One thing we can see as a positive aspect of the pandemic is seeing how fast were some of the companies able to adapt to the new environment. Tech companies, administration, even schools were forced – some from one day to the next – to go into the distance and work-from-home regime. And with some exceptions, we can say a lot of them did that pretty well.
This huge shift, that would in some organizations take years of planning, a number of protests and issues was suddenly made from one day to the next, and probably won’t just disappear.
Direction – Remote
Ever since the industrial revolution, jobs started becoming more and more centralized. Reaching its maximum in present, with the greatest amount of jobs being centralized in big metropolitan cities. Being a mid-sized company, you probably wouldn’t be even taken seriously, if you didn’t have a job in one of the capitals, or if you were a tech startup without being within driving distance of Silicon Valley.
This centralization of opportunities and wealth however creates a number of other issues to take into account:
- Driving up prices of rent with more office spots opening without adequate numbers for housing (to accommodate employees of one new office building, several housing ones would have to be built – see here for an interesting rundown).
- Increasing inequality for people who can afford to live near those centers.
- Even causing more pollution from commuters driving hours to work every day back and forth.
And that kept happening, despite the fact that many of the jobs can be done from distance, which we know from the boom of foreign and outsourced teams and digital nomads from a few years ago. This crisis showed us just how many jobs can be actually run remotely, when necessary, and how it can influence the workflows for good.
With the aforementioned rising prices of housing in the most desired places, one would expect this to become the norm for many all workers, not only for the ‘nomads’ working regular jobs while traveling the world. But just for a simpler, less wasteful, affordable life.
Turn a change into opportunities
We have also seen that working from home obviously doesn’t have just positives. It takes some time, both for companies and employees, to get used to the new regime, and create healthy habits.
Without them, working from home may lead to blurred lines between work and free time, issues with motivation, and general disorganization.
Also, the Home office regime can cause loneliness and a feeling of distance, especially for younger workers, who rely on work to get a lot of their social interactions. All these are just normal needs of any person: socializing is just in our nature, we don’t want to mix our personal and work time, and many times, it’s just easier and more effective to communicate things out face-to-face.
These drawbacks might be a no-go for some, but even with all the drawbacks, most companies are better off by embracing this new paradigm. Being able to work from home is by now not only a perk for employees but a step towards a progressive direction of working and employee relationships.
Companies, however, need to step up, to allow this change to happen, and for it to happen effectively.
It brings a lot of new changes and challenges for teams: enabling employees to control their own work time, communicating and delegating work clearly, while keeping accountability for jobs being done is just a few of the crucial basics. Managers also need to track progress online, have a way to spot risks, and step up when necessary, even at a distance.
Most important for me is working on company culture, and having trust in the workers to do their best.
One of the biggest blockers of distance working could be managers not being able to lead and communicate with their teams, without the need to breathe down their necks – which might be seen more and more of a failure in the coming future.
Next step – the adoption of digital
This issue is not only about being able to survive in the quarantined world without organizations going bankrupt. It’s about the housing crisis, giving more people an equal chance, and creating a better environment for all employees. Pandemic is giving us that very important push, showing that it’s possible to go for a change quickly and efficiently, when it’s necessary. It is up to companies to see it through and seize the benefits of the new direction the society is heading.
With the value of companies like Zoom skyrocketing as a direct result of the crisis, we see many tools in place helping us in the process of transformation, making it viable even more. Maybe VR meetings will actually see the light of day in the modern office, bridging at least some gap of distance communication. Maybe in the future even whole VR offices, with wall-sized screens.
But it is not just about meets-ups. This new era drives significant demand for the whole enterprise’s transformation. It affects how financially efficient the companies are, how the cost caused by manual processes can be cut to the minimum, or how quickly and effectively the companies can react to for instance to cybersecurity attacks.
Even alignments, division of work, responsibility, and progress must be tracked somewhere. And that’s the moment where the need for all these technologies as one single platform comes.