There is a sometimes too long but still interesting article on The Atlantic, detailing the obstacles that women face to “have it all”, i. e. combine family life and career. The 1200 comments the story has show how sensitive of an issue this is, the author explaining that the feminist credo women were raised with has come to simply “airbrush reality”.
One of the problems the author mentions is the dictature of presence, and how being physically at the office is a major challenge as school and work times are still not matching. In Switzerland for example, younger kids will typically be at school between 8 and 11:30, then from 13:30 to… 15:30. Good luck with having a fulltime job!
The article then makes a case for remote work, and explains some of the hurdles faced by those who want to work from home, most notably the mentalities as teleconferencing is “likely to engender guilt among those calling in, and possibly resentment among those in the room”. As usual technologies enable new possibilities that human norms have a hard time adapting to.
I found this passage particularly interesting, as it explains some of the things we gain from working remotely, namely “distance” and “quiet”:
One real-world example comes from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a place most people are more likely to associate with distinguished gentlemen in pinstripes than with progressive thinking about work-family balance. Like so many other places, however, the FCO worries about losing talented members of two-career couples around the world, particularly women. So it recently changed its basic policy from a default rule that jobs have to be done on-site to one that assumes that some jobs might be done remotely, and invites workers to make the case for remote work. Kara Owen, a career foreign-service officer who was the FCO’s diversity director [...] writes, “I have found the distance and quiet to be a real advantage in a strategic role, providing I have put in the investment up front to develop very strong personal relationships with the game changers.”
This is an interesting perspective, as making better decisions and having time to think are possibly the two most important factors for a manager. Here we see another recurring conclusion that the observer of society I am comes to again and again: that technological and non-technological solutions do not compete but complement each other. You can work remotely if you “develop very strong personal relationships” while face to face. The solution is not to either work on site or work remotely, but a smart combination of both.