COVID 19 – My Predictions – Part 1–The Rise of the Remote Worker
“Forcing everyone into the office every day is an organizational Single Point of Failure” Jason Fried, Office not Required
“To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.” Sir Richard Branson
Prediction 1 - Adoption of remote work will dramatically accelerate.
The television in my office is tuned to a “business” network, and they are continuing the format of bringing in guests to comment on the issues of the day. In the past they would be physically sitting in the studio, however now they are using technology to “be there” from their home office or place of business. As a consumer, I can’t tell the difference! And I guarantee the quality of life is much better for the person who saved themself a trip to the television studio.
Why would television networks want to incur the cost of travel and elaborate studios when both hosts and guests can "be there" remotely?
My wife needed to see her doctor about something, however they were limiting face to face contact to minimize the potential COVID-19 transmission. The doctor directed her to an app and they did a virtual meeting. The doctor diagnosed her and electronically sent her prescription to the pharmacy, and the pharmacy delivered it later the same day. My wife was delighted with the interaction! She avoided a trip, saved time and gas and was not exposed to other people’s germs and viruses. Neither was the doctor!
How many times have you gone to the doctor when a phone call would have probably led to the diagnosis you need?
A training company I am associated with canceled all their in person classes. That could have been a financial disaster, but they were able to quickly pivot to live online classes. Most of the students were delighted to avoid a classroom and take the class from the comfort of their home office. Because of their robust technology infrastructure, what might have been a terrible financial problem actually turned into a competitive advantage.
How many of you would enjoy avoiding a long commute when you could simulate the classroom learning experience online?
Three of my four daughters took remote college classes, and one of them is currently working on a Masters of Science in Nursing online. Another daughter has been told that her in person classes will be converted to online until we have cleared the COVID-19 quarantine. Everyone was at first reluctant about the online classes, but came to love avoiding the commute or the expense of living in a dormitory.
If I could get a degree from a prestigious university without the hassle of commuting or the expense of a dormitory, why wouldn't I?
Those parts of my organization that were remote work ready were able to quickly move out of offices and begin working 100% from home. It was seamless, and candidly I am much more effective working out of my home office. I get to avoid a long commute and the associated expenses. Since I tend to be on conference calls all day anyway, no one I interact with knows the difference. The parts of my organization that weren’t ready or able to work remotely are facing significant issues.
Why would any organization require their employee to come into an office when they are more productive at their alternative work site?
I could go on and on with examples.
As Jason Fried says above, having everyone come into the same building creates a single point of failure. We have recurring pandemics (1918, 1957, 1968, 2002, 2009, 2012, 2020) and they appear to be accelerating. While some work needs to be done in a centralized location (factories, warehouses, etc) most of the administrative work does not. Creating a single point of failure by requiring people to work in a centralized location is not a good business decision.
And yet many organizations do just that. Why?
I don’t read minds so I can’t know for certain. I suspect it is because using remote technology to mitigate risk and increase productivity is not a strategy many senior leaders are familiar with. If you come from a background where no one ever works remotely, you are naturally suspicious and are probably not supportive.
And that is a mistake.
For those occupations where it is a possibility, everyone should be doing it. I suspect that when organizations conduct the inevitable postmortem analysis of their response to the pandemic, the more enlightened ones will aggressively move to increase remote workers.
Over the next couple of weeks I'll be making more predictions about the long term impact of COVID-19.
Follow along and see how I do.
The power went out at an organization where I volunteer. I called the power company and asked that they send someone, and while the operator was looking up the account, I struck up a conversation. I asked where she was working and she said, “from home”. The service was great, she was pleasant, and I got my power turned back on. Now why would that be better for me if she were in a corporate office somewhere?