What we have now is not “remote working”, it’s “apart working”

Today I saw a tweet that resonated a lot with me

I could not agree more. The whole COVID-19 lockdown created a weird situation where a lot of companies found themselves suddenly “without offices”.

From one day to another, people that had always worked in an office were working from home; CEOs that were used to address crowds of employees where now addressing, well, a webcam, livestreaming on Google Meet or Zoom; people that unconsciously relied on the “office + coworkers” to structure their work day found themselves in a new reality where they needed to reinvent their structure and routines.

The other side of the coin, there were all those people that dreamed about leaving those noisy open-space offices and working from their quiet living room; they finally had the opportunity to prove they can be more productive if they are left alone.

In my work life, I was lucky enough to work for a lot of companies, in a lot of setups. I say “lucky“, but it was mostly my inability to cope with BS that often brought me to change companies. Anyway, this is a topic for another time.

I worked for small companies, large companies; I worked for consulting companies, agencies, product companies; I worked for companies with offices, I worked as a consultant at the client office with the rest of my team in Dubai, I worked from home as a freelancer on solo projects and team projects; I worked from home with strict 9 to 18 work hours for German and Italian clients and I worked with more async setups, with core hours and a bit more flexibility, with US clients.

I worked in a lot of setups and I can tell for sure that

“What we are doing today is not “remote working“, it’s “apart working”.

Since this whole thing started, we are simply “not in the office“, but the way we are working is the same. Most of us still have the same time schedule, the same meetings, the same work interactions. That’s not remote working. It’s just that

“You don’t have an office now. You need to buy your own cereals and sodas. Sorry, bro.”

Even worse, with schools and kindergartens closed, people with kids need to take care of them while they are also working. I can’t even imagine how hard it can be to try to focus on your shit work while your 5 years old, bored to death, missing their friend, little human is trying to get your attention whole day long.

There is also the possible frustration of having to cook for yourself, missing having lunch your colleagues or TGIF drinks at the office or whatever work/social interaction you were basing your work routine on.

All this puts a very bad image on remote working. Remote working is not for everybody, like so many other things: skydiving anybody? Until a couple of months ago, people were consciously choosing to do remote working (and skydiving, hopefully), without being forced to do it, together with many other unfamiliar things in a stressful social situation, like a global pandemic. Remote working is about freedom and accountability, is about trust, is about asynchronous interactions, is about working with people that want to work like that, because they enjoy it.

I believe a lot of people are gonna come out of this with a very polarized opinion about working from home. We will have

  • the parents that will thank God for schools reopening
  • the old-fashion managers that will go back to check if people are sitting at their desks “Good, they are working! I’m such a good watchdog manager!”
  • the fashion addicts that will finally get a reason to wear something else than their pajamas.

I’m kidding, of course. However, I hope we will also have a lot of people that worked from home for the first time and fell in love with it. I hope we will also have a lot of companies that realized that they can function also without an office, that, maybe, can hire people living in other countries, that, maybe, things can be done asynchronously and not everything has to be done “right now ‘cos it’s critical and we can’t waste time!”

I hope the industry won’t give up on remote working out of COVID-19 PTSD. I believe remote working can be an incredible tool to bring wealth and development to emerging countries, it can reduce gentrification, pollution and crowded cities.

We are a generation that can work from everywhere and we should strive to live where we want, instead of living where we can work.