If given the choice, remote work is incredibly appealing. No commute, more flexibility to manage personal responsibilities, more snack breaks, etc. But the long-term financial ramifications of working from home have yet to be determined. Are remote workers more at-risk during a lay-off? Do office workers get preferential treatment for promotions and pay increases? And what does choosing to work remotely say about your drive and commitment? We look at the pros and cons of choosing to work from home in this episode.
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Will It Hurt Your Career To Work From Home?
You magnificent bastard.
Why are you switching it? Why am I not a son of a bitch anymore?
It’s because we’re over 100. I thought it was time to do something new and fresh.
I’m a traditionalist. I’m not a big fan of your change at things on me. All these young kids were working as hybrids. I like to come into the office every day and do things the way we always did, Frank.
That’s right, you son of the bitch.
I’m feeling better now about this episode as we go. This episode is a topic that has probably been beaten to death, and we have enough data now. It’s not assumptions anymore, but the topic being, is hybrid work here to stay? Is work-from-home here to stay? More importantly, if you are reading this, how does it impact your career?
I start with a few stats. Seventy-five percent of US companies are using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model. Forty-four of US employees prefers a hybrid work model compared to 51% of employers, which is interesting to me. That means less employees prefer the hybrid work model than the actual employers.
Sixty percent of high-growth companies use productivity anywhere in the “hybrid work model,” and 55% of employees want to work remotely at least three days a week. The stats are clear. We’re not going back to 2019. From 2018 to 2019, the hybrid work was already well on its way. This is not a pandemic situation why these stats have moved this way, but it certainly accelerated it aggressively.
For me, I make money in a number of ways, and all of them are remote. I went from being a person who, for several years of my career, made 100% of my income by showing up to an office every single day to, in 2018, being a person who made 100% of my money by being a remote employee. Whether it’s investing, raising capital, or real estate, this show is 100% remote, which doesn’t make money, but it does lose money. I consult, I have online leadership programs, and I’m a CRO of a business that has every employee working in Atlanta. Contrast that with you, Frankie, which you are largely an office worker with some exceptions being your side hustles.
The day-to-day stuff, the bulk of what I do is in an office, and it’s managing people and teams. We have almost 50 employees now. That is a lot of in-the-office type of stuff. It’s collaborative. There are people talking now. We do some work from home. We have a home base. Everyone has a desk. I have gotten to a place in my career where I also have the ability to work remotely. It’s largely collaborative, and it’s mostly over Zoom.
What Ian and I came up with in this is there are a couple of major macro themes. Younger people, by and large, like flexibility. They like the ability to work remotely. That is the theme. Employers, especially old school employers, brick and mortars, Goldman Sachs, and Jamie Dimon, we will get into specifics of this, and Elon Musk. They lose control, and they don’t like the loss of control. Because of that, they are railing against the work-from-home model or the remote work model.
The other side of it is this. When you’re younger in your career, and you’re learning, you’re influential, and you need a place to come, go and build a home, Ian and I did this for years in an office, it’s harder to start there, but it’s easier to end up in a remote location or remote type of work situation if you’ve created something already. Ian and I can demand high dollars like six figures plus or seven figures because of the work we did before, and we can build off of it.
There are a lot of different things happening here. There’s something that came up in these studies that are fascinating. The Millennials who love this, 31% of them say they can effectively manage it. It’s hard to manage. We’re moving into a new world. Several years from now, this will settle, and we’ll end up in a new place that will make a lot of sense. There will be a lot of efficiencies. People will have happiness around it, but right now, we’re in flux. It’s not new, but becoming prominent and prevalent is new.
The majority of Frank’s employees work in Richmond. He has a large office. He does have some people that are remote that add value in certain ways. We’re going to get into this later in the agenda. I want to understand why all of them need to be in the office with you and why you feel strongly about that. In general, the first topic we want to touch on is how CEOs feel about hybrid work and work from home. Do they have opinions on those who choose to work from home versus those who choose to come into the office when that choice is given? I feel like it’s hard to get the truth on this because it’s a political situation.
You don’t want to be on the record saying, “Something is polarizing, and it’s on the wrong side.” You’re going to piss off a lot of people who are in your workforce, and you don’t want to alienate them.
There’s an element of recruitment here that when you get the number of 75% of companies to support hybrid work. If you say you don’t support it at all, how are you going to recruit? It’s hard to get the truth right now because we’re still very much in an employee’s market. There is a shortage of workers. People are losing people. Retention rates are terrible in most of these companies. CEOs had to say this.Seventy-five percent of companies support hybrid work, so if you don't support it, how are you going to recruit? It's an employee's market right now. Click To Tweet
There’s an interesting story. This was in the Wall Street Journal, Frankie. There’s an accounting firm, Dixon Hughes Goodman, and the CEO, Matt Shaw, felt that they could be as productive working at home as they could by coming into an office. In the fall of 2021, the CEO declared that hybrid was the new work normal, and made the office optional. People loved it.
