War of the Works: Remote vs. Office

We’ve been hearing recently about the end of COVID-19 restrictions and the desire of many companies to have their employees return to the office after more than two years of remote work. From a traditional operations standpoint, perhaps this makes sense, but if you’re an employee who’s been enjoying the many benefits of being able to do your job from the comfort of your own home, it’s very difficult to accept the idea that you now have to go back to the daily grind of commuting in to the office. One of the greatest innovations of the workplace in recent history has been the proliferation of jobs that can be done from just about anywhere.

As companies like Apple and other tech based firms start to move things toward a more traditional work environment, many employees are starting to push back. Recently, the education firm Whitehat Jr. lost 800 employees to resignations due to their policy requiring workers to return to the office, though many of those were due to the location being unreasonable for relocation for many of the employees. Apple has similarly instituted requirements to go back to the office, and you can bet there will be a fair amount of resignations for them as well as employees start reconsidering what a reasonable work/life balance looks like.

The last several months have given me an interesting perspective on this situation, having spent my time working on my blog and my channel and enjoying the fact that I don’t have to go out and deal with traffic or a boss looking over my shoulder all day. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to just get out of bed, hop on the computer and just start working. No getting ready, no dealing with rude drivers or traffic jams, no sitting in an office trying to look like I’m busy when I’m not. The freedom of not having to pretend like you’re being productive when there’s really nothing to do really takes the stress out of the daily grind.

While I can understand an employers desire to have all of their resources centralized under one roof, we’ve reached a point in not only our technology, but also in our society, where it has become much more cost effective to promote remote work as a more mainstream thing. The pandemic was an absolute mess for many reasons, not the least of which the way the governments of the world chose to handle it, but if there is one benefit we should absolutely reap from the enforced stay at home situation many people were stuck with, it should be that efficiency and saving hard costs can be some of the great results of having employees work from their own home offices.

There is a war going on right now as a result of this extended period of enforced “work from home” situations. Employers were forced to adapt to a new way of doing business, and this new way truly appeals to employees for a variety of reasons. Having tasted the fruit of being able to work in pajamas and avoid an hour or more in the car every day, many employees are going to be thinking long and hard about whether it’s worth sticking around at their job when there isn’t much reason to change back to the old way. How many of us want to go back to sitting in cubicles or small offices just because it’s convenient for the boss?

Many won’t have a choice in the end, as the job market is what the job market is, and if the only thing you can find is an in-office position, then you’re kind of stuck doing what you must. Others will have the power and ability to hold out for something that more closely aligns with their needs and desires, sitting at their computer in their homes because they have the skillset and experience to demand a work from home accommodation. The reality of the situation is that the workforce has already begun this transition, and despite the desires of more traditional companies to go back to the “good old days” of hundreds of employees all working side by side, most of us just want to be able to work in the way that is optimal for us.

For now, the current regime of looking for work isn’t conducive to matching up our skillsets with these kinds of jobs, and the fact that interviewing for remote positions without meeting face to face makes finding qualified candidates very difficult. All the traditional issues with the hiring process are magnified when you go purely online, from false resume statements to actually identifying who it is you’re dealing with. If you’ve delt with internet trolls, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Anonymity is much easier when you can hide behind fake information.

It may be that a true work from home revolution is waiting on our job hunt practices to catch up with the way we want to work now. It would be much easier if the job sites of today actually matched people with employers rather than continuing to force everyone to go through a manual process of applying for jobs. You would think that with all the advanced algorithms companies have developed that finding a job would be incredibly easy, but it seems little effort has been put into actually taking the work out of looking for work. You still have to scan job listings rather than simply being matched up, and both sides of the process are exasperated with sifting through profiles.

Perhaps once we get to the point where we can get verified job applicants and employers, and we have a system that uses a standardized information set that allows automated matching of prospective employees with specific jobs they’re qualified for, we might finally start seeing more employers becoming interested in ditching the traditional office and moving into the brave new world of far flung employees being productive wherever they choose to be. We just need to be willing to shift our paradigm from the classic office setting, and perhaps that just takes time.

But what a glorious day it will be when it finally does.

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