Calling into your umpteenth zoom call this month you quickly fall into your new form of autopilot. Rolling your mouse over the camera and mic symbols to turn-off your video camera, you wait for the other floating heads to populate on the Brady-bunch like grid staring back at you.
The screen flickers as people enter the virtual meet-up, connecting and disconnecting their cameras. The audio crackles in-and-out as Mike tries to lead this morning’s scheduled meeting and people are talking over each other. Just like clockwork, once everyone settles in, the usual sets of technical difficulties and interruptions begin to arise: someone can’t hear, then the amazon delivery guy suddenly appears at the door which then sparks the incessant barking from the dog, or perhaps it’s the reverb from another’s audio echoes deeply and muddles other voices, screen share isn’t working, etc.
Mike: I can't hear or see you...
Jane: If there is a…(audio cuts)
Matt: Try logging-out and back-in…
Notification: “Jane has left the meeting.”
Notification: “Jane has entered the meeting.”
Jane: Can you hear me now?
Mike: Now, there’s just this annoying echo?…
Matt: Hold on, the dog is barking like crazy, someone must be at the door.
Jane #2: Is anyone else getting sick of this..(this..this)?
It’s been approximately 4,800 hours since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic back in March of this year. And over the course of these last several months, we now find nearly 40% of U.S. labor forced into a work from home experiment, whether they like it or not. This is contrasted with the 4% who worked from home prior to the pandemic.
At first, the new routine may have been a nice reprieve from office life. You got used to dialing-in and, for some, you may have even been excited at the idea of being able to “dictate” your day more freely, i.e. avoiding traffic, enjoy a snack or walk or break at your leisure. You imagined having more time to spend with your family and kids or on hobbies now that everything was closed and you had nowhere else you needed to be. It is an idea that’s often romanticized as the best way to achieve the ever sought after work-life balance.
It’s hard to believe we’re 7 months into what seems like the never-ending purgatory that is 2020. A year where for many, rolling out of bed and stumbling into the next room--aka your new office/breakroom/lunchroom/conference room/ and perhaps even your homeschool room--is the longest commute you’ll have to make all year. It’s helped us realize a new truth. Even with today’s technology, working from home is not for everyone.
In fact, even some of the most ardent supporters of the work from home movement are growing weary, Stanford Economist Nicholas Bloom being one of them. Back in 2015, Bloom co-authored a published paper drawing attention to the laundry list of benefits of work from home. The study was based on 1,000 employees of a Chinese travel company, revealing that while working from home during a nine-month period, this led to a 13 percent increase in performance and a 50 percent drop in employee quit rates. This research is often cited and used to back the work from home phenomena.
But the telecommuting we are talking about today? That’s a totally different beast. And in 2020 it’s been applied to many more industries and many more people that may not actually benefit from the new arrangement.
“We are home working alongside our kids, in unsuitable spaces, with no choice and no in-office days. This will create a productivity disaster for firms,” said Bloom, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).
Despite this year’s telecommuting renaissance, its set-backs have been felt and documented over and over again. So for the companies already barreling into this remote-work future, you may want to take pause. The reality is, many people and groups just work better when they’re together in a work-specific environment. One of the best examples of this to date is IBM. By 2009 they were clear pioneers of the moment, allowing approximately 40% their employees flexibility and remote work options across 173 countries no less. The years that followed were strewn with internal communication issues, silos, and a decrease in efficiency. By 2017, with revenue continuing to dip, the conglomerate ended up calling thousands of their employees back into the office. Other companies that followed IBM’s trajectory of work from home, just to have it abandoned are many: Aetna, Best Buy, Bank of America, Yahoo, AT&T, Reddit, and more.
And while our technological capabilities have improved since then, the reality is it wasn’t technology that was the downfall of work from home, it’s the mindset that comes with it. While at first the perks can create a boost in productivity and happiness for employees, over time we can see a decline in creativity, innovation and serendipity. We can thank the social inclinations of our human nature for that.
What happened next? Well, just look at the huge investment from tech companies into campuses that felt more like Disneyland than work. Employees never needed or necessarily even wanted to leave, and the collaboration that followed birthed some of our most used platforms and tech to date. Thus came the revolution of the “co-working space.” Where the best features of campuses are fused with the effectiveness of having a place where your brain automatically switches gears and is excited to activate work-mode. And to the benefit of many who aren’t working for tech companies with campuses; coworking offices provide solo entrepreneurs, small organizations and local teams for large organizations the same great place to meet, work and collaborate in a community oriented environment.
We are still in the midst of change and the work from home experience, but there is a way we can take back our home-life and create a new set of work boundaries and the answer might be simpler than you think. Incubizo is the place where you can come, be inspired, and check everything else at the door so you can do your best work. We’re looking forward to making your job easier.
If you’d like to receive more information from us, please reach out. We’d love to talk about your needs and see how we can best be of service
We’re available via phone and email: Tel. (248) 712-1600 / [email protected]
We’re excited to chat!
The Incubizo Team