In 2022, this CEO merged with a larger company, and make no mistake. When you merge with a larger company, you’re pretty much getting acquired. That’s a choice. You chose to sell to this larger company. You gave up control, and you do that because it enriches the CEO, Matt Shaw. This guy benefited financially by doing this, but in doing this, he gave control over to the acquiring company and the merger, which is a company by the name of Forvis.
They had more employees, but now the two companies have 5,400 total employees. Forvis is not in favor at all of the hybrid. In the fall of 2021, Dixon Hughes Goodman says, “Hybrid is cool. Don’t come to work all you want.” The new CEO comes in and says, “If you want to work at this new combined merger, you’re probably not going to be upwardly mobile if you’re not coming to the office. If you’re working one day a week in the office, don’t expect to get promoted. You can still work from home, but there are going to be trade-offs in your career. One came out and said, “Hybrid is great.” The other CEO now of the same merger came out and said, “It’s great if you want to stay stagnant for the rest of your career.” They are two different lines.
Slightly differently means it isn’t great.
The way I see this a little bit is if you’re Tom Brady, voluntary workouts in the summer for your NFL team are very much voluntary. If you’re a sixth-round rookie that barely is hanging onto a spot, it’s not exactly voluntary. If you don’t show up, you make a choice. It was voluntary, but you didn’t come, and we don’t need to keep you because someone else came to show up.
Some of the biggest names are starting to get a lot more honest now. JP Morgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world and large employers in the world, probably has a top ten most famous CEO, Jamie Dimon. He came right out and said, “Remote work doesn’t work well for those who want to hustle.” That was his way of saying, “If you want to grow your career, you’re probably not a remote worker. Get your ass out of the office.
Goldman Sachs, even more honest, their CEO, David Solomon said, “Remote work is an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.” In essence, Goldman Sachs is saying, “We were forced into doing remote work because of a virus. We hate it. We think we are a more profitable company with all of you coming to the office. Don’t get too comfortable.”
Elon Musk said the following, “We’re coming back to the office. For those of you that don’t want to, you can pretend to work somewhere else.” That was his way of saying, “We’re ending the remote work situation.” What I’ll tell you is this, I had remote work when I quit my job in 2009, and I worked from home way before it was cool. There are upsides to it. Your commute goes down. There’s convenience. There’s a ton of it. There are also things that creep in that aren’t great, like in the middle of the day, you start doing laundry, you load the dishwasher, or there are distractions.
Your wife starts printing on your printer and jams it up. You can’t get the document out.
Now, I’m a CEO. I’ve got a lot of things going on, but when I’m at work, I tend to default to work-type things. It doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes when I’m home, I sit on the couch and turn on the TV. A lunch turns from twenty minutes into an hour because I’m watching something. These things are real. I have the most at stake at this company. They happen to me. If it’s happening to me, I know that it ranks and files on employees. They’re feeling the same thing. There is a distraction.
What it’s starting to come down to is there is a nice benefit of it, but there is also the trade-off of what’s the level of productivity that I’m getting and paying for. That’s where I think the rub is. Over time it will settle itself out, but we’re not there yet. It’s also the reason you and I talked about on the high level for our side hustles. It’s our side hustle. It isn’t day-to-day stuff where we are asked to do superhero-type of tasks, “Come in, help solve this, get ready for an event, prepare this, and do these types of things.” What you do day-to-day doesn’t matter as much as long as you show up prepared for the big things. That’s where I think there is that balance.
Some people would disagree with me, Frank, but there’s something you said. There is a difference between a remote worker and a worker from home. If you are reading this blog, I am in an office. I am in an executive suite. I pay rent. I’m in an office building, and I am highly productive when I come here. There was nothing else to do here but work. I read here and I work here. When I’m at home, I’m a crappy worker.
I can respond to an email on my phone. I can pick up a phone call, but if I have to do any deep work, any thinking, if I’m on the phone with a client, if I’m consulting, if I have a coaching call, I will never do it at home. I come into an office. I’m more productive here, but I’m still remote. I’m not there with them, but I am not at home. Most people don’t have the benefit of being able to pay $1,000 a month for an office when you have a perfectly fine one at home, but it’s worth every dollar I spend to come here. I see it pay me back in my business.
This is part of the thing. I’m at home at the moment. I have a dedicated workspace at home. I’ve got young kids. When they are here, my wife, cleaning people, and lawn service are here, I’m less productive, but I can get a ton done at home. I’m a highly compensated executive. I own a business. For people that are workers, it’s harder to have a dedicated space and to have a whole office. My IT department set up my office. I have everything exactly set up like it is at the office. I have four incredible workstations. I have three at the office. I have one at home.
To that end, most people don’t have that. I have every built-in advantage at home. I feel like most employees don’t have that. When you work from home, you don’t have the printer, the computer set up, and the double monitors. There are physical space limitations in most people’s homes. We’re advancing between remote and home, but I think home will go away over time because it’s not as productive.
