I’ve been working remotely for over a decade – well before the days of tools like Slack or Zoom. In some ways, it was easier back then: you worked from wherever you were and had the space to manage your workload however you wanted. If you desired to go hardcore creative mode at night, sleep in, then leisurely read fiction over brunch, you could.
Now, in the age of the “green dot” or “presence prison,” as Jason Fried calls it, working remotely can be more suffocating than in-person work. The freedom that we worked hard to create — escaping the 9-to-5 — has now turned into constant monitoring, with the expectation that we are on, accessible, productive, and communicative 24/7.
I see this in job positions for remote roles. Companies frequently champion remote, proudly advertising their flexible cultures to only then list that candidates must be based within 60 minutes of Pacific Time Zone, that the hours are set, and standup is at 8:30am daily. One of the benefits of remote work is that it brings the world closer together and creates a level-playing field for the world’s best talent. Whether you were in Bengaluru or Berlin, you could still work with a VC-backed, cash-rich startup in San Francisco earning a solid hourly rate. If remote slowly turns into a way of working in real-time with frequent face-time, we will see less of this.
And let’s not forget trust: the crux of remote culture. Companies create tools that automatically record your screen at intervals to show management or clients you’re delivering. I founded a freelance marketplace called CloudPeeps and not recording your screen, as Upwork does, is one way we attract a different caliber of indie professional.
You can have more freedom in an office. From my beige cubicle at one of my first roles, I witnessed a colleague plan a wedding over the course of many months, including numerous calls to vendors and 20 tabs open for research. Most of the team was none the wiser – this wouldn’t be the case with remote today.
At the heart of this friction is the demand for real-time, synchronous communication. If we champion asynchronous as the heart of remote, what does the future of remote look like?