How to Weigh the Benefits of In-Person and Remote Work

Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla.

If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned.

Elon Musk sent these words in two separate emails to his company at the beginning of the summer. His message is clear: I want you in the office. Now. 

His words might seem harsh, but they’re not surprising. They reveal the tension between what employers want for their businesses and what employees want for their lives. It’s not a new conversation. But it’s one you might be navigating for the first time.

In some industries, the nature of the work makes the way forward obvious. Surgeons and factory workers won’t have the same expectations for remote work as marketers or managers. If you lead knowledge workers, it’s more complicated.

The best place to start is to weigh the benefits of both in-person and remote work.

Benefits of In-Person Work

In-person work was once the way of the world. And it came with several benefits.

Benefit 1: Collaboration

Something happens when you get people into the same room to solve a problem. Virtual attempts to recreate the synergy of white-boarding aren’t the same. There’s more energy when we’re in person. And the result is better ideas.

Benefit 2: Innovation and Teamwork

This benefit follows the first. Innovation happens in those problem-solving meetings. But it also happens in the cracks, in between formal meetings. It happens at water coolers and in side conversations. Those exchanges don’t happen as naturally in virtual environments.

Benefit 3: Culture Building

Relational equity is more naturally built in person. This is what carried our team during the first months of lockdown. We knew and trusted each other. We relied on preexisting relationships to sustain our culture. Expanding a team remotely is more difficult, because values are caught, not taught. Getting the work done is not the same as creating cohesion.

Benefit 4: Facilitation of Hard Conversations

Part of leadership is having hard conversations. You have to deliver bad news. You have to coach up. The more personal those conversations can be, the better. It’s easier to pick up on subtle cues in person. 

Benefits of Remote Work

For all the benefits of in-person work, remote work has benefits, too. 

Benefit 1: Focus

Being in the office can be distracting. When I need to finish asynchronous work, I work from my home office. No one interrupts me. I have more control over my environment. It’s easier to be more productive and power through my tasks.

Benefit 2: Communication of Trust

Refusing to allow for remote work communicates “I don’t trust you.” It says, “Unless I see you, I don’t know you’re getting work done.” But how do you know your team is being productive when they are in the office? Hiring people you trust means you don’t need to look over their shoulder. 

Benefit 3: Returned Resources

Eliminating the commute is no small victory. Commutes consume hours in our day. They’re stressful. And, as we’ve been well aware of this summer, gas is expensive. In that hour before or after work, your team can play with their kids, exercise, meal prep, read, go to the doctor. It improves the quality of their lives and makes for more satisfied employees.

Benefit 4: Productivity of Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings can be more efficient than in-person meetings. Especially if the meeting is more transactional or informative, virtual meetings seem to lend themselves to productivity. They’re not the best space for creativity, but they’re incredibly effective for routine communication.

Our team didn’t want to lose out on the benefits of either in-person or remote work, so we chose a third way.

The Third Way: Hybrid Work

Full Focus has been a hybrid company even before the pandemic began. It’s our “both/and” answer. And our Company Ideal Week has made it possible.

Our company’s Ideal Week provides guidance for our team about our expectations. On Mondays, each of our teams holds their weekly focus meetings in the office, so our whole team is in the same space. For creative or problem-solving meetings, we also ask people to attend in person. 

But we’ve also created “flex Wednesdays.” They’re meeting-free, and they’re set aside for asynchronous work. There’s no need for people to be in the office, or even work normal hours. Instead, we give our team the flexibility to work the hours they want to, as long as they deliver results.

Most of our team ends up in the office one to two days each week. Executives and directors are often around even more. We collaborate and innovate. We create culture and have hard conversations. The rest of the week, we let our team focus and skip the commute. We have highly productive meetings. And we communicate to our team that we trust them.

Hybrid work might not work for every company, but it’s worth your time to give it a try.

Last modified on October 10th, 2022 at 9:17 am

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