The remote work piece by Sean Blanda's that's making the rounds is not only very flawed, but risks distracting us from the more pressing real risks about a fully remote workforce.
(Original piece here: https://www.seanblanda.com/our-remote-work-future-is-going-to-suck/)
First of all, the article is written from a white male US-centric standpoint that makes all the usual mistakes we've come to expect from that worldview.
Blanda says being remote gives you less access to mentoring. But underindexed folks get most their mentoring outside of work and through community, so going remote doesn't make this mentoring situation noticeable worse for them.
Blanda says performance reviews are even harder when you are remote, because you are only judged by your "output". But many of us will tell you that being judged in this way might be an improvement over racist and sexist non-remote perf reviews.
He is dead wrong in this point: that those advocating for remote work "assume that remote workers prefer to tightly wrap their identity in their work".
My experience with remote work is that is allows me to de-center work from my life. The opposite of Blanda's point.
Now, he does make some points that I agree with: remote work is harder with children and in smaller homes, remote work makes it harder to build relationships between co-workers.
But what I think is an egregious omission in Blanda's piece is that he never considers how the move to remote work might shift the power (im)balance between owners and employees, and what that means more broadly for all workers.
Blanda talks about how tech wages will go down. What he really means, though, is that the wages in places like Silicon Valley will go down, as the workforce becomes distributed and globalized.
I wish for workers everywhere, including in tech, including in Silicon Valley, to earn a decent living wage that allows them to live healthy, with dignity, and access to the leisure and resources that are necessary for a flourishing life.
In practice, this means wages commensurate with the cost of living, good social support nets, thriving communities, etc. Crucially, it means _less_ inequality.
And less inequality might mean "depressed" wages for those who are used to making several times the median wage.
Of course, there is no guarantee that with lower wages we will get a lower cost of living to match, let alone better safety nets.
Which takes us to what I think are the bigger dangers of a fully remote workforce.
The biggest root risk with remote work is that workers might become more atomized, less closely socially connected to other workers. And this could be bad in several ways.
In the already overly-individualistic and socially disconnected US, removing the "default layer" of socialization and connection of an in-person office might send some further down the path of loneliness, lack of social support networks, less engagement in community, etc.
The more obvious danger is that an even less relationally connected workforce might have a harder time organizing to put pressure on employers (aka capitalists).
In the US, with many getting their main connection to broader society through their work, this could also mean less engagement with social issues, less political and community organizing.
The opposite of what our weakened democracy needs.
But these risks are just that: possibilities, not givens.
Remote work gives us an opportunity to revitalize community life outside of workplaces, a window to demand services like accessible childcare, a chance to see ourselves in community with all workers everywhere.
Remote work is here to stay. Writing screeds about how it "sucks" might be fun, but the more interesting conversation is about what do we do about it.
How might we use remote work to make ourselves, our communities and our society stronger?
(Tangentially, I believe companies that go fully remote will still have a need for periodic "in person" gatherings, which might make it much more common for a worker to have to travel long distance "for work". Some new problems and opportunities here.)
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