David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org      Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD


Remote Working Works – June 2022


 Flamethrower — The Boring CompanyEarlier this week we heard from Elon Musk. No, it wasn’t about Twitter, or electric cars, or tunnels in Las Vegas, or even flamethrowers.  This week Mr. Musk’s rant was abut remote working.  He doesn’t like it.  His actual quotes were:

Remote work is no longer acceptable” “If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned” and remote workers “….should pretend to work somewhere else.   

So, let me take some time to explain why Mr. Musk is wrong…again this time…by sharing a recent article I wrote for LinkedIn.



Toto (and Mr. Musk) we're not in Kansas anymore...

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of chatting with many end-users and industry experts at a handful of in-person events again.  Casting no aspersions on the good people of Kansas, if our industry was ever in a ‘finding ourselves in Oz’ moment, it’s now. Between the huge majority of knowledge workers who have discovered remote working is more productive and better for their lives, the stodgy large enterprises trying to lure employees back to their outdated offices, and the many of us between those two polar opposites, we’ve entered a period of enormous confusion. Other than a few self-professed experts trying to steer the ships from their shoreline vantage points, it is clear to everyone I’ve spoken with that no one has come-upon the right answers yet. The future of work is a work in progress. All we know for sure is that it won’t look like it did pre-pandemic.


What We Do Know For Sure

Let’s be clear to preface this entire discussion with clear parameters. Coffee baristas, jack-hammer operators, sales clerks and many, many others have no option of working remotely. Their activities require an in-person experience. The question here applies to the enterprise worker who commutes up to two hours to get to a building so they can sit at a desk smaller than the one that they have at home and collaborate electronically with people who aren’t in that same building anyway. These folks are typically referred to as knowledge workers, though I and many others hate this term due to its implied slight of those not in the category. In-person workers have plenty of knowledge without the luxury of remote as an option.

There are also many outlying cases of people who enjoy being back in an office. A few I have heard mentioned are employees new to the workforce that are looking for in-person mentoring; people who have noisy or distracting home environments and really want to get away from them; and people whose living circumstances do not allow them to have a stand-alone space to work from. All of these people can’t wait to get back to a traditional office to do their work.

However, for the typical knowledge worker, being forced to discover remote working during the pandemic has been an enlightening joy. 


The Benefits

I’ve written about the benefits of remote working so many times already that I won’t spend a great deal of time rehashing them here. Unless you are an old-school control-freak manager, the model is a win for everyone.

·    Time is not wasted commuting to and from an office, which also helps the environment

·    Worker productivity soars (according to studies from before and during the pandemic) as the time not spent commuting usually goes into additional productive efforts

·    Work life balance is improved

·    Attention can be paid to family as needed during crises large and small, with an easy return to work instead of an extended travel time home beforehand

·    People can live wherever they prefer, not just in one geographic area

·    Organizations can hire the best and brightest employees regardless of where they live

·    Office footprints can be reduced resulting in tremendous cost savings

·    Expenditures in electricity, HVAC, bandwidth, etc. can all be reduced providing significant savings to the organization

The benefits of in-person working at large enterprises however have always been over exaggerated. To quote myself from an earlier blog:

“The common excuse that most of the remote working nay-sayers give to justify their positions is that bringing people into the same space causes some “magic” to happen from the impromptu collisions and connections. Bumping into a colleague in a meeting or at the water-cooler is supposed to be the genesis of this magic interaction. 

I honestly have never understood people’s acceptance of this model of organizations – as if we all worked in a 1950’s small business. Yes, if you are employed at a local retail store then you may gain an advantage having all your co-workers in the same place all the time. Realistically however, I and many knowledge workers haven’t worked in an office where everyone was in the same location, same city or even the same country for over two decades. What good is in-person, impromptu “magic” when your colleagues are rarely in the same building with you? Clearly, successful distributed workforces need to be able to develop that so-called magic using collaboration tools to truly be effective – and, when those tools are present on a computer or mobile device, it’s just as clear that that knowledge worker can be anywhere where they can access those tools and a solid internet connection.”


Welcome To Today’s “Oz”

So the question for most enterprises today is not whether or not to adapt, but rather how to do so. Knowledge workers surveyed by multiple organizations as part of multiple efforts usually show a rate of between sixty-five and seventy-five percent who would be content never to regularly commute to an office again. Conversely, many large enterprises are reluctant to move away from the old-style working model. Both of these forces resemble the tornados that threw Dorothy into Oz. Just as houses, bicycles and everything were thrown-around by the storms in that story, so are all those involved in the future of work today being thrown-around by the significant opposing forces. Employees – when faced with draconian return to work decrees – have created The Great Resignation era – a movement that has seen the greatest power-shift to the workforce I’ve seen in my lifetime. Knowledge workers tolerance for poor work experiences is at such a low point that employer or even career changes seem to be the lesser of two evils. Organizations are all being challenged to respond to these market forces.

To peel the onion a bit, first we should deal with the outliers. There have been a small number of enterprises that have publicly announced that they are abandoning their offices completely and switching to a one hundred percent remote environment. When one enterprise made such an announcement they reported over eight-hundred-thousand people flocked to their careers website to look for work. While this model will work for some organizations, it’s not clear if it will work for all. 

