Remote work will end when the pandemic does

I was fortunate enough to have lived in Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong during the start, middle, and supposed end of the pandemic.

In China, they supposedly squashed the pandemic. With swift quarantines of buildings and entire cities if there were outbreaks. Many companies there went remote for a very brief time and took it away as soon as they could.

In Hong Kong, they had large amounts of time with very few cases followed by a month of exponential cases. Every time it would get exponential, they would tighten everything from restaurants to bars until it went back down to sustainable levels. My own company never went remote, allowing only one employee to work from home twice a week as a one off thing. Other companies seemed to do an every other week plan to reduce the risk. They would have half their employees in the office one week, and the other half in the office the other week.

In Taiwan, they never had any significant number of cases so no one went remote. Only when I was leaving did the cases rise and companies were forced to do something.

Employers are unfortunately on the older side and just can’t let go of in-person work in Asia. Our best contractor was remote from day 1 and I was forced to have repeated conversations every 2 weeks justifying his existence. They seemed to believe that because he wasn’t in the office, he should be let go.

At my first startup in 2014, we wanted to only hire remote workers. I didn’t want to pay for an office, much less go to one every day. I would rather work from a coffee shop or home.

We tried out a really former executive from a competing company that just shut down to work remotely with us for a couple days. By the end of the first day, he told us he felt too lonely doing remote work and decided he would look for something in person.

While I agree, we could have done more to welcome him (I was only 24 at the time), I think the biggest change of this pandemic is that employees are open and willing to remote work and the majority now prefer it.

As a startup I would enjoy managing that much more, not to mention allow myself to have a higher quality of life. I don’t need to pay for some office and come in on time to justify it. I see many startups now adopting the same attitude. I am not sure if they will keep it as they grow, but the small teams (less than 30 people) seem happy with it.