As a consultant helping small businesses grow, the last ninety days have brought on fatigue when hearing three words. Simply having to type them makes my body start to convulse. Work. From. Home. Ugh. How do companies successfully work in a decentralized manner?
This time started as a ‘breath of fresh air’ for people whose work required their physical presence in an office, the situation has quickly devolved. An unending stream of Zoom meetings, working at all hours of the day, and family members who don’t necessarily understand what ‘working from home’ actually means. Such is the plight of the Modern Day Worker in 2020. The year seems to only progressively worsen rather than show any real sign of relenting.
Evaluating How We Arrived Here
The consultant in me cannot help but be intrigued by the long-term implications of these extraordinary circumstances. There will always be industries requiring physical employees at the workplace. More companies are being forced to realize they are able to successfully operate in a remote, decentralized manner. Employers and employees alike are quickly understanding a number of businesses do not necessarily require a formal ‘brick & mortar’ existence.
That said, this is not a novel concept. Companies have had remote employees for the better part of the last fifteen years. Fair to say, never has our economy seen such large numbers officially ‘working from home’ for such a long duration. This should prove our technology infrastructure is strong enough to handle the influx of people working from a home-based office.
Our Cloud and Computing technology has progressed to a point in which nearly anywhere can be an office. Laptop and tablet devices are priced where the average consumer has access to the technology. Cloud storage and backup has also permeated both the Enterprise and Consumer markets so much that it has become standard. High-speed internet connection is a prerequisite in any home with even the most basic levels of computing and streaming services. Computer-based cameras are also either standard as part of most devices or readily available in the marketplace for any consumer. The technology has already arrived. It is available. It is used today. Our infrastructure is ready to make this shift on a long-term, even permanent, basis.
Why Is This Not More Prevalent?
This begs the question: If this is all possible now, why have employers not more largely embraced this model?
The answer lies in looking more closely at the rise of Video Web Conferencing services. While conference calls have existed for decades, video conferencing has only taken root within the last three to five years. Why is that? Well, simply put, interpersonal relationships are one of the most critical components of conducting business. The ability to see as well as hear our management, co-workers, and clients is key to feeling comfortable and connected. The following statement largely explains why employers desire to have their employees physically in office or other common working space:
Written communications are good; hearing someone is better; but the ability to see body language and facial reactions is best when wanting to truly understand one another.
Video conferencing has allowed for all of us to stay connected. No – it’s not the same as physically being in the same room. However, it is close enough to satisfy the requirement given the negative medical and social circumstances. From the employer perspective, being on a video conference provides a level of accountability from employees. This ensures active engagement in their day-to-day work responsibilities.
Finding The Positive Amongst the Tragedy
However, this unique time has also shown there are significant benefits to ‘Work From Home’ approaches.
Employees are able to realize a better ‘work-life balance’ as they have removed extremely time-consuming activities from their daily lives. Reduced time trying to dress and ready in the morning, elimination of long commutes to and from the office, daytime lunch and breaks where there can be interaction between spouses, children, and loved ones – these are just the beginning of the benefits for the individual. On a larger scale, scientists are already able to detect the environmental benefits of these large-scale change. Decreases in fossil fuel consumption, significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced usage of paper products are all just the tip of the iceberg in how our Earth is positively impacted from this pandemic.
This extraordinary situation clearly demonstrates we as a people are able to adapt and overcome. Organizations have an opportunity to reevaluate their approach towards their employees and how work is conducted. Genuinely, it will be interesting to see the studies published after the conclusion of this pandemic. Specifically, those about the effectiveness of employees during ‘Work From Home’ conditions. I will be interested in subjects like the associated improvement, equivalence, or reduction in worker productivity. We will all have to wait and see.
In the meantime, by no means would we ever wish this situation on our society ever again. However, I do believe it is important to heed the lessons clearly imparted upon us all from this tragic time. We must proactively work to find balance. This balance is with ourselves, our loved ones, our employers or employees, and with the Earth around us. I believe there is a deeper meaning to this situation. We should all think long and hard about how this situation has both positively and negatively impacted each of us. And by no means is this a political statement. This is more of a request for us to pause and be thankful for what we have.
The end is always near. How we choose to live and what we choose to leave behind is always within our power.
Red Star Consulting, LLC is ready, willing, and able to help your organization succeed! Our diverse offerings can help your business grow and succeed. Visit Red Star Consulting, LLC to learn how we can help you today!