Back to Office- The Remote Work edition

Earlier this month, Tim Cook asked Apple employees to come back to the office 3 days a week from September.

This has led to backlash from the employees, as well as support in some cases.

Last year, most large companies had moved to a Work From Home strategy, with policy in place till the end of the year 2021.

As with the Apple announcement, many companies will now see a move to get their employees back to office for work.

Having worked remotely for about 10 years, the past year or so has been interesting watch related to how companies had adjusted to work remotely.

COVID has been hard hit for everyone around the world, but hearing about many people experiencing WFH for their first time, has been pretty encouraging.

Different modes of remote work

I have experienced various forms of “Remote Work” for a while. Many of us at Saeloun, adjust to what best suits our schedule.

Some different ways I’ve seen people work:

  • Remote work from Pune (where our physical office is located), never work from office
  • Remote work from Pune most of the time, work 1-2 days a week from Pune office
  • Remote work from Pune, hangout in office on Fridays(non-work casual hangout)
  • Remote work from hometown (all around India), visit and work from Pune office every 2-3 months
  • Remote work from out of India, visit Pune office once-twice a year
  • Remote work always and meetup at Conferences(Ruby Conf India, Deccan Ruby Conf and so on)
  • Remote work from different parts of the world, and come back to home base to work remotely occasionally
  • Always work remotely (nomadic)

Lots of factors decide how someone decides how they’d like to work. Most of it related to what suits best as their schedule of work.

I personally fall into the Remote from different parts of world, or when in Pune, work from Office person

Although I strongly advocate and cannot go back from remote work, I really love working from our office in Pune, heading out for tea/coffee breaks or spontaneous dinner with office friends.

I see all these scenarios divide into three main categories- Remote, Work from Office, Remote first(Saeloun is remote first).

Traditional Work from Office

Most of the companies post-pandemic, are moving to this old strategy of having most employees work from office. I have heard lots of arguments on why companies want employees back in office:

  • A focused team
  • More discussions on product development
  • Hanging out with colleagues
  • And lots more

And instead of completely discounting this, I can see why many companies would want this in some context. Mostly product development companies perhaps.

And then there are the cons:

  • Expensive offices
  • Employees waste 20-30% of their day in commute in cities
  • That’s 20-30% of time less spent with their families, hobbies and more
  • Distractions from colleagues
  • More meetings and less time for deep work
  • Office frustrations and arguments and more

I can see how most companies eventually might go back to this model end of the year or maybe next year.

Remote Work

Some companies have been or have moved completely to this mode. This mode is attractive for many people for different reasons.

Some examples I have heard from colleagues:

  • Want to move back to home town and stay with family
  • Want to move to a city with suitable weather
  • Want to live in a city with existing friends
  • Would like to travel more, within our outside of India
  • Work from home to spend more time on personal hobbies- dance, art, singing, music and more
  • Work part time and part time on some other hobby, career or business
  • Getting married or moving locations for partners

Although different reasons, remote work surely has its biggest advantage of

  • Not being tied to one location
  • Freeing up lots of time for employees, making them more productive(relatively)
  • You as a Company get to hire the best from around the world

The not so good parts

But since we’re all so used to being social, many new remote working individuals might find it hard to adjust to being completely remote.

Some of our colleagues might not be able to work at all, if not for the habit of being able to work from office.

Working remote also means managing yourself, not everyone is used to it, or does get used to it. I have had some friends who went back to traditional offices/jobs since they couldn’t adjust to remote environments.

We’ve had on an average 10-15 people working from Pune, India. Before pandemic we did a monthly team dinner every first Friday of the month. Apart from that casual hanging out or bonding, was not spontaneous or needed initiation from colleagues.

An office gave us a spot to hang out casually, just work and go back home. This is a bit different from some companies as well. We consult with different companies, and most people work on different projects, so not much interaction is needed amongst the employees(vs clients).

Generally its not easy to talk to colleagues other than work related calls. There’s a lot to learn from your colleagues in casual conversations in office.

Remote-First and How we address these at Saeloun

This is the mode we’re in at Saeloun.

We have a physical office in Pune, but no one needs to work from office mandatorily.

3-5 of us work regularly from our office in Pune. The rest of the people in the city, pop in sometimes to work from office. Sometimes just because they might be bored at home, or when there’s internet or electricity or other issues. Some might mostly hang out on Fridays.

As I’ve worked more remotely, having an office and working with people I know has been pretty important for me in last couple of years.

While travelling I do work from various co-working spaces, but have had different experience at different locations.

I might not go to an office for weeks, but there’s always a place to go and work out of or talk to my colleagues in person, without “making a plan to meet”.

There’s always a “home base”, for us to hang out.

Back to a remote office

Which all makes me reflect on how things have changed in the past year or so. Remote has gained huge attention, many companies have let go of their offices. While many others are planning to get back their work forces back in office.

If the past year has taught us anything, it doesn’t have to be just one of those.

Allow your employees to work from home. They will not leave your Company to do so, post pandemic.

While also ask if some your remote employees would like to have a physical location to “hang out” and work from, and follow up if you are able to make arrangements considering the financials of the company.

Get yourself talented colleagues from best of both worlds!

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