A chance encounter got me to open the door to the idea of remote work
Shaul Olmert shares his internal deliberations on the pros and cons of working from home
Shaul Olmert | 18:07 24.12.2020
This morning, while riding my bike to the office, I met Zohar along the way. We all have a Zohar in our lives, a person we haven’t seen in 30 years, but still immediately recognize when we cross paths, even when half of our face is covered. So we stopped for a brief chat, calling up old memories from Jerusalem in the 80s. We gossiped about the friends we kept in touch with, we kept silent for a moment recalling those who are no longer with us, and departed with the obligatory joke that when we next meet we’ll be approaching our late seventies. But a moment before we pedaled off, Zohar stopped to ask me what was in the wrapped parcel that I was carrying. “It’s a sign for my office door,” I explained proudly and pulled out of the bubble-wrapped package the designer sign I ordered online to be delivered to my home since the delivery person would have a hard time locating our office without a sign.
This week I held a phone interview for an experienced programmer, an Israeli, who has been traveling abroad for several months and wants to continue living abroad but to join our development team remotely. My initial instinct was to oppose it. He can’t join the morning meeting if he’s in a different time zone. He can’t listen to what his teammates are saying and be part of the decision-making process if he’s not sitting next to them. If he doesn’t form a friendship bond with the team, how will we overcome times of pressure and arguments, when friendship is what keeps things from escalating? But then he told me about the experiences he gained working remotely, how he and the organization he had worked for were able to create the necessary communication channels, procedures and mainly expectations base to make it work. When we delved into the details it became clear that not only is it possible, but that under proper management it could be mostly beneficial. American billionaire Sam Zell gave an interview last week that sparked controversy due to the things he said about the capital markets, the value of the USD, and U.S. fiscal policies. Among other things, he predicted that organizations would soon return to work from the office. He’s got a few more billions in the bank than I do, which at the very least indicates that he knows how to read trends, but on this specific point, I disagree with him. I think that the WFH train has long left the station, and what until recently was the purview of the few has become a norm that exposed the need to challenge our conservative perceptions when it comes to work structures and communication practices in organizations. Hardworking entrepreneurs all over the world are already busy developing a variety of solutions to enable remote work, supporting it, and offering alternatives that will take the sting out of the harm it causes. That doesn’t mean that all the office towers will be abandoned, only that the convention that until recently seemed obvious, by which all of a company’s employees are expected to spend most of their days in the same room, will become at most, optional. Progress always comes with a cost, most definitely in the short term. And every change drags chaos and conflict in its wake. But the changes that were forced upon us have taught us that the conventions we were used to require a shakeup and I believe that when forced closures and lockdowns are over, we will discover that we are adopting the new practices of our own will. In the meantime, if you come to visit the Flying Pigs team in our new office in Tel Aviv, you’ll be able to find us because of the sign on the door, but there may be no one there to hear you knocking.
Shaul Olmert is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of mobile app developer Piggy. He formerly founded interactive content company Playbuzz Ltd. You can find his previous columns here