Harvard Business Review did a study on several thousand managers. Thirty-eight percent of managers believe that remote workers usually perform worse than those who work in an office, with 22% still being undecided. More than half of workers of managers would not agree that people can be as productive at home as they can in an office. The pendulum hasn’t swung to where all managers believe. Most still are holding onto the fact that we think you’re more productive when you come into an office.
A lot of that has to do with the engagement interactions, but also what you’re talking about. You’re not going to the refrigerator five times a day, or you’re not getting distracted onto something else. It’s deep work when you’re at the office. I’m wired in the way that when I’m in the office, I want to be as productive as humanly possible because I want to get out of the office. I don’t want to dilly around when I’m in an office and with corporate or even now because I’d rather be at home, around my family, and doing anything other than work. I’m pretty productive because I want to get done with it fast.
There’s something else that came up. It says, “Using an array of metrics for 7,000 workers, such as the use of email and other cloud-based tools, productivity software.” They said that people worked more in 2020 than in 2019. I want to unpack this a little bit. It’s something that I read. 2019 and earlier was a different era. 2020 was the pandemic. Data is usually a few years old before it makes it sourced, and it gets into an article. We’re using data from several years ago.
It’s important to look at this. In 2020, unemployment skyrocketed. Ian and I were texting each other, like usually, a job report moves from 200,000, 300,000, to 400,000. Jobs reports were moving by millions. There was one job report where 20 million people were let go. If you had a job in 2020, you were freaking scared of losing your job before all the stimulus was printed. Everybody was hunkering down. Nobody quit.
There was the Great Resignation, and now we’re going into the quiet quitting. We have turned the corner, and we’re looking at what 2020 looks like based on where we are in 2022. Those things aren’t the same. People were scared to death about losing their jobs, and they hunkered down. The data is slightly skewed.
If you look at how productive people were in 2020, they were super productive. This is what the statistic and Ian talked about. Now, it’s regressing. People aren’t as insanely focused at home. The line that I had with my wife when the pandemic happened is, “You raise the kid. I’m going to make sure we don’t go broke.” That’s over. That immediate dopamine hit is gone.
Nothing drives productivity like a good recession, a good crisis, and there’s panic. Everyone hunkers down and figures out that, “Wherever I’m going to be, I’m going to work around the clock because I’ve got to keep my job and keep making money.” Business owners are the same.
The word that you used is critical, recession. What’s happening is we are most likely in a recession. We had two-quarters of negative GDP growth. We’re not officially in a recession, but we’re technically in one. If you look at TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and all these huge employers that are on the tech-friendly side of things are all saying, “They are skeptical of remote work.”
The reason they are starting to say this is they all know productivity dips with remote. They are also starting to look at things like, “This is the tea leaves. The tea leaves are saying we need to get done more with less. We’re telling people there’s an opportunity to come back to the mothership and be more productive. That’s most likely going to protect you.” What they’re not physically saying is, “We can’t support remote work.” You can’t say that. What they’re technically saying is, “In a recession, this is where we’re going to look.” There are 1,000 neat examples that we’re going to talk about about this as we go forward.
A question I have is, when you do it for a short period of time, cool. Everyone knows the company, the mission, and the product, and they know their roles. You probably laid off a few people. The people left are a little more tenured. They know what they need to do, whether from home or in an office. When you start growing again, you’re hiring lots of new people. My concern would be, if I were doing that, how do I build a culture if everyone is on Zoom all the time and no one is ever meeting or getting to know each other? It’s not even team-building events. It’s all the little, small side conversations or listening to people talking to customers over the cubicle.
The Washingtonian CEO, Cathy Merrill, wrote an op-ed on this. She came out pretty strongly against remote work and the importance of office-based workers. Her point is that a fair part of what office-based workers do is help newer and more junior employees develop and assimilate to the company culture. Something she fears gets lost when people aren’t all in the same workplace is those newer employees get left behind. That’s why many people are joining companies and leaving in 2 months, 3 months or 4 months. That has been a big part of the Great Resignation.
There are a few things that the office promotes. It’s culture, friendships, and relationships. I remember I worked at Ryan Holmes in the late ‘90s. We started recruiting on college campuses, and we started recruiting all these adorable women who were in sororities at Virginia Tech. Within six months, there was a policy that came out about how do you date at work because that’s what happens. People in similar environments with similar things in common that’s where relationships are formed. Ian and I met in an office. I dated a woman who I met at Ryan Holmes.Relationships are formed when people are in similar environments with similar things in common. Click To Tweet
Did you think I was adorable when you met me?
You were a dickhead. I just lowered my standards. The thing that I think is also important here is to think about some of the most famous types of TV shows, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Friends, and The Office. The point of it is all of those things happen in or around either a communal place like friends in the coffee shop are all the other ones are a workplace because that’s where relationships are forged. That’s usually where we build a culture where things happen. It’s in the workplace. What happened in the past doesn’t necessarily dictate what will happen in the future, but that has societally been how we have all gotten together because of the workplace and the office.
What were Mr. Huxtable’s job and The Cosby Show? What did he do? Was he Dr. Huxtable?
I think he was.
That was your favorite show. You binge it three times.
