Remote work is amazing because it gives people the flexibility to get work done from anywhere.
I built Remote Year to help thousands of people flex into that flexibility, giving them the platform to seamlessly live all over the world while working remotely, experiencing the richness and wonder the world has to offer.
When covid hit, it forced billions of people into quarantine and accelerated the adoption of remote work globally. While it’s great that the technology is in place to allow the economy to power through this, this is not the future that I envisioned.
Throughout the last year, I’ve had a hard time reconciling my conviction that the flexibility of remote work is the most liberating force in history, while in practice it seemed like everybody was feeling incredibly trapped by it.
Everybody sitting in small, dark rooms, chained to their desks, hunched at their computers, squinting into screens, and dancing for their coworkers all day feels more like a dystopian horror movie than the utopia I’ve been pushing for.
As I struggled through this confusion, I reflected on my own experience working remotely for almost a decade. I thought about how I found balance working remotely for so long.
Early on at Remote Year, we were championing remote work, and, to prove collaboration could be done well remotely, we became some of the earliest power users of zoom.
We actually adopted the tool for their initial value prop, which was that they literally zoomed in on the participants a little bit, to make the video call feel a bit more intimate.
We thought we cracked the code. We were living in Croatia and seamlessly engaging professionally with people in San Francisco. We went all-in on the product and quickly my calendar filled up with meetings on Zoom.
At first, this was amazing. The videos worked well and I actually enjoyed spending time with people this way. After a few months of this, though, something felt off. My back hurt, my neck hurt, I gained too much weight and I was feeling stuck.
I started stumbling around for changes and started to move my internal meetings (mostly 1:1s with our early team) back to voice calls instead of video. This allowed both of us to take a break from video, but also break away from our desks and go walk around.
While it was a small change, it was a lightbulb moment for me. I felt happier and healthier, but I was also so much more focused and creative on these calls! Being outside and active, instead of inside and sitting, was just so much better!
I started moving more and more meetings from video to voice and started watching my daily step counts climb. I was getting 10,000 steps a day and then 20,000 and for some weeks I averaged over 30,000 steps! Over the course of a year, I dropped over 30 lbs.
As I’ve spoken to people throughout the last year, many of them have gone through a similar evolution. After starting remote work, seeing the power of video, and going all in, they eventually began to slowly crumble under the weight of the form factor.
Many of these people have started to experiment with solutions and have also found the joy of returning to calls. Turning off the video reduces fatigue, but also allows them the freedom to walk around and even get outside.
Almost every person I spoke to loved the meetings without video and wanted to do more. They faced similar challenges I have faced in making that possible - scheduling audio calls in a professional setting with the existing tools is very difficult and it’s hard to be productive on mobile using these tools that were built for a seated, desktop user.
If you are currently doing walking meetings, but struggling with the existing tools, please give it a try! It doesn’t solve all of the problems yet, but I hope it can make that experience a little more delightful for you.