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Making sense of working remote, co-located and everything in between

Making sense of working remote, co-located and everything in between

Making sense of working remote, co-located and everything in between

Four years ago, remote work was embraced only by ‘quirky’ tech companies. With the pandemic, it became the lifeline that enabled a large part of society to keep going. Now, companies and employees are renegotiating what the rules about physical presence should be, and often it seems like this dynamic can get quite adversarial with companies putting their foot down on bringing people back to the office.

This talk will encourage you to look beyond the black&white framing by focusing first on what it takes to build good collaborative habits and sustain a healthy and productive culture, as well as the role digital tools play in that effort. By looking through this lens the question of remote or co-located workforce policies should appear more nuanced and less important than some other key components of a company's culture.

The shift to remote work, accelerated by the COVID pandemic, has transformed business practices for almost all types of companies. In years since the pandemic the trend has been somewhat reversed, but some amount of remote work seems to be here to stay. Companies that navigate these changing realities best are the ones that take a broader view on the question of how to enable the best collaboration practices than simply just whether physical presence is required. 

Common objections to remote work

Justifications for curtailing remote work include worse productivity and team dynamics, lack of control and erosion of company culture. However, the reality of modern workplaces is too complex to allow for the simplistic conclusion that physical presence is a one-fits-all solution for these challenges.

What makes teams work well?

The three pillars of environments that support good collaboration are:

  • Trust in each other and the broader organisation.
  • Knowing what the team’s mission is and believing in it.
  • Having the right mix of skills and developing them further.

There is nothing about virtual interactions that make the challenge of providing this much different than in-person. Same principles need to be observed.

The through line: digital tools

Digital tools are a foundation of modern work as they allow us ont only to replicate office interactions but to enhance them. Completely eliminating remote work makes the use of digital tools less necessary, which can make the teams change their habits to rely too much on in-person communication which may end up decreasing the quality of their collaboration and ways of working over time. This can be potentially even more damaging with the rise in capable AI tools.


Marko Jukić
Marko Jukić