Unintended Consequences of the WFH Revolution

Mark Lewis
May 18, 2023

Backflipping on WFH: Tech's Newest Talent Trend or a Flash in the Pan?

Lots of companies, tech in particular, are backflipping on their work from home policies introduced over the last couple of years.

Was it a case that flexible WFH policies were simply a marketing campaign to attract talent in a tight market?

The tech industry has spent the last 20 years experimenting with alternate ways to traditional work practices, but at a mainstream level, many have failed the test of time. Often these well-intentioned initiatives gained enormous traction and broader industry adoption, but turned out to have unintended consequences, some examples:

  • Open plan offices > Distracting work environments
  • In-office dry cleaning, ping pong, foosball & games > Perks that become insults in a poor culture
  • Activity-based working > A morning race for the best desk
  • Unlimited annual leave > Employees guilted into less leave due to cultural norms
  • 4-day work week > Productivity drops

Unintended Consequences: It's All About Context

The unintended consequences are nearly always contextual - where an initiative has become a trend and it’s been dropped into an organisation without a thorough understanding of their compatibility with the size and stage of business, type of work, the talent landscape or organisation culture.

The Good, the Bad, and the Lonely: WFH's Mixed Bag

Unintended consequences of WFH (depending on the context!) might be a disconnected workforce, individualistic behaviours, goofing off (low productivity), transactional relationships and loneliness.

Don't Call Us Dinosaurs: Rethinking WFH Without Judgment

WFH works for Crewmojo because we grew up with it, we have a high trust culture (to the point we rarely have video switched on for internal calls). But, clearly, WFH isn’t working for every organisation and for those that want to peel it back should be able to do so without being called dinosaurs - naturally, employees will make their stay decision on the total picture offered by the organisation.

Two Golden Rules for Crafting a Workable Work Environment

I suggest two guiding principles:

  1. Getting the fundamentals right will trump any of the above initiatives. Creating a fulfilling place to work with caring relationships, devoid of politics, a sense of achievement and opportunity for growth is always going to be a compelling place to work.
  2. Introducing innovative ways of working is to be encouraged, but should be treated as an experiment, that is iterated with feedback and acceptable to deem it a success or fail for the context (and moment in time) of the experiment.

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