August 3, 2020
Many companies and universities have asked employees to work remotely amid the uncertainties presented by COVID-19. Even though close to 25% of the United States workforce worked from home at least part of the time already, new mandates to work from home left many managers working out of the office and separated from their employees for the first time.
How will the unexpected changes the pandemic has caused affect the future of remote work?
At Very, we’ve been working remotely for so long that it’s difficult to imagine what it’d be like to be thrown into a remote working environment without warning. However, being longtime remote work practitioners has also given us unique insights into how these changes will affect companies long-term.
What companies are working from home (due to the coronavirus) that usually don’t?
Everyone and anyone that can work from home are doing so. Some job functions that you may otherwise see in labs or workshops, such as hardware designers, can thrive from home. For instance, while it may have been difficult to picture engineers modifying circuit boards and wiring from their home-office or garage in the past, the proper tools and an HD camera means that they are just as effective remotely as when everyone was in the same lab. It all comes down to collaboration tools and taking the initiative to try something new.
“close to 25% of the United States workforce worked from home at least part of the time already”
How the coronavirus work-from-home policy will change future work and business
I believe that this emergency is going to push a lot of companies to overhaul the entire paradigm that they see their business through. The companies that entered this challenge with an open mind and a dedicated team may very well look beyond just updating their work-from-home policies to deeper systemic change. Frankly, I can see a future where a notable share of businesses see just how effective they are in a virtual-first environment and scrap some, or all, of their offices. Once the tools, policies, and infrastructure changes are implemented, it is hard to justify the overhead of an expensive headquarters.
“Frankly, I can see a future where a notable share of businesses see just how effective they are in a virtual-first environment and scrap some, or all,
of their offices.”
Remote work changes that will become permanent
We will start seeing companies explore the full range of communication and collaboration tools at their disposal. Countless teams across every industry were underusing most of their tools and services. From Slack and Google Suite to Zoom and Asana, services often are folded into a company’s workflow piecemeal and are rarely modified and tailored to better streamline processes so that they work for all employees. In the future, there will be heightened importance on curating the tools that are used internally, so that everyone is doing things effectively.
The benefits of working remotely
From a business perspective, having folks work from home means you aren’t going to lose talent because of outside forces such as a spouse getting a job in another state or a city becoming too unaffordable to raise a family or buy a home. Companies can also start discussing downsizing offices or moving to entirely remote work, which means huge savings.
“In the future, there will be heightened importance on curating the tools that are used internally, so that everyone is doing things effectively.”
From an employee standpoint, you are being given more freedom and autonomy to work in a space and time that fits your life. In some cases, you are also being given hours of your life back that would otherwise be spent commuting or being distracted by the hustle and bustle of office life. You also get the opportunity to build out relationships and rapport with coworkers that isn’t based on how close your desks are to one another. Many companies have already embraced virtual happy hours, trivia nights, Slack channels for affinity groups, and other resources that create even greater cross-pollination of ideas, which can easily continue long-term.
Maintaining productivity and accountability when working remotely
Many companies are honing ways to improve individual and organization-wide productivity and accountability metrics. In the past, some employers correlated employee effectiveness to how much time he or she spent in the office. We’re starting to see more company leaders redesign KPIs that track productivity more empirically, and rate projects based on the level of skill and time needed to complete it.
To sum up, we expect to see more companies adopting remote work policies, and finding that it works better for them and their employees than they ever might have anticipated.
As a Co-Founder at Very and having been involved in over 250 product launches in the last 8 years, Ben Wald leads a team of over 50 full-time engineers, designers and data scientists that work with clients to understand challenges they’re facing and build custom software-driven solutions. Ben believes that attracting and retaining top-tier talent is a key differentiator, which is why he champions reinvesting profits into employee benefits and cultural experiments. Ben has also led the investment and development of several ventures that have spun out of Very like ReadyCart, which went on to raise additional capital and was acquired by Grapevine Inc in 2017.
Hear more of Ben’s insights at the Internet of Manufacturing virtual event, taking place September 28 – 30, 2020…online!