Different Strokes for (Remote) Folks

There was a recent article on the popular topic of remote work that made the rounds and generated a lot of discussion.

I cannot trust employers to provide me with an adequate work environment, and this holds me back from doing the best possible work for them.

In the case of working from home/remote work, some employees do not do their best work from home, or simply don’t like it. That is fine—but you should trust your employees and treat them like adults. Let them make the call for themselves.

- Yan Lhert

There’s nothing that engenders respect within me for a company more than when they give me autonomy over my own working conditions. And I, like most people, give the greatest effort to a company I respect. A vibe of “We trust that you know what’s best for yourself” is extremely motivating.

It’s so interesting reading through the comments on Hacker News when articles about remote work come around. I could summarize most of the back-and-forth like so:

Person A: I work best like [this], and I think it’s ridiculous you like to work like [that].

Person B: Well, I work best like [that], and I think it’s ridiculous you like to work like [this].

Jeez! It’s almost like we’re all adults who have strong preferences for the way we like to work.

The solution to this conundrum begins and ends with Autonomy.

Here are some old sayings that capture the sentiment:

One Workplace Design to Rule Them All is doomed.

I’m a believer in hybrid workplaces. The company has an office (or offices), but no one is forced to work in the office every day on a compulsory basis. And the office itself is a hybrid: sections are open plan for the people who prefer that environment, and there are quiet sections with a partitioned “cube farm” or small private rooms. Choose your own adventure.

There are two caveats I feel I must mention.

  1. The employer must actually care about having high-performing employees. There are plenty of “body shops” out there who don’t necessarily care about this, and likely can’t differentiate high performers anyway.
  2. Employees must understand the common theme throughout the working world that the highest performers get the most latitude. It’s up to the individual to take that autonomy with good grace, and kick so much ass that no one would dream of messing up your flow.

Different strokes for different folks.