Work from home, the new “permanent” normal?
Is work from home really an answer or just a band-aid? In speaking to business managers and owners every day I can say unequivocally that nearly all hope that this is a short-term proposition as the downsides are far outweighing the upsides.
When companies have properly invested in technology work from home (WFH) has allowed the companies to stay afloat and maintain the status quo. In cases where companies have not committed the needed resources so that employees can work properly from home, frustration, lost productivity, and angst has set in and candidly it may not be able to be reversed.
If you listen to and/or read media reports, it might be easy to believe that everyone is going virtual and that everyone loves it. These stories are usually based on large multi-national companies such as Microsoft. On one hand, Microsoft recently announced that they are letting more people work from home permanently. On the other hand, the CEO of Microsoft says that he is tired of working from home. So, reading that how do you think the average Microsoft employee interprets that?
On first blush, I am sure that most people loved the idea of working from home, and then, reality set it. Things like-
Distractions from children, pets, and other people who live in your home.
The lack of face to face real-time interaction to solve problems.
The impact of career advancement and opportunity (or lack thereof) working in a virtual world.
More employers understanding that they can do more with fewer people and raise profits doing so.
From a sales perspective, I see WFH as a major stumbling block, not so much for established vendor/customer relationships but for potential customer/vendor new business development. Using myself as a case story, I have zero interest in meeting a potential new vendor via telephone, webinar, or video conferencing. If you want my business, come and see me, in person, period.
I believe an untold impact of people working from home is much larger than the national conversation would otherwise reflect. Based on my exchanges with a wide variety of people, things like isolation, depression, and the feeling of being left out of a team environment are very real. That said I think labeling anything right now as “permanent” is a huge mistake as there are too many “what-ifs” and unknowns right now. From an economic perspective while WFH may save employees and employers money, let us not forget about the impact on the entire office ecosystem. If we all work from home, what happens to custodial (internal and external) staff, the local eateries that welcome workers on their lunch breaks, office furniture vendors who sell and replace furniture on a regular basis, office supply vendors, etc., etc.
While work from home may still be prudent for some, in my own direct experience, people work better under one rood whenever and wherever possible. The proper technology solves many challenges presented to us by COVID-19, but it is not the sole answer.