Context: I have a full-time job in NYC, but I run Clever as a passion project...using my own time and money.
This blog post is my point of view as a commuter.
Even though I built the Clever Commute business, I do understand remote work. Yes, I have a full-time job "in NYC", but it's been over 20 years since I did 5-days-a-week in the office.
But like many of you, I worked at home full-time during the pandemic.
As of March 12, 2021, I was fully vaccinated and started commuting again. It started with one day a week and it's now two.
Here are my thoughts on why I returned to the office...and why you should consider it, too.
I'm no stranger to working from home.
- When my (now college-grad) daughter was born, I was one of the first at my company to do "work from home".
- Even pre-pandemic, the culture of my office was for people to work remotely at least 1 day a week
I have seen the downside
- E-mail, IM and voice/video are my primary communication/productivity tools.
I know it can feel stupid to spend 3 hours a day commuting just to talk on a phone from NYC.
- All too many times, I have had the terrible experience of a messed-up commute home causing me to miss my daughters' swim meets, theater performances, back-to-school nights, family dinners, and bedtimes.
That feeling was a driving force for me to create the Clever service.
You probably feel that you (and your company) are getting by just fine with remote work..and you're probably correct. Actually, many employers are posting strong financial results.
But part of what is happening is not healthy or sustainable for our employers or for us.
Lift as you climb
By the time you become a suburban commuter, the data suggests you are at a point in your life where you are uniquely positioned to be a leader, mentor, and role model to others.
The less-experienced people in our firms need to see the behaviors of we who are at "the next level"...even if they are not asking for it. This affects both their careers as well as the overall strength and viability of the company.
Improve yourself...for yourself
This is a nuanced twist on the above. Years ago, my manager did salsa dancing as a hobby. He told me that he always learned something from every dance partner of his.
Can this learning happen as you work remotely? Maybe...but so many opportunities are missed.
Improve yourself...for your company
A Clever commuter recently told me that part of her work is to hammer out tough issues with her counterparts. She said that one of the keys to her effective working relationships with her adversaries is the fact when they meet in person, they have a few minutes around the conference table before the meeting starts ("how are your kids?"..."taking any vacation?"...). These engagements humanize the process...and set the stage for the constructive collaboration which happens once the meeting actually starts.
Also, don't forget the magic that happens after the meeting ends...as we walk to the desk/elevator with people from the meeting.
Those dynamics are lost when meeting start and stop like this:
Help our employers be better in a tight labor market
Companies are evolving to accommodate remote work. They may not have the model perfect at this time.
The 16 months so far have been an accelerant unlike anything we could have ever imagined. Employers need to know how to attract and retain talent in this seller's market for labor.
Help them get to the best answers for everyone involved.
Summing it up
Do I want to spend 3 hours a day going back and forth? No way. But as I recently posted on LinkedIn, there are some real advantages to having that time to read...learn...relax...listen to podcasts (and to see people in NYC).
Commuting is not the goal. It is the enabler of the dynamics mentioned above.
Clearly, there are two "poles": 100% remote and 100% in the office
Many of us have experienced the former...and I see very few employers truly expecting the latter.
Maybe there is a greater amount of common ground than imagined. But "Step 1" is to get back on that horse and be a part of figuring out what the best model is. For you, your company, and the people you work with.