We have seen more business process innovation over the last 9 months than I’ve seen in my lifetime. Since the first quarter of this infamous year, we’ve seen large workforces transition to remote, keeping only skeleton crews on site. We’ve managed to thrive despite shortages of everything from paper products to webcams, and we did so (mostly) with dignity and, more importantly, ingenuity. Many businesses invested heavily into remote work. Whether that was providing laptops for employees or systems to allow them remote access from personal computers, many have put these processes in place to allow remote work to happen both smoothly and securely.
The question is, once Covid has been beaten, what next? Once you’ve invested in this technology, do you bring everyone back to the office or do you keep them remote? With multiple factors at play, it’s hard to make those calls now. Let’s consider a few of the impacts that remote work has had on the world at large.
The average commute in the US is around 30 minutes. Of course, that factors in people who were already remote with no commute as well as those with 3 hour plus commutes. There is an overwhelming accord among all commuters who are now remote, they don’t want to go back to being commuters. In addition, many people have been able to maintain or even improve their productivity. Aside from more time in the day since they’re not commuting, reasons may include people being more comfortable, less opportunity to be interrupted by colleagues, and fewer distractions such as people walking around the office or chatting. While many miss the social interactions of office life, the overall impression is that remote work has been a net positive in their day-to-day lives.
One of the almost immediate effects of the lockdowns instituted during Q1 of this year was the dramatic drop in the pollution around major metropolitan centers. This makes good logical sense because you have fewer people commuting, many factories producing non-essential goods shut down, and even fewer trips to the corner market for a snack. We also saw wildlife returning to areas around interstates and busy cities. There have even been photos of animals wandering city streets during the stricter early lockdowns. Granted, these are starting to reverse a bit now that restrictions are lifting. It has been, however, an interesting “proof of concept” for the world to consider.
The leaps forward in business innovation have been huge. There has been a massive uptick in the use of remote meeting software like Zoom and our own Anymeeting. Many people who had never been on a video call in their lives are now adept at using these platforms. Even very small organizations like hometown churches are making the switch to remote meetings instead of in-person collaboration. Platforms like Teams have also been given new life. Businesses that didn’t have a need for secure remote technologies like VPN a year ago now depend on it as dearly as they do with established technologies like email. Using a VPN connection isn’t even necessary for a lot of today’s cloud platforms. They’re accessible from anywhere because they don’t rely on local infrastructure. Entire business processes have been rewritten to work within local social distancing guidelines, but more importantly to protect the company’s most valuable resource: its people.
So, with all that said, when the Covid pandemic comes to an end (which it will), what do we do? Do we return to “Business as usual” a la 2019? I say we look forward to the future. Think about it like this… what does any good business do? It grows. You already have a facility. That facility will have a limited capacity for a productive workspace. You will probably outgrow it in a few years. However, with all the remote capabilities that you’ve recently invested in, why not keep them? Allow your workforce to remain remote, even if just a portion of the week. Not only will your employees be happier, as will the environment. You already have the technology in place. If you don’t, it’s now easily attainable. As you grow, you can do so with the office space you already have. Because in 2020 and beyond, you don’t have to be in the office to be productive.