Then, on the other side of the spectrum, we have the firms that have publicly commented that all their people are coming back to the office, period. They are completely averse to any extended remote working. We have to realize in these cases that it is the strong preference of their management to maintain the status-quo they are familiar with. They’ve likely invested time and money in a work model that involves buildings and/or a campus, and that model worked for them before, so they see no reason to assume it won’t continue to be effective. In-fact, some of these firms are openly discussing punitive measures for remote employees – including paying them less for the privilege of remote working, which is so counterintuitive it is ridiculous. (Why would a company choose to tell an employee that they are worth less when that life decision actually saves the company money via less in-office resources needed?)  In my opinion, these organizations’ leaders are more concerned about control and power than success. Change is just harder for some people than it is for others. 

That leaves everyone else somewhere in the middle. It’s mostly organizations that are genuinely trying to figure out how to transform to ones that get the benefits of having teams together in an office, but also support the greater good of remote working.  


Coercion Is Not Working

One thing I definitely heard from multiple end-users is that bringing employees back to an office will not be achieved by tricks. No matter how many free-donut days or spa-style massages are offered on site it will not draw significant numbers of employees back to an office that they no longer perceive they need to be in. In addition, if told they ‘must come back if they don’t want to lose their job’ approximately forty percent are just quitting – either immediately or making the decision to look for alternate work and leaving as soon as they can.   [Let’s check back in six months to see how many employees Mr. Musk has lost and/or if he has changed his policies.]

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Enterprises need to recognize that the old-style office – a place where knowledge workers do desk work and occasionally meet together – is as dead as the dinosaurs. Successful organizations will have to accept that changes are inevitable, and that they don’t want to be one of the last to change if they want to attract and retain the best employees.


What Should Organizations Do Now

My friend Tim Banting, an analyst with Omdia, opined that the state of work has now moved from The Great Resignation to The Great Experimentation. He couldn’t be more correct. The dozens of users I’ve spoken with have all stated their firms are trying things out to see what works, realizing that it is likely a moving target. Some things clearly are working, some things clearly are not

When we come to the inevitable realization that ‘the home is the new office, and the office is the new offsite’ the path becomes clearer. It is plainly ridiculous for employees to commute to an office to sit at a tiny, open-plan desk to do individual work and connect with global colleagues using technology. There is zero advantage to doing that away from a home office. The organization’s office then has to be a place that offers advantages that working from home cannot provide.  It has to transform from a place where individual work is done to a place where group and collaborative work is done. It should be a place where employees can schedule spaces and then schedule time to converge with their colleagues when that would be helpful to a project or process. Once we all stop pretending that day-to-day interactions have to happen in the same building we can evolve those buildings into spaces that can really provide benefits for group collaboration. 

Again here, we can identify the things not to do quicker than discovering the sure to be complex future, but here are a few obvious guidelines to use as we all discover Oz together.

Formulas fail every time. As soon as you tell people how many days they must be in-office versus working from home you’ve completely lost sight of the advantages of working remotely. Your organization needs to hire smart people that can self-determine the best place to work from on any given day. If they don’t perform, then they weren’t right for the job. If they do then you have no reason to remove their work location autonomy.

Toss-out your old office designs. ‘Densified’ desks, open plan layouts, xx number of audio conference rooms and videoconference rooms per employee, etc. are all wrong now. Create an office space that is specifically intended to foster group collaboration. Set aside desks for the support people that need to be there every day, but make-sure the remaining desks are reservable as touch-down spaces and focus rooms for people who are not there every day. Make the majority of rooms specifically for group collaboration, with lots of space to support brainstorming, whiteboarding and scrap-boarding on the walls, and videoconferencing. Understand that EVERY meeting going forward will likely have at least one remote participant, so the era of the audio conference room is over. Every room needs to be equipped with modern, AI driven videoconferencing that uses cameras without distracting in-room motors and complicated in-room touch-panel controls. They need to work essentially by themselves.

Hire and train good people managers. It is totally wrong to believe managers cannot effectively do their job when their employees are remote. Global teams and twenty four hour / seven day a week teams have been effectively managed for years. Don’t simply promote good performers into management roles. Either hire managers with a track record of success doing so and/or provide management training to give people the tools they need to effectively manage remote teams. The ‘mean / strict’ manager is no longer an organizational advantage. It is now in-fact a force to drive away your best employees.

Remain open and flexible. Organizations and employees are still very much in the ‘figuring all of this out’ phase. Be the person that asks both why and why not. Try new things, fully assuming your employees and colleagues have the best possible intentions as everyone tries to create a new balance between health, safety, life and work. 

In conclusion, anyone telling you that they know exactly what the future will be like when we’re this early down the yellow brick road is probably just guessing wrong. The storms and their results are still being worked-out by most organizations and employees, and there’s lots of trial and error going on. The only definite thing is that if you don’t start down the path to change now, you and your enterprise will surely not make it to the Emerald City at the end.











This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.

Copyright 2022 David Danto


As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.  Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.  Thanks!