recognized video game developer with over 80 patents filed worldwide, he co-founded Crytek and served as its CEO and President until February 2018. There he developed the CryENGINE and produced almost all of the award-winning games from the company. . In 2017, Cevat founded TMRW, a European technology company that focuses on products that combine gamification, urbanization and digitization. ROOM is the first product in the TMRW range. A graduate of Coburg University in Germany, Cevat enjoys spending time with his partner and three children, which he sees as the inspiration for his work.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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