Work from home isn’t a trend – it is the evolution of the work place that has been coming for some time. Covid-19 merely kick-started the process and woke everyone to the potential.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the most traumatic event the world has witnessed since the Second World War. It has touched everyone. Nursing home residents, CEOs, every person, from every walk of life has been changed. The pandemic has caused priorities to be re-evaluated and expectations to be recalibrated.
Stress on a system tends to bring forth change and Covid-19 has accelerated it. In the language of the technology industry, “Covid-19 requires companies to accelerate their digital business initiatives.” Presented with that idea, many would nod sagely, pausing momentarily to take a sip of coffee before agreeing. Perhaps even waxing poetic about how digital business is the natural evolution of business and that the faster companies embrace it, the better they will be able to compete.
The conversation would then turn to the need for cyber security to evolve universal security, regardless of location in light of these pandemic-driven changes. More heads would sagely nod in agreement and more coffee would be sipped.
Work from home divides opinion
However, if the subject of work from home comes up, suddenly the coffee is put down with a clatter and fervent hand-wringing begins. What-about-ism suddenly is the order of the day. The very idea that a great number of workers simply do not *need* to be in the office puts everyone on edge and unsure as to what position to take. Office shelves groan under the weight of management book-of-the-month on how-to improve efficiency and employee retention *in* the office.
So while consensus is easily reached on the idea that Covid-19 has hastened the need for digital business, the jury was out regarding work from home.
However, work from home is no different than digital business. No different than the need for universal cyber security. It is the logical evolution of the workplace. After all, is this not just a natural extension of the ‘always on call’ culture which has long been actively and enthusiastically encouraged?
This is where we were going, long before Covid-19 made it crystal clear that actually being in the office was superfluous for many employees. Nobody can deny that the forced work from home experiment succeeded for the vast majority of companies and their employees.
The world of work constantly evolves
Change is always opposed by the “we’ve always done it that way” crowd. Commuting to offices was done because it was the *only* efficient way to communicate. At first, it gave employees access to the paperwork, the filing systems, typewriters, mimeograph machines, fax machines, and of course corporate mail. Of course, it also allowed the company to have meetings, both large and small, to communicate ideas, corporate initiatives, and general corporate information.
Then the very first wave of digitization hit. Suddenly, there was less actual paper. Accounting was done on the mainframe. Orders were entered, inventories tracked via terminals and early PCs. More and more moved to digital and employees came into work to use the expensive LAN and PCs to access systems in the data center.
Then the internet sparked the revolution of connectivity to the home. Cloud computing came on the scene. Companies began the transition of many corporate applications and productivity functions to the cloud. Today, there are no resources the average work must travel to the office for. The connectivity at home provides access to the tools and collaboration applications required to do their jobs.
The world of business has evolved, just like it always has. Moving to a work from home environment for every possible employee is the direction we are heading, no matter how many people want to pump the brakes. While it’s right to acknowledge the fear of change, the benefits to the employer and to the employee are simply too great to ignore.
People who do not spend time commuting, spend more time with their families. They spend more time working too, instead of being in a car or on a train. Money spent by businesses on expensive real estate and all the support equipment can be saved. Some of it will go towards accommodating work from home employees, but overall, it is a huge cost saving. For employees and their families, money spend on transportation is saved. This reduces the overall corporate carbon footprint as well.
Lastly, it opens up the labor market. No longer do employees need to deal with only local employers. Location is suddenly far less important. For employers, that means access to talent outside of their geographic area, a much larger pool of employees to choose from. Win-Win.
Many will counter with nostalgic discussions about water-cooler collaboration, or days of camaraderie in the cube-farm. They will say that face-time is invaluable. Managers, particularly middle managers, worry that the unwatched employee is the unproductive employee. They also secretly worry that this evolution will mean that there is a need for fewer managers overall, the last being a legitimate concern.
But the evolution is upon us. If you embrace digital business, employees working from home, or indeed *anywhere* is just as much a part of it as digitizing the sales and customer support processes. If employees and businesses work together, we can all evolve to a better way to work that saves everyone money, time, and precious resources.