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Remote Worker Sticks in the Mud

January 13 2013

Remote work. It’s something that’s repeatedly been demonstrated to work by some of the most successful companies around. Yet it remains a very contentious topic amongst most technology companies. The main concerns I usually hear regarding remote work are: remote workers will be “out of sight and out of mind” and therefore treated inferiorly to workers at the main office, and that face-to-face communication trumps all other forms of communication. Frankly, these concerns are silly.

Employees who would treat a remote worker poorly because they can’t see them in the office are employees whom you do not want. For most technology companies, there are several other entities that cannot be seen that, like remote workers, should be treated like gold. One obvious example is the company’s clientele. The problem with this concern is that it’s backwards. The problem is not with the remote worker–it’s with the dipshit employee you’re worried will treat the remote worker poorly. Get rid of that guy.

Chinese whispers is a game we’ve all probably played as kids. It demonstrates the inherent distortion that occurs when verbal messages are passed from person-to-person. This phenomenon, unfortunately, does not end at elementary school. Text is different. Writing text forces one to think about what they’re trying to communicate before they begin spewing off at the mouth. There are no awkward pauses or ummm’s. Text is recorded, which means it’s searchable, and not easily forgotten. For the vast majority of work-related communication, I think it’s clear that the written word trumps verbal speech. For the cases where it doesn’t, we have things like telephones and google hangout.

If you’re a remote-worker stick-in-the-mud, ask yourself why. Really, what problems could possibly arise that can’t be reconciled (or even improved) by the technology you already use?