What the hell are you talking about? This is a serious show, and you’re wasting my fucking time.
When you think about building a culture, one of the things this ties in with how managers feel about super about employees remotely, 40% of all of the managers in this Harvard Business Review study expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. Twenty-three percent of managers disagree with the statement, and I am confident I can manage a team of remote workers.
To the point of building cultures and all these little individual conversations, what makes life hard on a manager of a remote team is when all these new people start, they have one person they go to all of the time to answer questions. They go to their manager. They don’t have the network to ask all the little informal questions. Any questions and confusion they have become an email, phone call, or a Slack message to their remote manager.
Whereas when you’re going to an office all day, 70% of those little questions, you’re asking the person in the cube next to you. You’re asking a friend that you went out to lunch with. A lot of managers feel overwhelmed when they have to manage an entire remote team because it feels like all of the burdens of developing that new employee fall on the manager. Whereas when there’s an office, it’s a bit more of a village approach of bringing along the new hire.
There’s another side of it too. Everybody hates meetings, especially Dr. Cliff Huxtable. I still don’t know what his forte was. It turns out he was a child’s proctologist. The point is everybody hates meetings. The impromptu pop-up meeting everybody loves. What does that mean? You’re walking down a hallway. You’re in the kitchen. You’re walking from one office to the next. You pop in, and you talk to somebody. That’s where the best stuff happens. That’s where the best conversations and the most organic things happen.Everybody hates meetings, but everybody loves those impromptu meetings that you have in the office hallways. Click To Tweet
The meeting ends, and people walk out together. You sit and talk for 10 or 15 minutes about what it was. Those are the revelations that turn into the important stuff. The collaboration goes away with Zoom. You don’t have those moments. Everyone hits click and runs to the kitchen, or you can’t do the community thing type of stuff. What happens in a lot of instances in a meeting or in an office is you can read people’s body language. When you’re on Zoom, you can’t. It’s much harder to see that. There’s tone, and there’s body language. It seems like you’re not understanding this. You shut down. You can pull people aside, you can coach, and you can give real-time feedback.
There are a couple of things. They know you care. You see them. They aren’t following along the way that they should. You immediately have a conversation with them. That is hard to do remotely. Whereas in person, you can. That’s how you build your team. That’s how you build people that realize you’re a go-to for them because you can do it in person easily. Sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it’s 90 seconds, but it’s hard to do that over the internet.
Twice as many female managers reported a lack of confidence in their employee’s work versus their male counterparts. When it comes to remote teams, the female managers felt strongly that people should come back to the office. We probably need a female manager on here to talk about it, but I find that interesting that the lack of confidence in their employee’s work remotely is that much lower with females.
I’m not surprised by it at all. You and I did an episode on the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We talked about how men are typically overconfident, and women are usually overqualified and less confident. It makes perfect sense the workplace is dictated by men, especially if you look at the old-school stuff. Most CEOs, by a mathematical equation, are men. It makes perfect sense to me that women feel less comfortable in a remote setting because they can’t stand out. It’s harder, and based on the Dunning-Kruger, they need to feel and have that confidence in order to move forward.
There is a ton of data around the fact that males get promoted at a much higher rate than females. A lot of that has to do with the chummy boys club or the politics of an office. I would imagine that having a remote office would only make that worse. Females didn’t have a chance to have those interactions and show how talented they were. Someone else could be more aggressive on a remote basis of taking advantage of it. Frank, when I think about remote work, in general, it’s hard to have this general conversation. It’s very position-specific.
What I mean by that is my first job out of college. I was in a leadership program, and I was in sales. In both of those jobs, I never saw my manager. I was in different offices all the time, but even when I was in Chicago, as a salesperson, almost every day, I was in my company car driving around to customers. My boss was in St. Louis. I saw him 3 or 4 times a year. It was all in cell phone and email. We didn’t have video conferencing back then. By nature, sales positions are used to being a little more remote, marketing positions, and things like that.
It’s different if you’re in an engineering position in a hardware company where you have to collaborate with people in production and mechanical electrical. You can’t do that job exclusively from your home office on Zoom. You have to be there with other people collaborating and working on things.
The job type of career and the company you work with are going to dictate how much either remote work or homework how it’s going to feel inside of that career. The thing that’s critical to talk about with this is there’s not a one size fits all answer. We’re in the middle of the beginning, parts of this. It’s still new. It’s going to have to flex, and it’s going to change over time. You’re going to change as an employee. Your employer will probably change a little bit. Nothing is stagnant here. It’s dynamic and it’s changing. It dictates where you are and who you are as a person. Some people can work great in this environment, but others can’t.
On the question of pay, promotions, opportunities, and career growth, this is another one where it’s hard to find the truth because the same thing, you have the companies who are saying, “We’re trying to retain people. We’re going to let you all work from home much more frequently. You can choose how much you come in.” The other companies that are saying, “It’s switching more to an employer’s market, get your ass into the office.” You’re seeing different things.
