Remote Work May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

In this series, we'll explore the ups and downs, ins and outs, and lessons I've learned after more than a decade of building a connected, fast-growing, highly competitive, and mission-driven remote team.



Introduction to the Alone @ Work Series Written By Brian Roland

I think it's safe to say that we were ahead of the game when it comes to remote work. We launched Abenity in 2006 while I was living in Nashville, and my brother Mark was wrapping up his Master's degree in Southern California.


Mark and I had been collaborating remotely on web and design related projects for years even though we were 2,000 miles apart. As a couple of tech guys in our early-to-mid twenties we felt like we could accomplish anything as long as we had the internet. So when we decided to start our own company, we didn't let our geography stop us. We built our brand around innovation, speed, and a social mission that fights poverty with every dollar we earned. As a distributed team, we invested heavily in product development, instead of office space. We recruited local and national discounts for our members in every major city. And we strategically positioned employees across multiple time zones to deliver lightning fast support for clients.

Our perks platform was immediately disruptive in our industry. We won benefits contracts from big brands like U.S. Bank, HCA Healthcare, and Mastercard and we were recognized many times over by Inc Magazine as one of the nation's fastest growing private companies. Today, we proudly offer thousands of discounts on everything from pizza and the zoo, to movie tickets, oil changes, car rentals and hotels for employers and affinity groups of any size. I'd love for you to check us out at Abenity.com.


We've built an awesome business with a fully remote team, but I can not attribute all of our success to our working environment. Working from home, and the occasional coffee shop, is simply our workplace venue. The real success factor for our company is found within our people and their commitment to our brand's purpose as well as each other.


And while remote work has been a game changer for us, it's not right for everyone.


The 2021 Mental Health at Work Report suggests that 97% of surveyed employees would like to work remotely.


However, while almost everyone wants to ditch their commute to gain the flexibility of working from home, 45% of telecommuters report that remote work makes it harder to climb the corporate ladder and 52% feel less connected to their co-workers. On top of that, 24% struggle with loneliness, 21% have trouble staying focused and motivated, and 17% find it difficult to communicate and collaborate.

Those are some pretty daunting stats, especially if you're in the process of distributing your team. But before you head back to the security of bad office coffee and six foot cubicles, I have some good news for you. The reason these stats are so bad is because most companies are getting remote work all wrong, and that's pretty scary when you consider that the vast majority of companies are implementing some form of permanent remote work policy.


Unfortunately, in the fight for top talent, the competitive demands of the so-called Great Resignation have whimsically lured corporate America to develop deeply divisive hybrid work policies without regard for their long-term cultural consequences.


Is it possible that remote work isn't right for every company? Will a remote work environment allow some people's personalities to thrive, while leading others to fail? Could the good intentions of hybrid work policies actually be creating toxic work environments?


I'm writing this series to prevent the acceleration of the epidemic of loneliness and growing resentment that today's laissez-faire approach to remote work is spreading within the marketplace. I don't believe that remote work provides a healthy environment for everyone and it isn't right for every business.


In the following chapters, I'll reveal the infrastructure that's helped us to build and maintain a winning business with a thriving remote team. I'll unpack our unique formula for recruiting, hiring, and developing culture around a shared purpose, including our rules of engagement for communication and collaboration. I'll show you some of the tips and tricks that our team uses 'on the job' including some of the gadgets I use to make remote work fun. As a bonus, we'll close things out by looking at how both augmented reality and the Metaverse plan to reshape the workplace as we know it.


>> Watch Creating Culture Through Remote Relationships


Next, Read Chapter 1: Is Remote Work for You? (June 2022)