“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future“- John F. Kennedy
The Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted our known way of life. On one hand scientists are trying to to find a cure, while Governments around the world are trying to stop the spread by shutting down transportation systems, sporting events and mass gatherings.
Businesses had to make decisions – and to keep the business running, they advised their staff to work from home. It only created more challenges. Can the Internet infrastructure handle so many people working from home? People who work from home, will also be streaming music, and may be on a video conference. If kids are learning at home, they could be streaming videos. Data consumption could go up 8-10 times within days. Are we equipped to handle this while Covid-19 is eliminated? The sudden demand for data & energy should not be considered as a temporary spike. There are benefits if we can make this a permanent way of working.
- Traffic: The commute from home to work usually takes me 60 minutes in traffic. The last few days, it took me 30 minutes. If more people were to work from home, it puts less pressure on the ones that have to be at a specific location (hospital staff, retail etc). They don’t have to leave an hour early just in case there is an accident, or detour. It also puts less pressure on government, when it comes to upgrading public infrastructure.
- Pollution: The strict quarantine measures resulted in a dramatic drop in Nitrogen Dioxide emissions by up to 30%in China, and Northern Italy. The air is definitely clean. According to a research conducted at Stanford University, the reduction in air pollution in 2 months has saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China,
- Lifestyle: According to a study published by Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), we spend an hour every day travelling to, and from work. If we work 48 weeks in a year, that’s 5 hours every week, resulting in a total of 240 hours – or 30 “full time” days. Give back that time to your staff, and watch productivity go up exponentially.
- Economic benefits: A study conducted by RMIT in 2018 stated that Australia will be 100% reliant on imported petroleum by 2030. In December 2019 alone, we consumed 1.506 ML of automotive fuel. At a dollar per litre, you can do the math – that’s a lot of cash burnt to fuel cars. Imagine if we could bring that down drastically. This move helps the economy by reducing our fuel import bill.
The key to moving forward is innovation and change in mindset. It is an opportunity for:
- Telcos: Now is the time for telcos to encourage their enterprise partners to embrace remote working. Provide data solutions for remote login, video conferencing, and invest in “work from anywhere” models.
- Software developers: With more people working from home, more investment and research is needed in the field of data compression – especially for video and audio (Higher quality with less data).
- Hardware manufacturers: Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) will be the new normal. Employers will encourage staff to get their own hardware and support services. This is an opportunity for hardware manufacturers to partner with electronic retailers and provide end to end support.
- Home Office infrastructure: Home office furniture will become a separate segment in the furniture business. Expect speciality stores to pop up that deal with Home-office furniture alone.
- Solar PV & Battery: Working from home means lights, heating/cooling, music, cooking, viz. more energy consumption. People will invest in renewable energy.
- Co-Working Hubs: Don’t want to work from home? Go to your local shopping mall. This is great opportunity for shopping centre operators to transform their centres into a co-working hub. Coffee shops will still exist, and so will the sandwich bar.
- Bikes/E-Bikes: You don’t need a car to go to your nearest co-working hub. Time to start cycling. Many cities & councils have tried making cycling a lifestyle. This is their opportunity.
- Personalised Logistics: If more people work from home, the home-delivery business will have to innovate and take a giant leap forward. Anything & everything should be available for delivery.
This requires change in mindset and thinking.
Work from home is no longer an employee benefit. It should be a corporate target, as part of the Business Continuity Plan. Government and Business leaders should work together to come up with measurable targets. Personally, I think that the industry should work towards a model that requires 50% of all staff members to work remotely at any given point in time, with a maximum of 80%. This goes back to reducing traffic and pollution. We need aggressive targets.
I acknowledge that not all organisations are ready for this change. Some things take time. But we should start right now. The biggest hurdle organisations face is a technological one. Investment in remote access technology should be a priority to support this change. And for those organisations still believe that they need to supervise employees in person, my message to them: A business is built by people we trust. If you don’t trust your staff to work remotely, don’t hire them in the first place.
Change is hard, change is tough. But accepting change doesn’t mean you are letting go of your values. Remote working is the future, and organisations that embrace this change will be setting themselves up for tremendous success in the 21st century.