I'm the founder of FutureWork IQ where I spend my time assisting businesses to design digital workplaces or “offices in the cloud.” These environments enable companies to allow flexible and remote working for their teams. I also teach the digital literacy, fluency, communication and collaboration skills needed to work in these modern technology-rich workplaces.

I strongly disagree with this view. Here is why: There are some extremely successful companies that are fully distributed and office-less and have been working this way for decades.

Here is the reason this is not working:

  1. Many are attempting to copy & paste in-person ways of working into an online environment. (How very frustrating!)
  2. Meetings are still being conducted like they were when in-person and it’s exhausting
  3. Synchronous online working is the requirement — you have to be on call and at your keyboard from 8-5 (this is highly inefficient.)
  4. No effort has been taken to understand and apply the basic long-established work-from-anywhere principles. (Raise your hand if your company has offered you virtual work skills training)
  5. No effort has been expended in attempting to understanding asynchronous work (what is that even?)

Clinging to in-person ways of doing things is what lies at the core of the failure, that is what is leading to a loss in productivity. Not the model.

What traditional in-person companies don’t understand about fully remote companies

For businesses that started co-located, meaning they had physical offices from their inception and people commuted to these daily, but now want to shift to fully-distributed (or want to allow some work-from-home days) there is a shift that absolutely must happen in order for this transition to be successful.

You have to embrace a completely different culture:

Co-located teams have a culture of speaking.
Fully-distributed teams have a culture of writing.

In successful office-less companies you will find an obsession with digitally documenting every single process on how the company works, creating a massive digital library of written content. This digital library becomes the company’s brain, its nervous system, which everyone plugs into.

This is highly efficient.

There are no knowledge leaks or bottlenecks, which easily happen in a culture of speaking workplace. (You know the “I need to ask so-and-so how this is done but they are busy at the moment” moments.) There are not just a handful of people in the business who understand how everything works. Instead, how everything works is fully documented in writing and is available and searchable by everyone, knowledge is democratised.

The culture of writing” that exists in highly successful fully-distributed teams is their superpower.