Why working remotely works

Business travelling is a waste

The company I worked for asked me to go get trained on X-CA and a USB Secure Dongle in Germany. They flew me first class from Canada to Germany, I rented a car and drive to a small village where our suppler has an office. The next day, I get a half day training, they had ma a half dozen USB sticks, then I drive back to the airport for a next day flight to Canada.

Cost of trip, $15,000. That much for a half day one-on-one slide show presentation. Who ever decided I should fly to Germany to get this training is an idiot. There are idiots making decisions like this within big companies all the time and nobody is wise to this because everyone is too busy covering their own skins. If that manufacturers would have FeDEX me those USB keys, then we could have spent the same one-on-one time over Zoom or Teams, we would have saved the company probably $20,000 (Travel cost and time wasted waiting in airplane+airport, jetlag … etc).

Work from home simply works

I approach my Director about the opportunity to work from home once in a while, when traffic or weather is bad. He agreed to my idea and proposed it to the whole group. A few months went by and the director announced that working from home was no longer an option. What happened? Well, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch who ruins it for everyone else. A coworker decided that we could work from home permanently without cleaning it first with the Director. When management heard of this, they abolished this privileges for the rest of us, and made it mandatory to get explicit approval from the director to be allowed to work from home every time commuting was seriously bad (due to weather or traffic).

I really disapproved of the blanket policies and punishment the Director imposed on the whole team. Some of us never abused the trust we were given, but a few did, and removed common sense off the table for all.

A year later, I rebuilt that company’s corporate VPN with better scalability, tighter security and support for both IPSEc & SSL VPN connectivity. Not long after this, the 2020 covid pandemic hit the company and forced 99% of company office employees to work from home. This saved me +12 hours of commute time per week. I could do all my work remotely and the VPN infrastructure I build could handle to new extra heavy load.

The only time I had to drive to work was when I had to build an environment for the company products (IE: Server Racks). But once the equipment was loaded and I assured remote access was possible, the rest of the work was done remotely.

I estimated that I could do the same amount of work in 5-6 hours, than I could do in 8 hours at the office. Plus, it saved me from driving back and forth. But I did my 8 hours per day, and demonstrated that the company benefited by allowing staff to work from home, with a 15%-25% increase in productivity at no extra cost. Unfortunately, management are blind and directors don’t trust their staff to deliver, and often, it’s because idiot employees who will ruin it for the rest.

Management should learn to weed out these idiots and force them back to work without applying carpeting punishment on the good talent. When they make good staff pay for the screwups of bad ones, it demotivates the team, make good talent want to leave and promotes sloppiness within the structure. When this is tolerated, the company does poorly. The people to blame for this nonsense are not middle management, but upper management. “C” level people don’t often get the reality picture because 80% of reality is filtered by middle management. But they are still to blame for not caring or vetting what their director tells them.

During the covid pandemic, remote work has deemed to be very successful, and most people were more productive. The director, yes the one who abolished remote work, now adored this new model and has probably not set foot in the office for months. New positions being posted also propose an hybrid (Work from Home & Office) scenario. It took a world wide pandemic to demonstrate that what employees demanded a long time ago made sense.

Companies should invest to training for staff who don’t know to organize their workspace and set their priorities when working from home. The productivity increase is no joke, for most people, but there will always be a few +-10% that will abuse and slack off their productivity just because no one is watching them. I hope management won’t penalize the group again because of the bad apples and force everyone back to the office. This Pandemic changed the games, and good employees that can work remotely, will not put up with management shenanigans and bad decisions making anymore. They can keep bad employees, good ones will go where they can be heard and respected.

Last week, Elon Musk announced that he’s forcing Tesla staff to come back to work. This draconian decision is understandable simply because he builds cars and most staff are needed on the production lines. I travel to the office when I had to build server racks, and travelled across the world to install what I have built. But with a little bit more smarts, I could pre-program everything ahead of time, and only need a remote eyes+hams to connect a few cables and turn on the power on the rack to allow me to complete the work remotely. Flying across the world for a month in first class costs a fortune and people that can figure out how to do the same work, at little to no costs, should be praised by the company.

Times are changing.

This was my view.
Cheers and Beers.

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