First Yahoo, now Best Buy. Two high-profile companies have recently announced a scaling-back of remote work or work-from-home policies. Supporters have described the need for retrenchment, resetting company culture, and creating an "all hands on deck" feeling of urgency and teamwork. Critics have decried these actions as myopic, family-hostile, and technophobic, and cited myriad examples of companies thriving with flexible work policies and globally distributed teams.
We've been getting asked, "what does this mean for remote presence? Is this a bad sign?"
We believe it's the opposite.
First, this shows how much they needed remote presence all along. They wouldn't be in the position they're in now, feeling that communication has broken down, trust bonds have severed, and teams aren't collaborating effectively. Research has shown that teleworking technologies, of which remote presence is the newest and most powerful, can overcome these problems and offer many new benefits, such as increased satisfaction, productivity, and health.
Second, remote presence is a tool that successful companies today can use, to help prevent arriving in the position in which Yahoo and Best Buy find themselves. Strengthen bonds now, before they attenuate. Build distributed teams that collaborate on diverse projects. If travel were free and instantaneous, wouldn't that make your team better?
It's a global future, and companies with distributed teams and remote workers aren't going away. There are simply too many benefits. Remote presence amplifies these benefits and removes many of the remaining obstacles to being successful in this environment.