I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. You know that feeling when you keep having the same conversation again and again? You try to be patient. But you feel the repetition starting and you tense up. For me, that conversation goes something like this…
I was getting a bit annoyed. I had sent an urgent task to a colleague and heard nothing back. It was funny since I had just seen this person in the hallway. So I sent an email and then a chat message. Nothing. I stopped by their desk, but it was empty. The next afternoon I found out the urgent task had been completed. It took a day and a half. But there was never an acknowledgment that my request was even received or that it was completed.
This is a tale of a company at a crossroads. Innovation had stalled. Teamwork was anemic. It was a time of stagnation. Leaders wrung their hands over the ailing enterprise. So they issued a decree. “Hear ye, hear ye! Remote work is banned. All employees must return to the closest regional office.”
I was recently talking with a CEO who was having trouble hiring and retaining good people. He was considering opening new locations and adding a few remote workers. His thinking? More people. My thinking? More problems. Guaranteed.
I was wary at first. My previous company gathered everyone for an all-hands meeting. This was several years back when I was working at a fast-growing software company. About 150 people crammed into a room that was meant for maybe 25. People were practically on top of each other. Disaster ahead?
“I could never work remotely.” A friend of a friend said this to me the other day. We had just met and I was explaining how we run Aha! as a fully distributed team. Despite that declarative statement about “never working remotely,” this person seemed plenty interested in the concept of remote work once I described how we do it at Aha!
I am sure this has happened to you at least once. You are trying to solve a problem at work and need help from a colleague. So you send off a quick chat message. No answer. You follow up with an email. Still nothing. Hello? Is anyone out there?
Product managers are often focused on what is coming next. As you should be, right? And as a busy product manager, it is likely that you do not find much time for self-reflection built into your daily schedule. Still, it is important to occasionally take a step back and consider where you are headed and why.
I studied philosophy. (True.) You know the old cliché about the tree falling in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Well, remote work may seem that way for some. After all, how can you be sure people are actually working if you are not there to witness it?
Have you seen the news? Some companies are calling their remote employees back to the office — a forced, cross-country trek to permanently “co-locate” at HQ. Reading the headlines, you may wonder if companies have fallen out of love with remote work.
I love being outside. Just last week I went snowshoeing with some friends in Yosemite. But when I told a colleague about my trip, she wrinkled her nose. Snowshoeing? No thanks. Curling up indoors with a good novel is her idea of a good time.