Working at Home and other Changes that Work

Workplaces changed drastically and overnight with the advent of Coronavirus, which created a lot of opportunity. Leaders realized over three months of lockdown that some long-held beliefs about remote workers aren’t true. The first is that people need to be in the office, the second is that it is expensive to have people working from home, and the third is the impact this will have on corporate travel.

The biggest lesson many businesses learned is that location is less important than they thought. The technology now available means that you don’t have to have your whole team in one room to have a productive meeting. You also don’t have to have employees in the office to get work done. There have been great articles in the HBR (Harvard Business Review) and Inc. about a study out of Stanford, and others, that found that remote workers were more productive than in-office employees. Reading a study is one thing, the experience many companies have had in the past three months makes the increase in productivity real. For this reason, I think you will see companies gravitate slowly back to the office—and some may never go back.

It’s great to have higher productivity, but there has been a myth that it is expensive to have people working from home. While this may have been true 10 to 15 years ago, innovations in technology, the prevalence of the Cloud, and VoIP phones nullify that. And when you remove workers from the office, you need less space. Rent is often the second most expensive line item on a P&L, after people. If half of your team is working remotely, you can have half the office space and cut that expense. I believe you will see a trend of companies letting employees work from home—even encouraging it—and having an office for client meetings or projects, operated like WeWork and other flexible workspace solutions.

Just as employers are finding that employees don’t need to be in the same room for a productive meeting, the same goes for visiting other offices and even clients. Zoom meetings allow people to connect and get to know people. Zoom offers the benefit of being a visual medium, so you can read people’s expressions and body language. The number of trips that will be deemed “necessary” going forward is going to fall. And that means the travel budgets will fall too. All three of these items have a positive effect on the bottom line.