Why should I apologize for wanting freedom and flexibility?

It has been estimated that 50% of the U.S. workforce will be remote by 2020.  

50%. By 2020.

Whether or not this prediction comes to fruition, it’s undeniable that the way we view work — its role in our lives, the employer-employee relationship, how we want to work, when we want to work and where we want to work — has changed significantly in the past few years and it will continue to change at a rapid rate. 

As an independent, project-based worker, I’ve certainly noticed a change on the job boards. One particular trend I’ve observed is the influx in remote jobs specifically marketed towards moms. In fact, boutique staffing firms have formed that are dedicated to hiring moms for remote roles in an effort re-integrate them into the workforce and match them with companies that have more flexible policies, allowing them to better balance their professional and personal lives.

This is awesome.

Organizations need to recognize the importance of the woman’s role in the workplace, especially those who want to have children as they shouldn’t be forced to choose between a career and raising a family. While I’m fully supportive of these inclusive approaches and accommodating moms, I find it curious that the larger conversation and company attitudes about remote work, outside of jobs geared specifically towards moms or tech aficionados, is not so enthusiastic.

I can’t help but wonder, why is it so difficult for companies to embrace the idea of remote work more broadly?

Here’s my beef

Why should I apologize for wanting freedom and flexibility?

At this juncture, I’m neither a mom nor a hardcore techie. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in roles that span from 100% remote to mostly onsite. Sure, there are instances where face-to-face meetings are necessary, but if we take a realistic view of the way most workplaces function, there are few cases in a business setting where an employee needs to be onsite 8-9 hours per day, everyday. 

There is something to be said for serendipitous water cooler run-ins with coworkers where the interaction spurs a brainstorming session in which a pressing business issue is solved. The problem is, this isn’t the norm. This is the exception.

Multiple, peer-reviewed scientific studies that suggest open-plan offices, a common layout adopted in businesses today, increase stress and illness, reduce people’s ability to concentrate and reduce worker productivity.

Not to mention, living in the U.S., where most sprawling metropolitan areas have severe infrastructure limitations that prevent efficient public transportation, this translates into hellacious commutes that steal precious hours from our lives.

If evidence doesn’t support that being onsite at the office everyday enhances a worker’s performance, and arguably, lessens one’s quality of life, then why should we so easily accept this idea? 

Is it wrong to want a different path? To not want to live a life that I desperately need a vacation from?

Here’s what I wish

More companies would change their perspective on remote work 

And here’s why (a short list):

    • Remote work can initiate better communication (both written and verbal): as you don’t have the “luxury” of yelling across cubicles, popping in someone’s office when you have a question or are looking for your next small talk victim. If executed well and sufficient training is provided, remote work has the potential to improve communications by making touch points with coworkers more succinct and meaningful
    • Remote work can help focus on what really matters: an employee’s performance – at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most to an organization? Monitoring when someone clocks in (8:35 a.m. vs. 8:30 a.m.) and what they are wearing should matter less
    • Remote work can improve company culture and morale: remote work loosens the tight leash that many employers have on their employees. By adopting a remote work policy, employers are giving their employees the benefit of the doubt. Research has shown that the gift of trust, increased freedom and flexibility improves a person’s loyalty to their company and overall job satisfaction

I question, if a company has a no-remote policy, how much of that is indicative of a company problem versus an employee problem? A no-remote stance seems to suggest there are some deeper issues within an organization’s processes, policies, structure and culture if any sort of remote work policy cannot be managed. If anything, one would think that hiring a remote workforce would make the organization more selective about who they bring on to the team, more conscientious of their policies, and more focused on creating a positive, cohesive culture.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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