October 30, 2023

Dubious Data: Remote Work Edition


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

I want to like it but I just can’t

Call me old fashioned but I’m a big citing-my-sources guy. Also data & statistics. Love ‘em.

But sometimes I’ll read something so questionable it makes me wonder how many other false facts I believed.

Take this article from the USA Today (strike 1 btw): “Workers with in-person jobs spend about $51 a day that they wouldn’t remotely, survey finds” 

It pulls from the Owl Labs 2023 report.

It starts ok. The headline is a quantifiable number. $51 a day going into the office. Without digging into their data collection, we can assume it asked for receipts and added it up. I’ll buy it.

Next up: work life balance. 49% of workers feel it’s easier to maintain a work-life balance in a remote job. When I see the word “feel” my warning signs go off. We’re not talking about quantifiable data, but sentiment.

Sure, how people feel about things is still relevant. Feelings drive real behavior. But it’s important to recognize the difference. Fine by me.

Then it takes a turn: “46% of employees find it easier to build colleague relationships when working from home.”

Oh. Come. On.

I have no doubt that 46% of people say that. But it doesn’t make it true from a functional standpoint. In-group favoritism pops in, i.e. of course people who love Thing A will overstate Thing A’s greatness. Classic homerism.

The difference between “building relationships” and the previous sentiment example: you could do a sociological study to evaluate how humans best build relationships.

I’ll interject my own bias. I’m an outlier. I’m one of those weirdos who has  made dozens of real life friends that I first met online (‘sup Nate). And I work mostly remote.

It’s easier building relationships in person. Full stop.

Why am I yelling at clouds right now?

Because everything you read influences the decisions you make. Not just personal, but business decisions.

Basing any decision on Dubious Data is a mistake. Call BS when you see it.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

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