Silhouette of a person sitting in front of a laptop
Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

Since the Covid 19 pandemic started, we’ve seen the whole world start “accepting” remote work - I put accepting in quotes because most companies don’t really embrace it, but don’t have an alternative. With that, I’ve also seen some studies analyzing the results of this “experiment” - stuff like “people who started working remotely in 2020 are x% more/less productive”. Please don’t do that.

Experiments should, by definition, be prepared to run in a controlled environment. Bringing to the software development world, it’s like using a containerized environment: an ephemeral, isolated process, running in its own namespaces. This avoids interferences from outside - like dependencies with different software versions and port conflicts.

We’re living a pandemic. This is the complete opposite of an experiment. If there’s one thing we don’t have any more is control. We don’t control where we can go, what we can do, and we have no idea when this is going to end. And many of us are suffering with mental health issues. That means we can’t compare the productivity of remote workers now with office workers before.

Most people worked physically in their companies offices, close to their co-workers, easily separating work and personal life: you leave home in the morning and start your work; you get back home at the end of the day and you’re back to your personal life. And most of these people work for companies that weren’t prepared for remote work - that means much more than simply closing the offices and sending employers home. All the work experience must change - communication, interactions, meetings, feedbacks. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, it’s just different. So if you try to reproduce the office environment remotely, you’ll probably fail.

My conclusion is that trying to compare productivity from office workers before the pandemic with remote workers during it doesn’t make sense, for two main reasons.

The first one is that an experiment should have a preparation step. If a company decides to start a remote work experiment, it should study how remote companies work, and how they should change their dynamics. And we didn’t have time for this when Covid 19 pandemic started. Some of these people may not have a decent work environment at home; maybe, they live with noisy relatives; maybe they have kids, and now have to handle remote teaching for their kids and adapt them too, changing their lives completely. And besides all that, they still have to be productive at work!

The second reason is that, anywhere you work, this pandemic is messing with everyone’s lives. People are worried, anxious, depressed. People lost their relatives and friends, and may be worried with what could happen to them. And nobody could ever be fully productive with this situation. If you’re suffering with any of these, as most of us are, you should look for professional help, and not blame remote work.

All this shows that, to focus on work, people need to handle their mental health, and it’s hard. Some companies have realized this, and are taking good care of their employees - including Jusbrasil, where I work. But others are more worried about losing productivity when working remotely. Please don’t be one of the latter.