Remote Work Rant #1

This diatribe started as a thread on twitter, which you can read here: I’ve extended and expanded on it in this blog post.

With return-to-office on a lot of business’ radar, I’d like to speak to business leadership about the messed up reasoning I’m seeing across industries, vertical markets, and business sizes.

To start, let’s get something crystal clear: remote work is now table stakes for any company that’s serious about hiring, unless the position ABSOLUTELY cannot be done remote. In one short year it’s gone from a super-special-snowflake perk for the privileged to a feature of your business as fundamentally essential as “we have to give them a place to sit.” used to be.

Are there edge cases? Special projects? Extenuating circumstances? Of course. But that’s not the point and you (probably) know it. Or you SHOULD know it. If your argument against remote work uses edge cases as the justification, you’re making yourself look (at best) uninformed; (at least) self-serving; and/or (at worst) just plain stupid. Ask the CEO of WeWork how it’s going.

To put it succinctly, employees are EXPECTING “remote unless there’s a damn good reason”, or they’re going to start looking elsewhere. Potential candidates are going to ask bout this in their first interview, the same way they ask about insurance and vacation.

Table. Stakes.

“But some employees WANT to come to work.”

Great. It’s also not the point and you know it. This is about choice, autonomy, and basic respect.

In fact, David Tate (@mixteenth on Twitter) already covered a lot of your stupid-ass excuses. So how about you DON’T try to float one of these:

“We can’t pay taxes in every state.”

Hire a damn accountant. Other, smaller businesses do it just fine.

No seriously. You’re going to trot this argument out when hundreds of fully-remote businesses have not only “made it” but thrived for over a decade? Again, please don’t embarrass yourself. Ask the CEO of The Washingtonian what that feels like.

All of your excuses are just that – moreover, they’re poorly-concealed projections of your own discomfort & insecurity. And it’s obvious to everyone (but you, apparently).

The Mostly Un-Necessary Summary

If you are planning a big RTO announcement & it includes zero WFH (or worse, a day here or there as a “concession”) then buckle up, buttercup. You’re going to see a big red wave as you bleed out employees in about a month.

Worse, you’ve just telegraphed to every competitor that they can buy all of your experience, knowledge, and corporate mojo for the price of… you guessed it… allowing people to work remote if they want. That’s it. Not even a salary bump (but they’ll probably throw that in to sweeten the deal because it’s easy).

Worse, what you REALLY announced was how YOUR company is willingly limiting itself NOT JUST to the pool of talent living in a specific geography, but the pool of talent in that geography WHO CAN’T FIND A BETTER JOB AT A REMOTE COMPANY.

Whether you honestly think it’s true or not, you’ve telegraphed yourself as a “bottom of the barrel employer”.
Good luck winning hearts and minds and market share with that strategy.

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