The companies that are desperately trying to retain people that have said, “We’re going to go remote.” They’re also desperately trying to tell the people that are working remote that you won’t be discriminated against for choosing to work from home. HubSpot was a big digital marketing firm. They have promised to track promotions in the coming years and share that data with people to show that people who rarely visit the office aren’t disadvantaged. Companies that say these things are usually the ones that have chief people officers. That term is such a ridiculous term. Citigroup requires three days of office work.
It’s a shame you’re not wearing your unwoke t-shirt.
I’m now woke on, chief people officer. They are dumbass. That’s all marketing. The human resource head Sara Wechter at Citigroup says, “Those who log only the minimum time in an office will still have an equitable opportunity to develop and advance their careers.” That’s a little bit of nonsense. Here’s the other side of it. There are a couple of other CEOs on this. WeWork CEO came out and said, “Those who are uberly engaged, meaning those who are much more engaged, are going to be the people that come to the office at least two-thirds of the time. He’s saying, “This is WeWork. You can work from home all you want, but I don’t think you have bought in on this company unless your ass is here in the office two-thirds of the time.” That’s what he’s trying to say.
In that op-ed I talked about from the Washingtonian CEO, she said, “Business leaders have a strong incentive to change the status of staffers who rarely work in the office from full time to contractor.” She’s going as far as saying, “If you work from home most of the time, you’re not one of us. You’re either with us or against us. If you work your asses at home all the time, why don’t we make you a contractor? You shouldn’t get the benefits of someone who comes in here and is bought in.”
That’s closer to the honest opinions you talked about. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all came out and said, “Remote jobs are going to pay less. You’re taking a pay cut. You can work remotely, sweet. For all of you that went and moved from San Francisco, where it’s expensive, to the middle of frigging Wyoming because it’s a cheap cost of living, nice. Good for you. That comes with a pay cut because we don’t see your work as valuable as the folks that are showing up here in Silicon Valley, battling traffic and paying 3X the housing costs. We still see a benefit in keeping the office here in town like San Francisco. If you’re not here, you’re going to make less.”
There’s not much to add. I agree with what I’m seeing, hearing, and I’m feeling. The one thing that I would say here is, “Things travel in waves.” The wave right now is the work remote wave is about to crash because of several things. It has been stress tested for the last couple of years. Employers have been paying attention. What they realize is, “I’ve got to shut my mouth. I can’t turn over my staff because I don’t know how I would replace them.” We’re getting ready to go into recession. What they are saying is, “We have been paying attention. We allowed you a lot of rope and leash. It’s now time to pull the leash.” They’re starting to set the boundaries. Those boundaries are going to come together.
I will talk about this in a way that I think will be interesting. I don’t think it’s 2019. I don’t think you can put the toothpaste back in the tube. It’s out. You have to be smart on how you manage this and how you allow it to happen. There are people in an organization who can work remotely, and there are people who cannot. The way to manage is you have to look at the individual, the job, and how much time they are spending away. I will give you my schedule.
Ian talked about my side hustle, but on Thursdays, I don’t go to the office anymore. I do phone calls. I’m someone who has a hard time getting on the phone because when I’m in an office, I get into email and get into meetings. I want to sit, talk and get into deals. That’s what I love to do. On Thursdays, I work from home. I end up walking 5 to 15 miles, depending on the day, and I’m on the phone the whole day. I go through my calls. It’s a remote day of work. It’s added an incredible amount of enjoyment and productivity to my schedule because it’s properly managed.
That’s the day where I take a bunch of things and push them to the side, and that’s phone call day. There are ways to do this in a productive way where you can also recharge a little bit as an employee and still be beneficial to the company. That is how smart management will look. It is how we push you aside a little bit and get your focused time away from the office.
Wrapping up on the pay and the promotion thing, Frankie, because that is what CEOs say and what they do. Northeastern University did a big study of this on hundreds of workers. What they found was remote workers, salaries grew more slowly than those that were still working full-time in the office. They also found that where remote work was less common. Telecommuters won fewer promotions.
CEOs can say all they want. They with their money. They are paying and promoting people who come to the office more. It is objective what’s happening. The next thing that I would love to unpack is a question that I had in doing this research and putting this outline together. I wonder how much of the way managers feel about remote workers and their ability to manage remote work is based on poorly trained managers, who feel like their job is being involved in every bit of someone’s job.
I train managers for a living and I see first-time managers tend to be overly metal with people, and they tend to be overly prescriptive in how people should do their jobs because they know their way of doing things worked. If you do it the way I did it, you will be fine. I wonder if part of this is exposing people when you have remote work of bad managers. It exposes bad managers because good management is giving someone an outcome that you expect them to get to and giving them some leeway to do it in the way that fits their strengths.
It’s the same with remote work. The remote work you and I do, we’re paid to get a result and outcome. If someone pays me to train one of their new managers, I have a twelve-week program. Whether I fly into their office every week, I’m doing it on Zoom like this, I’m delivering it on PowerPoints in front of a room, or they’re getting it in a video, all of that is noise versus at the end of the twelve weeks, are there managers doing a better job? Do their managers say, “I learned a lot, and I’m a better manager because of it?” That is a lot more important than how I delivered the content and how I did the coaching.
