IBM recently released the results of a survey of 25k U.S. adults that attempted to measure changes in behavior and preferences caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Among the many factors surveyed, two shifts in behavior and preference may have a significant impact on what our future workplace looks like, especially the downtown towers of glass and steel many call their office. As you might have guessed, a large percentage of the respondents indicated that would like their employer to continue to offer a work from home option upon return to normal operations, and over half said they would like to continue telecommuting as their primary way of working. As an interesting corollary, 20% of the respondents that used public transportation said they were likely to discontinue use of buses, trains and subways, and nearly 30% said they will likely use public transportation less. This may not seem significant in cities like LA, but when considering financial hubs like New York for whom private transportation just isn’t practical, how will these people get to work? My guess is they are planning on not having to commute at all (or much less frequently).
People prefer 10-foot commutes. Who knew?
Obviously, working from home isn’t an option for some professions and industries, but for a large majority of our clients, not only are they able to get the job done from just about anywhere, they are doing it just as well, if not better from the comfort of their home office. Clearly, the technology that enables us to work productively from home (or anywhere) exists and our infrastructure seems to be holding up (so far), so what each business needs to determine is what we stand to gain and lose by changing where we work, and whether or not their organization is ready, both technically and culturally, for this change. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you equipped for longer-term, highly-secure remote access? Many of our clients had some of this infrastructure already built (though not sufficiently sized to take the whole company remote!), but just as many had to scramble to get there with less-than-elegant solutions. If you are considering making remote workers a permanent part of your workforce, do you have the proper technology in place? If not, what would the cost be, and could it be offset by savings in real estate expense?
- Do you need to update your company policies and procedures to account for a remote workforce? There are more than a dozen pitfalls in this area that we have all been tacitly ignoring in order to abide by the lockdown, but once the danger has passed, they will have to be addressed if you plan on making telecommuting a permanent part of your organization. Here are just a few examples: workers are using personal property to handle company data. Who’s making sure those computers and mobile devices are safe? Who should be paying the internet bill? What happens if my personal computer breaks while it is being used for work duty? Who pays for repairs? Do you have metrics in place to measure everyone’s productivity? Are they truly just as (if not more) productive working remotely?
- Should telecommuting still be considered a perk or a new workplace standard? A ton of people are getting a taste of what it’s like to work from home, and while plenty of you would probably be a lot more productive if you also didn’t have kids and/or spouses complicating things, not having to drive (or ride) to work everyday benefits just about everyone and the environment at the same time. It even benefits everyone that still has to commute because their job requires it. Culturally, I still think we’re a bit far from seeing it as a standard workplace expectation, but given the benefits to the climate alone, how can we go back?
Image by thedarknut from Pixabay