|Image credit Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels|
Things that were taken for granted can no longer be. Things that were thought to be nice, maybe, someday, are now in practice—and there’s no going back.
Here is what we’ve learned
How our lives and enterprises have and will change:
- We do not have to go into an office to work. Unless your job involved operating some fixed-in-place equipment (like a machine tool, a projector, or a printing press), you could do your job anywhere there is an internet connection.
|Leaders see long-term benefits associated with hybrid working (Source: Microsoft)|
Almost nine out of ten leaders (88%) expect a more hybrid way of working in the longer-term. Last year, a small minority (15%) of companies had a set remote work policy; now, a healthy majority (76%) do. Managers expect that 65% of the workforce will work remotely at least one day a week.
- The medieval distrust of workers when working when unsupervised has finally been laid to rest. What we have found is people working from home are more productive AND better family members. Removing 2 to 4 hours of soul-killing commuting has contributed to the workers’ well-being and has been an astounding benefit to the environment.
|Impact of remote work on productivity according to leaders (Source: Microsoft)|
The results are mixed. The best companies — those that were already effective in managing their teams’ time, talent, and energy — have grown 5% to 8% more productive over the last 12 months. However, others have experienced a net reduction in productivity of 3% to 6% (or more) due to inefficient collaboration, wasteful ways of working, and an overall decline in employee engagement.
- Around the globe, low-latency video conferencing collaboration works is free or very affordable, and secure.
|The increase in video conferencing due to the pandemic (Source: Statistica)|
The video-conferencing collaboration would be tried one day, someday, and the pandemic forced us to try them now. That encouraged new providers to enter the market, increasing our choices of a platform and reducing costs.
McKinsey, that army of counters who have an answer for everything believes that although the majority of workers cannot work remotely because their jobs depend on face-to-face contact, up to one quarter in advanced economies can do so three to five days a week. This is included in McKinsey’s “What’s next for remote work,” report. In their work on the subject, McKinsey considers the cases of workers who may have to do a significant of their work outside the home but who can reduce their amount of commute and on-site work by taking care of planning and paper-work at home.
What has been lost?
The two complaints or laments heard about the loss of going to the office or an in-person conference are:
- The loss of spontaneous (and often serendipitous) discussions in hallways and at dinners or coffee breaks. Phone calls and email still work and can overcome some spontaneous occurrences; however, napkin drawing will suffer.
- The mentoring of new employees—the hands-on, here’s how you do that, type of discussion. One-on-one video conferencing can mitigate this issue, but an in-person experience will never be replaced.
What do we think?
Why did we do it? Why did we cram ourselves into airplanes for four to fourteen hours and then drag our bags and weary body to an expensive dormitory? Because we thought we had to. Now we’ve learned we don’t have to; it’s estimated 40-50% of the workforce will go to the office and about the same amount will not. In some cases, some workers will be mostly remote, some will be mostly in-office, but many offices will routinely shift between home and work. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing companies move to office-less environments where people did not have assigned desks, but could roam the building or different buildings and meet with others or seek out quiet spaces. In those plans, there was already plenty of room for staying at home part of the time.
The time saved from unnecessary traveling will be a boon to companies, and its removal a blessing to hapless souls who do have to make those treks. The overhead costs savings by reducing the number of buildings and parking lots will be another saving. Why should a home be empty all day and an office full—that’s wasteful, inefficient, and extravagant. Yes, the commercial real estate, hotel, restaurant, airline, rental car, taxi, and ride-share companies will have to adjust their business model. But none of them were doing the environment any good, and their costs only subtracted from a company’s bottom line and its employee efficiency. Those services are not cost-effective and should only be used in very specialized cases. We have learned—we don’t have to, and the company, employees, and environment are better off if we don’t.
|Image credit Tima Miro Shnichenko Pixels|