Technologists Think the Future of Work Is Flexible, Not Remote

Across the country, technologists and companies are rethinking the nature of work. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home, many team leaders and project managers felt that they needed their people in the office in order to make good progress on projects. But if the past seven months have demonstrated anything, it’s that most teams are perfectly capable of getting their jobs done from their home offices—or are they?

Over the summer, technologists told Dice about all the advantages of working from home, including longer blocks of distraction-free time to concentrate, no commute, and avoiding office politics. But in a new survey from Blind, which anonymously queries technologists at some of the nation’s biggest tech companies, technologists reveal that not being able to meet colleagues in person is having a negative impact on their work: 

This is why CEOs such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings have been very public about their dislike of remote work: A belief that in-person interaction is vital for sharing ideas, keeping track of the team’s progress, and ensuring that problems are squished as soon as they arise. And those managers and executives might have a point: Unless remote teams are very diligent about frequent communication, there’s always the risk that technologists won’t talk to each other nearly as much as they should. 

Perhaps that’s why many technologists feel that the future of work is all about flexibility as opposed to all-remote work, according to Blind’s other recent survey:

Although companies such as Microsoft and Google have already embraced flexible work as the way of the future, the idea of allowing technologists to work from home for part of the week might be a hard sell at other firms. If you work for a company that’s reintroducing workers to the office, and you only want to come in on certain days, you can try negotiating a flexible schedule on your own.

What’s the key to such a negotiation? It all comes down to a detailed proposal. For example, you could say that you want to work from home on Mondays and Fridays, and will arrange your schedule on those days so you can engage in “deep work” without too many meetings or other events that could break your concentration. By showing how your flexible schedule could benefit both your manager and company, you have a much higher likelihood of approval. 

You should also prepare for your manager coming back with a counter-proposal. A willingness to compromise may ultimately help you get what you want, even if you might have to adjust your schedule to meet the broader needs of the business (and/or agree to frequent check-ins while working from home, in order to keep those communication lines open). At this point, though, it’s clear that many technologists are just as effective working from home as in the office; it shouldn’t take too much effort to convince your boss that flexible work can benefit all involved.