Everyone’s an Expert in Remote Work Now

Working Remotely

The world is learning what veteran work-from-home employees already knew

 By Kasie Whitener & Jodie Cain Smith

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the workforce moved home in one abrupt shift. Remote work gurus knew it was their moment to shine. A quick Google search reveals the “Go Remote” bloggers’ best efforts: 10 Tips to Work Remotely, 5 Things Every Remote Worker Should Know, 15 Tools to Collaborate Remotely, and on and on. They even have trending hashtags on Twitter and LinkedIn. Legitimization was here.

The problem with this race to maximize your efficiency in remote work? #WFH is more than simply moving the cubicle to the kitchen table.

TRUTH: Remote work will transform our lives if we embrace change.

After a century-plus of working under the industrial standard in which time equals work, we have sunk our teeth into timecards. And, like a dog with a bone, we’re refusing to let go. The idea of punching the timecard built a fortress around work: our work must be separate from our lives. The boundary between work and family, friends, and community holds firm. We assume if these worlds collide, productivity will stop. That assumption is false.

The industrial standard time-equals-work equation must evolve. Companies must learn to define and recognize the results of work, not the time allocated to it.

The COVID-19 pandemic displayed in real time how innovative our workforce is when given time and space. Creativity exploded during the weeks of quarantine. We saw architecture firms increase their community presence through printable templates for youth, national brands increased their popularity through giving initiatives, arts organizations improved accessibility with everything from online dance classes to YouTube tutorials, and mom-and-pop shops turned to digital platforms to share curbside specials. What didn’t happen was an entire workforce turning into lazy defeatists.

TRUTH: The gurus missed the mark. The real benefits of remote work are not superficial.

Remote workers may spend less time in business casual, but their time is used well. Whether it is the two hours of uninterrupted time cranking out marketing content or an afternoon spent volunteering for a river cleanup, remote work blends our work with our lives. People find meaning and purpose in, and ultimately contribute more to, the success of the businesses.

Benefits of remote work are not just for the individuals. For the first time, we’re seeing wild innovation in all aspects of work and not just the initiatives we programmed to innovate with sticky note exercises. Make the strategic decision to value your contributors’ experience and measure the work they do by the impact it has on the company. Trusting your employees transforms your business.

There is no way to put this genie back in the bottle. Companies should embrace the opportunity to blend into their communities, leverage service opportunities to develop professional skills, and get a deeper knowledge of their customers’ true needs by walking among them. Bring down the wall erected by timecards and let work-life balance rust with other industrial era ideas like pension funds and gold watch retirement ceremonies.

Kasie Whitener and Jodie Cain Smith are Clemson Road Creative, a fully remote company serving independent consultants in operations, marketing, and intellectual property.