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A year into remote work, most companies still don’t get this basic concept about office-free workplaces

Remote work has quickly become the norm, but most companies are simply replicating in-person workflows online, according to a new survey from GitLab.

A year into remote work, most companies still don’t get this basic concept about office-free workplaces
[Photo: Thomas Franke/Unsplash]
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Remember when early internet developers created online organization systems by literally copying offices, appropriating files, drawers, and manila folders into digital form, images and all? This is essentially how workplaces are handling remote work, according to the comprehensive new Remote Work Report from the good people at GitLab.

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The report, which was shared with Fast Company and will be released on Tuesday morning, includes results from a survey of nearly 4,000 remote workers on six continents. The findings suggest that although remote work has quickly become the norm, most offices are not really doing asynchronous, remote work. They are simply replicating their in-person workflows online.

Last year’s inaugural Remote Work Report, released just weeks before “coronavirus” entered our colloquial lexicon, found that remote work was mired in questions of logistics and efficacy, and yet 86% of respondents believed that “remote work is the future.” That future, of course, came crashing down much faster than anyone expected.

This year’s survey indicates a huge evolution: Workers are gung-ho on remote work, but workplaces are still figuring out how to do it: 80% of workers would recommend remote work, but two thirds say that their organization is not doing a good job “aligning work among projects.”

Meanwhile, just 10% use a visual collaboration tool, and only 1 in 5 a project or task management app, while most “still lean on tools used for office-centric, largely synchronous workflows,” write the report authors. Seventy percent of organizations default to tools like video, chat, and phone, all designed for synchronous timing. (GitLab, of course, has a horse in this game. It’s a fierce proponent of remote work and has had an all-remote workforce for years.)

Despite far-from-perfect working conditions through the pandemic, many workers reported upsides to remote work, according to the survey:

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  • 42% reported increases in productivity
  • 38% reported increases in efficiency
  • 24% reported less bureaucracy and office politics (amen)

In line with other recent survey findings, workers now expect remote options: One in three refuse to return to their commutes and daily grind, and say they will quit if they lose remote options.

The survey was also funded by a trio of other remote-friendly companies, Dropbox, Qatalog, and SafetyWing.