I’ve said before that distributed working models – which I prefer to the term “remote working” but whatever – are a disruptive organizational technology cycle that is already well underway. The number of salaried, professional workers who work remotely at least part-time has been growing slowly, but steadily, for two decades.
In some professions, this trend is more pronounced than in others. Even in tech, I personally find that remote working is actually much more common than many people seem to think. Remote arrangements, whether just working from home or from another city/state, are frequently granted on the basis of political weight (eg. longtime employees or executives) and/or without labeling them as such. So-and-so employee simply lives elsewhere, but isn’t called a “remote employee” per se.
Like any disruptive technology, distributed working has its critics who dismiss it as infeasible and unrealistic. And to be sure, it’s still improving (albeit steadily). But when I look at the broadening set of tools available to collapse the productive distance between professionals, as well as remote collaboration habits from other fields like gaming, the more convinced I am that this model is going to eat “the office.” One model of a high-productivity firm of the future will be a distributed one, where many or nearly all employees are based in separate towns, cities, states and even countries. This type of firm is able to use technology to most efficiently source talent regardless of location and route tasks throughout the organization, leaving geo-constrained firms at a permanent competitive disadvantage.