Are We Really Still Mandating In-Office Attendance?

What is this? High School?

The Nostalgic Before Times

Remember 2019? Back before everyone had to don their face coverings to get a loaf of bread at the store. Back when we flew to conferences on the company dime and got tipsy in hotel bars.

Remember sitting begrudgingly in open plan offices where we could listen to that awesome Old Town Road remix. Not the one with Billy Ray, but the one with Keith from sales on a call trying to convince some guy to upgrade their subscription to your app and it gets through your $300 headphones.

That collaboration the execs pine about on every zoom call. This spurious “water cooler” conversation that is actually some jerk sheepishly waltzing over to ask about that thing they just slacked you about 2 seconds ago.

And let’s not forget the sunshine and fresh air. That breeze through your hair as you waste 1.5 hours of your life each way going 5mph on the freeway because some asshole in a fancy sports car caused a phantom traffic jam after he couldn’t be bothered to signal. You could move closer to work, but your job is in a hip city with $1,500 rent on a studio in a sketchy neighborhood.

All of these pieces of the “before time” should stay in the before time. We have been forced to adapt to a remote-work culture and at the very least ought to keep a hybrid model (not everyone enjoys full remote life anyway). Love it or hate it, I have found undeniably great benefits to being fully remote for myself and my team.

The Benefits of Remote-Work Culture

Personally, I found going fully remote to be better for collaboration than in-person. Being Slack-first gave my team perspective on how it’s like to work as one of our off-shore developers in Europe, forcing us to really think about the point we are trying to communicate. Ideas are spread easily across oceans and aren’t stuck in the kitchenette like the smell that hangs in the air after your co-worker microwaves fish.

Working from home has enabled me to spend more time getting ramped up for the day and less time worrying about beating the traffic. I’m able to shut off all distractions for large swaths of the day in a controlled environment and really dig in to get shit done. Setting my own hours effectively lets me work when I am most productive which is not always to the Victorian-era rhythm of the 9–5 grind.

Happy employees tend to stick around longer. When work-life balance is no longer a recruiting buzzword but an actual practice, employees are able to take breaks and focus on their well-being. Being able to knock out chores or go to the gym in the middle of the day boosts oxytocin and serotonin making a happier, more-cohesive team with staying power.

Re-Opening and the Return of the Attendance Policy

Unfortunately senior/boomer leadership has decided that in spite of the major benefits of a remote culture, they still need buts in seats to justify things like expensive real-estate purchases, the jobs of middle management, or to placate their own egos.

Blanket policies like “all employees must do x” sans proven benefit do little for morale, engagement, or retention. I’ll even say that making everyone 100% remote just because I like it, isn’t the best move. In tech (I can’t really speak for other industries having not worked there) we aim to hire the smartest, most-motivated, self-starter types, so if you want to keep them around and operating at their peaks, leaders need to give them the choice.

Apple employees have already begun pushing back on the Monday-Tuesday-Thursday attendance policy and Amazon has recently announced internally that they will be requiring attendance 3 times a week. At Amazon, if you are indeed more productive working from home and would like to work one more additional day from home, you have to beg your group’s VP to grace you with the ability to work remotely. While we’re at it, let’s start asking managers for hall passes to go to the bathroom 🙄.

Such draconian policies have been so insulting that roughly half of developers say they plan to leave if they’re forced into the office again. Why would you insist developers should have degrees, pass leetcode, contribute to open-source etc etc, just to slap them with mandatory attendance policies like they’re still in high school?

There’s a Talent War Coming

Its an older meme but it checks out :D

As a manager, I support all styles of work and have offered my team the flexibility they need to be the best developers they can be. Some people like hanging out in the office because home is distracting — cool, we got a spot for you and some snacks and whiteboards. Other people on my team have 30 minute commutes and only like to come in on beer & chicken wing day — fine, just make sure you’re getting work done. As a manager it’s my job to adapt to those different styles because I hired really smart people who already know how to work and it’s not my job to dictate that.

If you want to retain your talent, you need to be flexible with your employees. Inspire them with the vision and the “why” but be flexible on the “how”. Trust is key, and if you have to question whether or not your team is slacking off, you really need to re-evaluate your hiring process.

P.S. If you’re bummed out about your company’s mandatory in-person requirements, I know of a place that treats you like the highly intelligent developer you are; hit me up 😉

Software Engineer | Product Leader