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Embracing the World of Remote Work Environments

I spent almost eight years working remotely before joining my current employer in 2016. I learned a lot from that experience including the importance of maintaining a presence when not on site. Much of the world has suddenly been forced to shift to remote working conditions and it's exposed a lot of problems which might never have surfaced if not for the coronavirus.

As we work through this unusual period it's important to consider how this experience should affect our work life during and after the recovery, when we're all heading back into the office. For example, are there positions which could very easily operate remotely and, in fact, maybe should? If you or your employer weren't that open-minded about remote work before is it possible you're starting to see some of the benefits?

How about the morale boost which sometimes accompanies remote work? I'm talking about eliminating commute time and therefore helping employees feel they were more productive today than yesterday. Over the past few weeks I've discovered that although my own commute (approximately 75 minutes each way) can sometimes get a bit old I'm looking forward to heading back into our office soon; I didn't realize how much I enjoy spending time face-to-face with colleagues, so that was a valuable discovery.

In other cases the solution might be something in between remote and on-site. Maybe three days in the office and two remotely each week. I had been doing one day remote per week earlier this year and found that I was infinitely more productive that one day than I was the other four, so it helped me balance my day-to-day activities.

The key here is to learn as much as possible today and make adjustments as conditions permit. Plus, by maintaining some number of remote employees you dramatically reduce the likelihood of being surprised when you try to quickly cobble together a collection of virtual work solutions all at once (e.g., video calls, cloud-based file storage/sharing, etc.). Don't forget the possibility that this is just Part One of the journey, especially if the virus rears its ugly head again later this year.


Glenn McCreedy

Joe, a great question you ask. This crisis is shaking up our views on the world we live in. I think that this will, for many people, transform the "workplace paradigm." The workforce, having gone through this experience, will be demanding a whole new set of working conditions, once the workforce regains leverage. Smart employers will benefit.

This current crisis may in many respects last well until 2022—until a vaccine helps people feel 100% safe. We may have an extended period of sacrifice and adjustment and those effects will be felt, after a return to a "new normal," for some time to come. So we will be looking for new ways to engage and connect with other people in the absence of close physical contact. We're experiencing a type of grief over this loss, among others, and we need to be kind to ourselves and others as we process that. You are appreciating contact with your associates with a new perspective.

One driver that is coming to the fore is technology. Zoom has been around for years and now has been swept up in a huge demand that is stressing that company's capabilities and responsiveness, though they seem to be managing well. Try to buy a 1080p webcam today. You'll find the price is triple what it was two months ago or be prepared to wait several weeks for it to arrive from China. These are only the most obvious effects and we've yet to see even more ingenious solutions than video conferencing pop up that work to solve the human connection problem and bring us together in creative ways.

Accessibility to high-quality production and distribution tools make it possible to produce highly engaging shared experiences in real-time and the virtual experiences that replace physical interactions will be thoughtful, entertaining, and interactive. I can't wait.

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