For several years, my personal office was on a yacht moored in a Singapore marina.
I was not too far from my desk as the yacht was also my home. And I used this "office location" to successfully launch two businesses. This was a continuation of a home office lifestyle for me.I have been “working from home” for around thirty years and I have seen the good, and the bad, and the less desirable aspects of this seemingly ”new phenomena”.
I have also been involved in the video conferencing and visual communication business for a decade. And throughout those ten years the providers of services for employees to be based at, and work from, home have spawned every conceivable version of communication and collaboration technology. There are now myriad of video conferring apps, there are a score of collaboration apps, and network speeds and availability are at an unprecedented level allowing for the download of the most sophisticated content. Whether on the high seas, in an aircraft over the rocky mountains, or in a suburban jungle, there is no bar to communication. We are at the point where there is almost no task that canot be done from a remote or home office.
I MUST SEE THEM WORKING!
Despite these technological advances the wholesale adoption of remote working or home-based working has seen slow or almost negligible acceptance. More often than not the lack of adoption has been for cultural reasons. Not so long ago I met with a senior manager in a major Singaporean business who refused to attend a demo of our visual communications platform saying he would never countenance any home working. His reason “I MUST SEE that they are working.”
But change is upon us due to COVID19 and there may be no turning back for these three reasons:
- There has been FEAR - fear that work will not be completed, fear that employees will “skive”, fear security will be compromised. And, after all, my (your) twelve year old granddaughter is a covert commercial spy for a foreign government. FEAR stands for False Expectations (that) Appear Real. Many false expectations about work productivity will be blown up as a result of forced adoption of home working practices in this current crises.
- After a (forced) period of adaptation in the home, there will be a realisation by employees that “it works” and a walk to the corner deli for a bagel and coffee ten minutes before sitting at their desk to start the days work is infinitely more satisfying that twenty miles on the A subway into New York at rush hour. Resistance to (earlier commuting) pain is a great motivator to keep doing what you have now got used to.
- The bean counters will get to work. Home based employees remove accommodation overheads, infrastructure costs, and contribute to a highly slimmed down footprint. it will not take long before the cost benefit equation in favour of the bottom one is realised.
Therefore, as Covid19 forces into businesses (new) processes which embrace home-based working, the realisation that loss of control, the fear of workers not working, the fear of loss of productivity, were all false expectations.
As these false expectations are blown away we may see that many organisations choose to, or be forced to dispense with the “old way”.
Also - the realisation that business has been unaffected by an extended period of home working - the more “controlling style of management” will case to have a case to impose full time office presence.
Disruption is often forced upon us from the most unlikely source.
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