Why working remotely sucks?

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I am a distributed systems engineer. The internals of how multiple processes establish a common understanding to operate a system interests me. But more than that, I love it when I apply distributed system fundamentals to real life.

I look at an office as just another distributed system. You have clusters of employees i.e. teams trying to build and maintain coordination to deliver on your company's goal.

In a normal workweek, we have meetings to plan, meeting to coordinate execution, and then some more meetings to retrospect. We discuss in hallways or near watercoolers. We jam on boards and then we go execute whenever we get time in between.

2020 turned our lives upside down. We all were forced to do the same above things but from home. Companies were worried at first, but as it progressed, they saw most teams were able to perform at almost the same levels. They now could save millions in office lease spaces, corporate travel, and infrastructure. Many companies went overboard to announce they will be WFH forever.

But these things are coming at a cost of employee's lifestyle. Employees are complaining of losing boundaries between work and life. They have 10s of video calls every day and are struggling to find time to work. They are working till late and taking the brunt of this new work paradigm.

Is this even sustainable? Is this really the future of work?

Remote work is not a new thing. A few small and large companies have made it work really well. Companies save money on infrastructure and can hire top talent from anywhere. Even for employees, it is beneficial. It saves us commute time. It allows to travel and work from different places. It lets you spend time with your pets or plants or family members. It offers tremendous freedom and flexibility. It's empowering and creates a level playing field.

Then why are we not liking it?

Because we have been doing it the wrong way. The "remote work" we do today is just "pseudo remote work". It is like - we have taken a legacy on-prem system, and moved it in the cloud, and started calling it "cloud-native" and expecting that it will magically perform the same or better with fewer headaches.

The truth is companies that have been remote, even before pre-covid times have a very different team culture than teams who adopted remote after covid. Our traditional way of work is very synchronous in nature. And covid has made this synchronous communication very hard. But since covid came in so fast, we did not get time to adjust to this. We just took our existing operating model and made it remote.

Hence the misery.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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