The Year of “Homework”

Like many in the tech industry, I’ve had the following conversation:

Me: Hey boss, I want to work from home. Here’s how I can do all aspects of my job remotely. 
Boss: No way, letting employees work from home would be disastrous for the company. 
Me: Yeah, ok. Thanks anyways.

If that conversation sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve either tried to ask to go remote in the past, or you’ve been the boss in this scenario, unwilling to even try. Hey, who’s going to blame your boss for sticking to tried and true? I know I’ve worked for my share of bosses left over from the Reaganomics era[1]. If you’re like me and early on got a taste of working for a non-traditional company, then you know there is more to life than wearing a cheap suit to a 9-5. The truth is, at least for the last 5 years, we’ve been able to work remotely all along.

Software development was already very web based. Download the repo from source control, make changes, consult the myriad of help sites, and push your changes. Make a pull request so your boss can review your changes online. Test out deployment by pushing to testing and staging servers. Update your scrum tasks, take another one… you get the idea. Software developers already used a setup ideal for remote work prior to 2020, in fact, prior to 2010! So you can imagine the frustration of being denied the permission to work from home, when in fact, the nature of our work made it perfect for that.

Tools like Slack, Jira, Trello, and video conferencing have been not-so-quietly laying the foundation for remote work over the last decade. Each one has it’s own part to play, and just through combining a few cherry-picked vendors, you can have a remote work ecosystem in place in hours! I say it in jest, but it’s really true. We’ve been ready for remote work since Slack, really. With built in file sharing, voice/video conferencing, and all manner of communicating via text, you can run a lot off just one program. It seems that we, the workers, have been artificially held back over the last two to three years. In reality, companies and managers were mostly likely too scared to try going about work a new way. Fear of failure significantly curtails progress, and how the workforce does their work is no exception.

I haven’t even touched on the benefits of remote work.

  • Improved mental health
  • Fewer commutes, saving time, gas, and the environment
  • It’s greener, as you’re not paying to heat/cool and office
  • Not paying for an office space saves money
  • The ability to attend meetings in casual clothes that would otherwise have been in business attire
  • The ability to work for a dream company that’s in another city

That’s just to name a few. I myself have benefited from the last item on that list – I’m lucky enough to have landed a Tech Lead role at a New York company, something that I never dreamed would have happened. It’s a better work/life balance. It makes employees happy, which in turn makes them better workers, which in turn will make managers happy.

So now we’re there. It’s a shame that it took a pandemic for us to realize it. I have to say, there were some stumbles while feeling this new realm out. I wasn’t too hipped on losing out on the office benefits (espresso, snacks, team lunches, frosty beverage Friday) that made office work bearable. As soon as I readjusted my head, however, I began to realize that I get to make the coffee that I like, not the grounds that are at the office. Just on the gas savings alone, I could take myself out to a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner. I missed my teammates dearly, though I have to admit it was easier to work without all the hubbub in the office[2]. Ultimately, I think remote work will stick around. It might even gain traction. All I know is that I don’t think I’ll ever work for a company that requires on-site presence again unless they are willing to pay through the nose.

[1] I know I’ve worked for some bosses that were just cold leftovers from the Reaganomics era. They’re not leaders, they’re bosses. They say do something, you shut up and do it. They don’t listen to suggestions, they don’t accept any different ways of doing things. <hot-take>They’re sad excuses for humans, as good humans possess ingenuity, and are open to trying new things.</hot-take>

[2] If you’re someone that brings their dog to work and it barks more than once a day, screw you. Your coworkers that are trying to concentrate on their work are probably thinking the same thing. Also, like me, your coworkers with allergies are probably thinking something a little less polite than “screw”. As a society, we’re good about respecting food/latex allergy boundaries. Those of us with dog/cat allergies get treated like lepers when we don’t pet whatever domesticated critter.