The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging around the world for months now and has affected all walks of life. After the initial fear and trepidation, people are now learning to live with the virus. They are changing their lifestyles and behaviors to ensure they stay safe while life slowly returns to normal, albeit with multiple caveats and restrictions. The corporate world is no exception. Remote working or “work from home” has become the norm for most of us. This marks a massive shift in work culture around the globe. The transition away from offices raises the question– how has such a transformation impacted our organizational abilities?
Good News for Financial, Mental, and Physical Health
I would like to believe it has been a win-win situation for us. Teams have worked in a much more relaxed and productive manner while working from home. And even though physical visits to the office were not feasible during these times, both business and consulting folks worked together effectively to move the needle forward without any major hiccups. Most of us proceeded to establish our own set of accountability and ownership practices to minimize resource micromanagement and to ensure business continuity. I’m happy to say: We came, we saw, and we delivered!
The altered state of dynamics in this new working from home mode has led to many positive developments. It got us to be much more considerate of each other’s style of working and habits. Because there was no longer a clear division between home life and work life, we expanded and deepened our interactions with our colleagues. I believe this led to the establishment of a culture of inclusivity and consideration for everyone in the company.
People became more comfortable and relaxed when dealing with each other, which increased overall employee satisfaction. A happy employee is a productive employee! And there were many reasons to be happy— we no longer had to worry about long commutes, we had our families around, and we were able to enforce a stricter sense of discipline to our schedules. We were, in a way, forced to use our time constructively and productively.
Coming to the financial aspect, senior management and top executives now have a major decision ahead of them. They will have to reconsider how much of their office real estate they can afford to keep or let go of. It is possible that certain members of the operations team may need to be physically present at the workplaces, especially for functions such as manufacturing and logistics.
However, office space tends to be expensive especially when all employees normally housed on it are working from home. And letting go of it, even if is just some part of it, could represent a major cost saving. This applies to employees too. Employees no longer need to spend on transport or on a self-owned automobile and its associated maintenance costs. In a remote-working scenario, employees will end up with more savings as well, if they manage their finances well.
As observed, people are becoming more responsible and conscientious towards their work and their families during these times. I believe that this workplace transformation can help employees be accountable while they continue doing their work and perform as per expectations. This workplace transformation is, therefore, a perfect moment to think about your organization’s real estate needs and the potential benefits of such a significant cost cut.
Another important aspect is individual health. Most corporations have always promoted healthy activities in the form of health club benefits, preventive health checks, and more. In the current scenario, most of us have taken up some kind of physical activity or exercise at home to stay active.
As people become more conscious of fitness, they tend to encourage and engage their family and peers to be more active as well. Our diets have also improved as most of us are consuming home-cooked food instead of ordering meals from a cafeteria or restaurant. Of course, I would be happier at a family gathering at a restaurant where I could have a healthy social life and support the restaurant business simultaneously. Over time, however, these positive cultural changes can lead to a vast pool of healthy and energetic employees.Our diets have also improved as most of us are consuming home-cooked food instead of ordering meals from a cafeteria or restaurant.
The Other Side of the Coin
All said and done, this remote working change brings with it a set of challenges. One of those challenges is the loss of networking opportunities. With restrictions on in-person physical interactions and the necessity of social distancing, attending a networking event or face-to-face meetings becomes difficult. So how do we address this in a digital workplace?
Scheduling regular team meetings using video collaboration tools can certainly help. We should also consider starting every work teleconference on a personal note. We can use the first five minutes to check in our colleagues and build a personal bond with them. This would go a long way towards bridging the gap on no physical interactions now that we’re operating in a digital workplace.
Network security at home while remote working is another point of concern. With most employees using their home internet connections to work, cybersecurity can be a challenge. Here, the onus is on us as employees to develop an innate sense of security and responsibility when it comes to our networks and devices. We should treat our systems like our own. This will help manage things to an extent when working from home. However, at an organizational level, we will have to implement effective network security policies to address the security issues in the altered network security paradigm.
Any major organizational change requires a substantial amount of coordination and understanding across all employees and stakeholders to be successful. In the case of a corporate culture built on remote working practices, I believe there is a vast scope for growth. Business leaders and executives will need to carefully consider all aspects of such a transformation and evaluate if this new normal will work for them.