It’s the same with managing people. What you care about, Frank cares that a salesperson is turning leads into sales. He cares that someone in his production team is finding ways to drive cost out of the business where they’re at, and how they do it is a little bit immaterial. What is more, you hire people to give you outcomes.
There are two major components, good and bad management. There is the individual manager, and there is the structure within which the people work. Inside the structure within which people work, it’s important to talk about expectations, KPIs, and what a good job looks like. How do I need to be successful? If you’re physically working on a plant in Detroit, it’s hard to do that remotely. If you’re managing construction for us, you need to be on-site. It’s like maintenance. You can’t do maintenance for us remotely. You’ve got to go into the house and do the issues because the issues are happening on site.
It’s hard to be the master mechanic of General Motors assembly from Zoom. You will be walking around helping mechanics.
They can find someone cheaper in the Philippines, but you can’t replace a tranny from 8,000 miles away. That being the case, there are other jobs where if you’re maybe not on the front lines, you’re a line or two removed where finding some of these things makes sense. Let me give an example. In construction, you have the construction job site, but almost always, you have a construction trailer. The construction trailer is the place where you go to think, work, draw, write notes or make phone calls. In every single situation, no matter how granular it is, there is a place that requires a retreat to think and do.
Deep work, which could take two hours of not being interrupted.
Think about college. You had the class, and you had the lab. This is already happening. Now, it’s a matter of, “Can I do my deep work remotely? I’m part of the nucleus most of the time, and a few times a week, I pull back.” That is incredibly productive. If you pull back the whole time, you miss all the ancillary benefits of being in a company and an office, having the mentorships, the relationships, the friendships, and it falls apart there. That’s where I think there can be a healthy mix.
A piece of data on my theory is that some of these are poorly trained managers on why they feel insecure about managing remote terms. In another Harvard study, 25% of managers under 30 years of age did not feel they could coordinate a team of remote workers effectively. Whereas only 12% of managers over the age of 30 years of age had this lack of self-confidence. More than double the young managers didn’t feel comfortable.
That’s experience, that’s having managed longer, that’s knowing you don’t need to be involved in as many things. That doesn’t mean that young managers are worse managers. It means they haven’t been doing it long enough to understand the real role of a manager. Some of the lack of confidence and remote work also has to do with experience and being trained to be a good manager at all in training the managers.
Ian and I did an episode, and we looked at a bunch of TikTok videos. We talked about quiet quitting. Most of the people who are quiet quitting are under the age of 30. Ian called him pussies, but he was also wearing his unwoke shirt when he did that. This is fascinating. The group of people who mostly want to work remotely is under 30, but they are also the group that doesn’t know how to manage it.
It goes hand in hand with me with the TikTok episodes of the quiet quitting. It’s like, “I want this, but it’s hard to manage it.” No shit. These things are going to come together at some point because it is harder to manage. With 25% of people over the age of 30 that feel they can manage this, it’s still 12% of managers over 30 who had a lack of self-confidence. Eighty-eight percent think they can manage it. There is overconfidence in that number. I don’t think it’s that easy. The point of the matter is it’s not an easy thing to properly manage, and it’s coming out in these studies. People want it, but it’s hard to manage and get good results from. That is the argument.
Younger workers are not the ones driving the want to go remote. Some of the youngest workers, the one is saying, “I want to be in the office.” Everyone says, “It’s Gen Z. They don’t want to come to an office.” It is the opposite. Most of the people that are fighting for hybrid work are parents that have kids, and the commute is brutal for them. There are a couple of tiers of people here.
To me, it’s separated in junior aspiring climbing the ladder type of person is one bucket and the other is the more mature, skilled, tenured, confident, “I can do my job from anywhere, and I’m not looking to grow anymore. I want to do a job and get paid.” They want to be remote, whereas the junior aspiring person. They are giving up a lot by not being there. They don’t have more mentors than their managers. They don’t have the benefit of hearing all these conversations or stopping by and asking people. I learned a lot from that stuff in my first five years of my career, asking the veterans in the office how they would handle something and trying to give feedback from people.
In most of the statistics that I’ve looked at and read, I don’t disagree with you about the older crowd who wants to not commute, wants to be parenting from home, and doing things that it’s easier. A lot of the people who are pushing for this are on the other end of the spectrum with age. To that end, the junior people are the ones who need it the most. The people who are younger and in the early parts of their careers are the ones who need the office. That’s where Jamie Dimon and the Goldman Sachs of the world are saying, “You’re nuts if you don’t come to the office, especially in your twenties, and learn from the senior people because if you don’t do that, you’re going to miss a huge opportunity.”You're absolutely nuts if you're in your 20s and don't come to the office and learn from the senior people. Click To Tweet
Have you ever heard of the proximity bias?
