The popular user generated content site reddit just killed off their remote worker program and issued a mandate that everyone must move to San Francisco or they are no longer going to be employed by the company. Clearly this is causing a lot of discussion and while I don’t think we have the exact details around this, I do have some thoughts on the announcement, in fact we recently released a whitepaper on this very topic called, “The Manager’s Guide to Leading Teams Working Under Flexible Work Arrangements.”
The big issue with many physical workplaces today is that they are a poor reflection of how we want to work, the year that work in (we live in 2014 and work in 1975), what we value, or how we see ourselves. When your physical environment doesn’t align with your values, approaches towards work, or how you work- you start to resent it. This is why so many people despise cubicles and why so many offices today seem antiquated.
However, having just come back from the AirBnB headquarters in San Francisco I can say that there plenty of office spaces around the world that do a great job of getting employees to WANT to work there. Lithium Technologies, Pixar, Airbnb, The Motley Fool, and others all do a wonderful job of this. These companies also don’t force a standard 9-5 work day. In other words, your office is your home base but if you need to leave at a certain time to run an errand or pick up a kid from school, you can do it.
I strongly believe that we don’t HAVE to rely on offices as the only place that work needs to get done, in other words, I don’t agree with a “you have to come into work every day from 9-5″ approach. Still, we have to remember that flexible work and tele-work are not the same thing. Flexible work gives employees a choice of when and where they work but an office can be one of those choices which means that you can ask for some common “physical time” every week but not require that ALL work be done in an office. Today, we can work from anywhere we have an internet connection so it seems a bit nuts for any company to force people to come into the office unless that is what their corporate culture supports.
The corporate culture clearly plays a big role here, there are many companies around the world that have full-time remote employees which are always location independent and timezone independent. Some companies force a 9-5 in office work-day and others seem to be more willing to meet in the middle.
But, if companies want employees to come to an office they should absolutely create a physical environment that people will actually want to come to, otherwise what’s the point? I see nothing wrong with flexible or remote work.
So back to Reddit, overall I don’t agree with their approach for several reasons, many of which were outlined in the article above:
- the very employees who helped make reddit successful are getting canned
- talent doesn’t only exist in SF
- I haven’t seen data which shows that remote work hurts of hinders collaboration
- the cost of living in and around SF is among the highest in the nation so forcing people to uproot and move there is a bit extreme
- many companies around the world have part/full-time remote workers and flexible work programs and are doing quite well with them
What do you think about their recent announcement?