No place like home?
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Somebody says, “The reason they call it a “lockdown” is because they cannot spell the word: “kwarinteen!” Yes, the word “quarantine” is not a common word used in our daily vocabulary until today.

In many webinars I do these days, I point out that the age-old debate whether people could be allowed to do remote work or “work from home” or not has become moot and academic. Even the owners and the senior executives are doing work from home. Will this be the new norm? Will more organizations embrace remote work? Perhaps this Silicon Valley superstar Jack Dorsey can give us a clue.

The top honcho of Twitter has announced to the vast majority of his company’s 5,000 employees that they can work from home - FOREVER! Dorsey says that since the company offices were unlikely to open before September, he told his staff including all the 35 offices worldwide, that almost all of the staff could choose to work anywhere they want – permanently. Of course, some jobs that require a physical presence like maintaining servers and other equipment would not be able to do remote work and would still need their people to come in. But Dorsey’s is a sign that the current situation may permanently change how people work in the future, even after the outbreak subsides.

Tom Knowles, writing for www.thetimes.co.uk says: “Dorsey’s move follows notices from Google and Facebook that their employees should expect to work from home for the rest of the year. It would give employees the chance to move out of big city centers such as San Francisco, where rents are extortionate.”

You might reason out that tech companies have always been agile and radical. Other traditional industries, like the banking sector, would not be comfortable with the concept. But the current situation has propelled all banks to plunge into digital banking. This enforced change may at least make them, and other businesspeople do a lot of rethinking and reconsideration. 

One thing for sure is that WFH or Remote Work today will put us in a position to ask delicate but pertinent questions:

1. What is an “office,” and what is its purpose?

2. Who are the people who could produce and deliver work even outside the office?

3. Who are the people who cannot work but from an office?

4. What are the cost-benefits of WFH in terms of productivity?

5. How would we accurately measure, and what would be the metrics for such?

I can assure you that these things are sincerely discussed and considered by the primary decision-makers of organizations today.

Social distancing may have to persuade business owners to have office space for those who cannot do remote work and those who can leave the spaces they require in the new work environment post-COVID. Others would never be able to do WFH or Remote work because the nature of their industry requires high-speed internet connection, and homes do not have the facilities.

Even I have to do a lot of reinvention. I am now in the space of providing training online. I have had many requests from clients on “How to do WFH effectively.” HR people realize that many of their people dove into remote work but were never trained to do it effectively. Another observation is that companies have begun to shift their marketing budgets to webinars, offering training and learning events, and use these programs as platforms for prospecting clients.

I did not expect that I would be so busy during these uncertain times. Now guess where I do all these? In my home and I enjoy it. I am more productive today than ever before. I do “Zoom,” “Be.Live,” “Microsoft Teams,” “StreamYard” and I actually am reaching out to a lot more people today than ever.

Somebody says: “Working from home means you work 12 hours a day for yourself, so you don’t have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.” While another one said: “Home-work grew-up and became work-from-home.”

Working from home will not become the norm, it already is, and we may want to learn how to do it more effectively. There is no place like home even when the office is there too.

(Connect with Francis Kong in www.facebook.com/franciskong2. Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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