Making remote work work

May 16th, 2019

The crashing surf of the ocean. The cry of seagulls. A gentle salt breeze. A laptop balanced upon a pair of nicely tanned legs.

We've all seen this scenario described in countless articles, sticking out in our minds like a bad stock photo. But here's the deal: these articles are always either for or against remote work. No middle ground. Like many subjects, it's difficult to find a balanced and informed discussion about working remotely. You'll either find an enraptured freelancer claiming they'll never set foot in an office again, or you'll find a concerned middle manager discussing how inefficient a distributed workforce is.

It's hard to get a realistic grasp on the possibilities of remote work. As employers, we want the best for both our employees and our company. When we're making a decision for our business, we don't want to fall prey to emotional decisions - we want data to back it up. We want informed anecdotes from folks who have experienced this directly. We want to know about the failures and the successes.

It's great to learn from history. But I think we'd all rather learn from someone else's mistakes than learn from our own.

When you're researching remote work, there's little balance.

I have a few ideas why this is so. Remote work in the modern world is fairly new, and it's a hot-button topic. It's emotional. It's cultural. It's somewhat revolutionary. And it's right in the middle of two playing fields: the traditional corporate world of enterprise business, and the roguish new future of solo tech junkies.

So, when we go out there to take a look at the empirical data around remote work, we're instead assaulted on both sides by opinions and biased - and, unfortunately, research studies on either side backed by folks with just a little bit too much invested in their own correctness.

I see more and more content out there, harping on the benefits of remote work. I think this is a great thing, but you've got to remember that the sample is very biased. Content marketers, writers, and journalists are one of the most likely of anyone to already work from home. Of course they'll be primarily on one side of the equation: remote work has been working for them for years.

On the remote side, you've got a lot of writers, marketers, and tech junkies claiming that the office is dead. Long live the laptop!

On the office side, you've got a lot of managers, owners, HR departments, and investors claiming that remote workers aren't productive and increase liabilities. Long live the nine-to-five!

The reality? Both are right, and both are wrong.

There may not be a single silver bullet that works for everyone, but there definitely is a best solution for your own unique problem.

I'm writing a book to explore just this - and I'm hoping to interact with some people on either side of the issue to get their feedback. Remote work works for me, but it might not work for everyone. I want to make sure that I'm as balanced as possible. Thoughts?