Get Over Your Fear of Remote Work

This article is aimed at both employers and employees alike. In some circles of the technology industry, there seems to be this pervasive anxiety when discussing the activities of remote workers. In fact, certain CEOs have gone so far as to reign in the egregious act of working remotely by effectively banning the practice altogether. I’m sure he or she sent out a memo including words like “agile,” “synergy,” and “cohesion” to seal the deal.

As the complexity and needs of software continues to grow, companies need to be willing to hire workers whose only option is to work remotely due to location or other life circumstances. Rejecting a possibly great candidate because they are unable or unwilling to relocate across the country is a huge loss for many reasons.

First, the employer missed out on an opportunity with a great candidate. Perhaps that person would have been responsible for saving the company a lot of money or publishing a renowned product. Second, by hiring a remote worker, the employer can forgo the cost of physical on-boarding, providing a phone, providing a desk, and providing a location for which the employee can conduct work. Instead, the company only needs to provide hardware and software to get the employee started. Third, remote employees have far more time to actually do work without having to worry about travel time to and from the work location. In some instances, traveling can consume hours each day depending on the commute distance. Instead of wasting time in traffic, the employee can spend time on work.

Yes, there are downsides to remote employees, but many of them can be mitigated by occasional trips to the main office and conducting shared activities on remote communication technologies like VOIP and instant messaging. When talking to people who are skeptical, the first fallacy that I hear is, “But I need someone to be physically next to me to get my work done!” To be honest, this sounds like a personal problem. If you are unable or unwilling to get work done without physically seeing your coworkers, then you need to work on adjusting away from such an attitude. Between webcams, phones, instant messaging, desktop sharing, and remote desktops, there should be almost no excuse to having difficulties communicating with remote workers.

Remote work is going away. I would argue that it will increase in necessity as population increases, cities become more widespread, suburbs move beyond reasonable commuting distances, and job opportunities become more spread out. There’s simply no way to avoid the globalization of our economy. In order to adjust appropriately, we all need to be more accommodating to qualified candidates who would prefer or must work remotely. Your company may depend on it.