In a recently published article, The New York Times offered a brief overview of some things society has learned (or not) about remote work. More than three years after the pandemic kicked off what reporter Emma Goldberg calls “a mass workplace experiment,” plenty of companies have yet to figure out what works—either for employees or for productivity.
For employers, productivity concerns outweigh most others—no surprise there—but the studies conducted thus far have been anything but consistent. Results range from productivity declines of 19 percent to gains as high as 24 percent. (Commence the cherry-picking!) Interestingly, though, Stanford economist Nick Bloom claims that the differentiator isn’t remote work itself, but how each company implements it:
“It all comes down to how workers are managed. If you set up fully remote with good management and incentives, and people are meeting in person, it can work. What doesn’t seem to work is sending people home with no face-time at all.”Nick Bloom, economist and remote work scholar
One of Automattic’s core values from the start has been the importance of in-person meetups. All of our employees can expect to spend 2-4 weeks each year with their coworkers not only working on projects together, but also just spending time together, sharing meals, and generally getting to know each other. Regular meetups, both as single teams and as entire divisions, are a key ingredient to the success of our distributed workforce.
As Bloom ultimately concluded about remote work, even with seemingly mixed productivity results, “This is the new normal.” At Automattic—where we’ve been fully distributed since the company was started over 17 years ago—it’s the only normal we’ve ever known.
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