Feeling our way through the remote-work revolution

Feeling our way through the remote-work revolution

If you ever met Anna Oakes, Quartz’s new head of people, you would instantly recognize her as a warm, supportive type—a person who believes in the power of encouragement; someone who would go out of her way to avoid making others feel self-conscious. So when she recently reached out to her global network of people leaders and HR managers to let them know Quartz is accepting applications for its 2022 ranking of the Best Companies for Remote Workers, a curious thing happened: Several wrote back to say they were reluctant to apply.

Without naming names, Anna summarized a response she kept hearing. It went: “We have no clue what we’re doing, so we doubt we should be applying for any list of companies that do this well.”

It’s a widely relatable worry, of course. In year three of the pandemic, we all should be experts now on remote work; yet few people would say they or their employers have mastered it. Some are stuck in a liminal space between remote and hybrid, with further commitments to one scenario or the other upended with each wave of covid. Some are riding out office leases, unsure what or where their next move will be. Some are watching employees struggle with any number of caregiving responsibilities that either arose in the pandemic or only became visible to their employers in the wake of it.

The truth is, we’ve all been feeling our way through the remote work revolution. It feels clumsy at times. But we’ve also seen an incredible amount of progress made in a few short years.

Nearly 50% of the employers named to our 2021 list of Quartz’s Best Companies for Remote Workers were still majority office-based prior to March 2020—and 3 of our 54 honorees reported they had no remote workers at all until lockdowns began.

What set those companies apart, and landed them alongside the 11 employers on our list that had been fully remote pre-pandemic, was their quick, effective embrace of their new circumstances. Perhaps they banned meetings between certain hours to protect employees’ caregiving schedules and to help them batch their tasks more efficiently, like London-based fintech company Project Imagine did. Or perhaps like Noom, maker of the popular weight-loss app, they reconfigured their recruiting process to avoid making candidates sit through four to five consecutive hours of job interviews, as was common back when applicants came into an office to meet with hiring managers.

As we analyze the applications, we look to honor organizations that are getting things right, while gleaning best practices that can be shared across our readership. But we don’t expect each company on the list to have completely figured out every aspect of managing people remotely. That’s too high a bar given the current rates of change in technology, the labor market, and broader society.

So if your company has taken a novel approach to remote work, has managed to level the playing field for remote staff, or would be widely appreciated by your remote employees for your culture, leadership, training, pay, or overall engagement, enter your submission before our March 16 deadline.

And if your company just isn’t there yet, don’t worry, we get it. But watch this space. We’ll have plenty of inspiration for you when we publish our 2022 ranking in September. —Heather Landy

Five things we learned this week

👩 ‍It’s time to stop prioritizing close-knit company cultures. Remote work can make it harder for employees to build connections, but that’s not necessarily a problem.

🤖 The most trusted industry in the world is… tech? The results of Edelman’s new survey challenge the narrative of an ongoing “techlash.”

🎬 Hollywood is cashing in on scandalous startup stories. Forthcoming TV series detail the rise and fall of Adam Neumann, Elizabeth Holmes, and Travis Kalanick.

🚢 Shipping lines are paying workers bonuses worth three years’ salary. It’s an effort to keep overworked seafarers from jumping ship.

👩‍⚕️ Nursing resignations constitute a “global crisis.” A new estimate suggests the world could be short 13 million nurses by 2030.


Relaxing is easier said than done, as anyone who’s tried and failed to de-stress on vacation or during a Swedish massage can attest. The good news, as Lila MacLellan wrote in last week’s How To email for Quartz members, is that there are also ways to work with life’s pressures.

Here’s one tip for learning to make stress your ally:

During prolonged periods of high-volume pressure, find moments to reconnect with why your struggle matters. Tell yourself, “This is a real slog, but at the end of the day, it’s making me stronger, or I’m contributing to my family, or to my team, or it’s bringing me closer to the people that I care about,” corporate consultant Dane Jensen recommends recommends.

Such occasional check-ins can help stave off burnout and cynicism. “In the grind, there are going to be moments of growth and we need to actually notice them and take the time to get the juice out of that lemon, because that’s what’s going to sustain us through the troughs,” says Jensen.

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You got The Memo!

This week’s Memo was written by Sarah Todd, Heather Landy, and Lila MacLellan. It was edited by Francesca Donner. The Quartz at Work team can be reached at work@qz.com.

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