It’s a tendency to favor people that are in close proximity to you. There’s an old myth in sports, “You can’t lose your job because of an injury.” You have a starting quarterback who went and earned the position in training camp and proved that out of the two quarterbacks they had. He was the best. This happened with the Patriots. There was a guy by the name of Drew Bledsoe. He was an All-Star. He has been an All-Pro for years. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He got injured in the middle of a good season the Patriots were having. He had to miss five or six weeks. A guy by the name of Tom Brady came in. He went on a tear and won the Super Bowl.
Drew Bledsoe never played for the Patriots as a quarterback again. Tom Brady’s career blew up. He lost his job to injury. This happens all the time when someone who is performing well gets hurt. He isn’t around the team and the coaches. The backup does as well as the starter was doing, or even better, there’s proximity to that person. The team gets to know them better. They are thought of in that way. When the original starter is healthy enough to play, he has lost his job.
The same thing happens with remote. If you are not highly confident in your ability to deliver results, someone who is closer to the decision-makers in your company is going to have every advantage over you. They are going to be top of mind. That is the proximity bias. They’re going to be thought of first. That is the person that they get to know personally.
What happens, Frank, and you know this, as a manager, it’s not so much that I’m biased because I see you more. I have more data points. I see you more frequently. I see you interacting. I have more information to make a decision about promoting you because I see you all the time doing your job. Whereas, if you’re remote, you’re out of sight and mind. I don’t feel as confident promoting you because I don’t have as much information. It’s not that I’m biased against you. I have more information on your peer, who I see every day interacting with and doing a good job.
I’m going to read you a quick snippet. Confused and still experiencing the effects of the powerful pain medication. He wasn’t sure what was happening. This was when Drew Bledsoe woke up from the surgery that ultimately led to Tom Brady taking his job. Looking up at him were his wife, Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, and Tom Brady. It was unimaginable to think that Bledsoe was staring up at the nucleus of the greatest sports dynasty in the history of the modern sports era. That’s what happened. This is a great book called The Dynasty that Ian and I have both read. That’s how it happened. He got hurt on field. He came to, and the future of sports next several years was sitting there.
His replacement was looking at him because he was sitting in a hospital room, and they had to go to work. They had a game next week. That group of people now are interacting with each other. Drew was not there. It wasn’t his fault, but he wasn’t there. The proximity bias meant Tom Brady kept that job forever.
One of the things that people struggle with career is this. It’s not destined. It’s not in the stars. Managers are typically like you. They are a little bit older, they had a little bit of success in their careers, and they are moved into a role. They can get fired too. It’s not like they have pockets as deep as the Nile. That’s not how it works.
Most managers make 10% to 25% more than the people doing the role. They are scared shitless that they are going to lose their jobs too. What they do when there are moments of promotion and they are picking their team is they pick people they think they can manage or get productivity out of. What you typically do in those roles is you pick people that are like you, you have relationships with that, and you know how they work and how they tick.
When I need to get something done, there are several people that I know that I can call that isn’t going to care if it’s late at night or if it’s a weekend. I know this because I’m in the crucible with them day in and day out. I work with them day in, day out. I understand how they think. I have seen them work late. I have seen them say, “No, I can move that. I can do this.” These are people I know I can rely on. That’s how teams are built.
If it’s someone who’s remote, you don’t call them. You don’t ask them. You don’t give them that chance because they are not physically there. Sometimes work takes physical presence. Sometimes it doesn’t need physical work, but you need to know that I can ask this person. Think of it this way. Do you get a phone call from someone you get excited to take that call, or do you get a call from someone and it was like, “I don’t want to answer this because it’s going to drain me?”
That’s what it feels like in a lot of instances to deal with someone who has got remote work in front of them because you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You would rather deal with the person you know, who is going to be in lockstep with you, and that’s how teams are built. This is how opportunity is missed. If you are there, you are proving to people, and they trust you and know you, you are going to get picked. It’s like elementary school.Working from home is how opportunity is missed. If you're at the office and people can trust you, you're going to get picked. Click To Tweet
That’s spot on, Frankie, because I think about all the remote work that I’m doing, the take keep, everyone was in Atlanta, and the CEO was in Atlanta. I’m a CRO. I’m a co-founder. Where did that relationship start? You are grinding in a crucible, going to war with a friend of mine for several years where we’ve got to know each other. I’m the same guy. He is the same guy. He was like, “I know you. I can trust you. Anything I ask you to do, you’re going to do it remotely.” It’s the same with any money that I raise. That wasn’t built online. That was built in an office with people working hard to build these things. It’s the same with the clients I have right now.
Let’s not get into the clients yet. Let’s let’s finish talking a little bit about your relationship with David. You and I talked about this the other day. You and David worked together at GE. You worked together for the other company and now Keep. This is the third time in several years you have worked together. You said something to me the other day. It was super interesting. How tall is he?
6’4” or 6’5”. He is a tall guy.
He is a basketball guy. He loves and plays basketball. You were like, “When I talk to David, I have to talk to him in basketball terms.” You don’t get that remote. You get that talking to people, talking with them, and understanding how they communicate. You adapt how you communicate to somebody else, and they get it.
