Writing by Peter Hilton

The hybrid-remote delusion

Hybrid-remote means many things other than actually remote 2022-07-26 #remote

Parrish Freeman

When you decide to apply for jobs where you can work remotely, some companies sabotage your job search by deluding themselves about what remote means. They use the word remote, without it meaning what they think it means.

Working remote means that it doesn’t matter where you live, because you have no geographical connection to your employer. In practice, only remote-first companies achieve this, where everyone works from anywhere, by default. The rest end up with some variation of hybrid-remote.

Office-first hybrid-remote

Some companies have adopted a genuinely hybrid approach to remote work: some remote employees, and some of the company co-located. This leads to a two-tier company, with a poor employee experience and lower status for remote employees. GitLab explains that:

‘Synchronous, undocumented meetings and disconnected whiteboards are still hallmarks of collaboration’

As well as dysfunctional meetings, remote employees experience a career dead-end, with no senior management in their part of the company. Still, unlike a centralised company that has a corporate headquarters and satellite offices, at least the sidelined employees can work from home.

Initially co-located hybrid remote

Some hybrid-remote jobs require employees to visit a central location during the hiring process and for the first weeks after they join. Employers argue that these processes should happen in person, which sounds like an own goal. Apparently, they can’t do important processes with remote employees.

In the same way that some companies interpret hybrid-remote to mean that important employees don’t work remotely, others take it to mean that important processes don’t work remotely. For these companies, either remote employees don’t matter, or their work doesn’t.

Local commuting hybrid-remote

The second-worst form of hybrid-remote work requires employees to spend one day per week in the office. Employees can work from home, but not remotely.

Local commuting has none of the advantages of remote work. You still have to live somewhere expensive that’s close to the office, and you still have the opportunity to catch COVID from your colleagues, but now your employer saves money because you don’t have your own desk in the office.

The regular presence of people in the office prevents the company from introducing the techniques and tools that distributed teams require. Meanwhile at home, you work from your kitchen table with no proper equipment, and end up with a repetitive strain injury.

Bait and switch hybrid-remote

The worst form of hybrid-remote initially sounds like another variant, but turns out contractually worse. When you get caught by bait and switch hybrid-remote, you can work remote, but:

Perhaps you can’t blame companies for trying it on, because so few people have experienced successful remote-first employment.

Further reading

Share on TwitterShare on LinkedIn