The economy has taken a huge hit. Companies have been forced to make some tough decisions. Many businesses have ceased operations. Others have furloughed employees. Some have allowed employees to work from home. A number of companies have adopted a combination of remote work, furloughs, and shut downs of non-essential operations.
While working from home has saved some households from slipping into poverty, not every business and not every employee can work from home. Office workers have the advantage, while many manufacturing employees that cannot work remotely are finding themselves deciding between paying bills and putting food on the table.
Even if workers were allowed to come in to the workplace, life has been further complicated by school closures. There is no place to take your children while you are away at work. Any way you look at it there are winners and losers; the prize being the ability to continue to pay rent or a mortgage. The modern world has never had to deal with a catastrophe of this magnitude.
As government restrictions ease up, the employment landscape has been changed forever. Can we ever go back to the way things were? Should we?
Remote work evangelists have been preaching to us for decades about the benefits of working from home. The advantages are many with less traffic, less stress, and less consumption of fossil fuels being just a few of them. But many companies have resisted change. Many workplaces, especially the ones that are still doing purchasing and accounting with spreadsheets, are firm believers that employees that aren’t watched will simply not work. While this may be true for some employees, this mindset gives lazy managers an excuse for not managing employees or incentivizing good behavior. That mindset is one of dinosaurs and will eventually go the way of Blockbuster Video.
The current pandemic has opened the eyes of many employers. The have been strong-armed into changing their “we have always done it this way” attitudes. While working from home has had mixed results for many companies, it has saved many of them from closure. Business owners have seen that working from home can be productive and effective for both the employer and employee.
Everyone is not disciplined enough to work remotely. Now that remote employment is more or less here to stay, the unproductive employees will have nowhere to hide. Their progress will be more carefully measured, and they won’t be able to sit at the keyboard and pretend to be working when the boss is looking, only to pull up YouTube when he or she walks away. Additionally, managers will have to do their jobs, and that means much more than just surveilling employees. Managers will have to assess job progress, motivate employees, and find ways to achieve company goals without being on autopilot. In other words, employees, and their managers, will have their performance measured, leading to a shift towards a more productive workforce and a definite rooting out of non-productive employees and clock watchers.
The lid has been blown off. New, effective ways of working have been revealed and we won’t be able to go back to the same ole same ole for very long, if at all. The transition to remote work will gradually take hold despite some strong resistance. Sitting in an office for 40-50 hours a week may eventually be remembered as a cherished artifact similar to an 8 Track Tape!