If Ian didn’t figure that piece out three jobs ago, he probably doesn’t have an opportunity to work with CodeGuard and sell that company. Maybe David doesn’t do as well. He doesn’t have an opportunity to do this. That’s where these relationships are built. I always go back to this. In sports, they call it the hiring tree or the coaching tree. You see people who spawn off from other people. You realize, “This defensive coordinator has worked for five people who all used to work for this one head coach because they have the same methodology and thought process. They know where they came from. They can relate.” It comes down to relate-ability.
Someone can do the job remotely, and someone can do the job in the Philippines, but can this person relate to me? Did they understand it? Did they get the fact that I am also flawed as a human being and as a leader? Did they understand when I was saying things? Are they technically going to chop every word up? Are they going to get what I’m saying and get to the point? These are the things that get missed with remote that are hard to forge any other way, speak in an office.
A good one for our last point is if you believe strongly that you’re going to be a remote worker for the rest of your career, you would better be confident in your uniqueness and confidence because if companies truly believe your role can be done 100% remotely and they were like, “We’re bought in that job is remote. We’re never going to hire it here in our offices in Atlanta, San Francisco, or wherever your main office is. It is forever going to be remote from here on out.”
If that is the case, they can now recruit from anywhere in the world to fill that position. They are no longer recruiting from Atlanta or San Francisco. Their pool of candidates went up 1,000X, maybe 1 million X. They can go anywhere they want. If you can go anywhere in the world to recruit for that job, you could go to places that are a lot cheaper than America to live. If you can go find that job in Atlanta, or you can find it in India, and you’re getting the same production, you’re going to choose India, where it’s a fraction of the cost. You’re going to choose the Philippines or Vietnam.
We get our videos edited and dropped onto Podetize, which is a marketing firm of ours for this show. Our editor is in Bosnia. Podetize uses folks that are in the Philippines. Our marketing firm uses folks that are in Columbia. The people that are doing a lot of the tasks that are remote that keep this show running are not in America. They are in other places.
That’s something you have to come to grips with. If you want to do remote work, you would better be unique in the value you can add because you’re now competing with the world. That’s a hell of a lot harder, and it’s a race to the bottom because there is a hell of a lot of places, much cheaper to live in the world than in America.
If you want to build a career, you need to do that in an office. What is going to prove out over time, and you are going to see it, is careers are built in offices. If you want to become a paid mercenary, a sharpshooter, a star witness, or a highly compensated 1099, you can learn no skills in two places. You can learn no skills in an office or outside of an office. You have to apply them.
I will give you some fun examples. Ray Allen had a job. He went to the Celtics and went to the Heat. He was a star performer as a sharpshooter at the end of his career. There are cornerbacks who do the same thing. In the last several years of their career, they played for eight different teams, and won 3 or 4 different Super Bowls. There are a bunch of those guys who are good at that.
There are star witnesses. There are people who are paid to come to courtrooms around America because they understand something in forensics, and they’re paid a ton of money because they are good at something. There is that top person like you, and I have talked about who’s that 1099 and who you can hire. There is a way to get there.
Most of those people have gotten there by grinding, pulling back and saying, “I have a unique skillset.” They know how to market themselves. They know how to sell themselves. They know how to find those jobs. That is 100% doable, but you need the chops, the goods, the stuff, or you’re going to become a commodity. You’re going to become a commodity that’s on the outside looking in. If that’s what you choose, this is the best time to be that type of worker.
People make money from Uber and Lyft. That’s 1099. It’s a side hustle. There are those jobs. If you want to be incredibly highly compensated, there is a different roadmap to that. It is in the office or learning those skills there and figuring out how to market yourself. You’ve got to understand, like, “What do I want in the next 5, 10, 20 years, and go after it?” That’s the cool thing about the gig economy. You could do both, but if you want to be promoted inside of a company, it’s hard to do that remotely.
I will leave everyone with one more stat. Our second most downloaded episode ever is a real estate episode that Frank and I did. We did that in the office together, but 9 of our top 10 episodes of all time, we did remote. You can do it, but you better have a specific niche in which you’re doing that remote work. Frankie, fantastic discussion. I hope this doesn’t lead to you having 50 employees come talk to you about, “Can I work from home 100% of the time?” Knowing the history of our show, somehow this is going to make your life miserable in some way. I apologize for that.
I don’t think it is. People can see how passionately I feel about the office. We are opening a brand new office with all kinds of cool things that I think are going to help draw people into that office.
I’m a part owner of it too. I’m excited about it.
The only thing that could make this show a better day is we weren’t remote. It could have been so much better if we had been in person.
It could have been better. It would have been nice to see you. If you are one of our longtime subscribers, it would mean a lot if you went and gave this a five-star rating on your platform. You can do that remotely. Type in a few nice comments. Tell Frank that he looked great in that cool t-shirt. If you are new to the show, we would love it if you hit that subscribe button. We post almost every Monday. We are a hardworking remote team. See you, Frankie.
- JP Morgan Chase
- Goldman Sachs
- The Dynasty
- Real Estate Episode – Past Episode